The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Emperor’ Naidu faces party fire

Hyderabad, May 27: Speaker after speaker at the Telugu Desam Party’s annual convention today blamed the alliance with the BJP and the leadership’s failure to read the public pulse for the rout in the simultaneous general and Assembly elections.

They termed the Desam’s continued alliance with the BJP after the Gujarat riots a “historical blunder” and “political hara-kiri”. Senior party leaders also castigated those colleagues who had defended the happenings in that state for their “sheer opportunism”.

Desam chief . Chandrababu Naidu sat crestfallen and sullen amid the party’s 267 Assembly and 33 Lok Sabha candidates, besides party observers and district election campaign managers, in the party’s first meeting since the polls. Not only did Naidu’s policies and programmes come under fire from one and all, somebody even described the former chief minister, who projected himself as CEO of Andhra Pradesh, as a “self-proclaimed emperor”.

Anticipating the sharp and unsavoury all-round criticism, the Desam hierarchy banged its doors shut on the media. So for the first time, the mahanadu’s inaugural speech by party president Naidu was delivered behind closed doors.

And for a change, he made a brief 35-minute address to which even the party’s favoured television channel was denied entry. Till late afternoon, reporters hung around outside trying to collect bits and pieces of news.

The meeting that recorded the opinions of party leaders on the Desam’s performance in the polls was a virtual indictment of Naidu and his coterie.

“Our leader listened to bureaucrats and police officials. He had no time for elected representatives or party cadre. What we want is a change in the style of functioning of the party leadership,” senior leader G. Butchaiah Chowdhary from Rajahmundry said.

There were even rumblings about electing a new president for the party. Some leaders were vocal about relegating Naidu to the wings for the time being in view of the Congress targeting him personally. However, no suggestions were made of an alternative to him.

The Desam was swept away in the East Godavari district, where it could manage only one Assembly seat against 19 state and two parliamentary seats in 1999.

Prominent former ministers like Mohammed Farooq and T. Devender Gowd were vocal in their criticism of the Desam-BJP alliance during the post-mortem sessions in the party office’s air-conditioned basement that can accommodate up to a thousand people.

“We knew it (the alliance) was a drowning ship but still we preferred to become martyrs,” another senior former minister said, contending that his party suffered from compounded incumbency against both the NDA and the Naidu governments.

Unlike earlier, there were no crackers, huge hoardings or fanfare as a truncated two-day mahanadu (instead of the normal five days) unrolled here today, almost eight years after the last convention in Hyderabad. A plaster-of-paris statue of founder .T. Rama Rao stood in one corner.

The Desam is likely to announce tomorrow its future action-plan on the following:

• Continuance of alliance with the BJP and the NDA

• Electing a new president

• Its opinion on Telengana

• Its programmes for women and youth

The delegates’ session of the mahanadu tomorrow is open to the media and may be telecast by some channels, Desam media coordinator Srisailam said.

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