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NTR ‘heir’ gets a ticket

Balakrishna campaigns in Hindupur. (G Vijayalakshmi)

The “crown prince” has got a ticket, finally. In 1985, Telugu Desam Party founder N.T. Rama Rao had wanted to anoint his actor-son Balakrishna as his political heir but was stalled by Chandrababu Naidu who said such a “nomination” would dishearten the rank and file.

Naidu, the current Desam boss, had also said the move would go against the party’s efforts to fight dynastic rule.

Nearly 30 years on, Naidu has given the Hindupur Assembly seat in Anantapur district to Nandamuri Balakrishna, who would be making his electoral debut.

Balakrishna, 53, popularly known as Balayya, has always been the crown prince of the NTR family. Grooming him as an actor from the tender age of 14, NTR had presented him a silver comb and also cast him in Tatamma Kala, which he produced and directed.

In a career spanning 39 years, Balakrishna has acted in nearly 100 films. Like his father, Balayya has also donned the mythological role of Rama (Sri Rama Rajyam in 2011), though he didn’t succeed in evoking emotions like his father.

His last film, Legend, released last month was aimed at launching him in politics. Balakrishna has made no secret of his ambition to become Andhra Pradesh chief minister. “Why not? My films, my fans and the blessings of my father NTR and motivator Chandrababu would certainly lead me to become chief minister,” he said in Hindupur, minutes after filing his nomination papers.

His other blockbuster, Simham, had a roaring success in 2013 and set the political campaign against corruption. But he accepts that Naidu as chief minister of Seemandhra is the need of the hour for bringing all-round development of the region after Andhra Pradesh’s bifurcation.

Balakrishna’s political statement has been that while the agenda of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress is “arachaka vadam” (anarchy), the Desam’s is “abhivruddhi vadam” (development).

“You have to choose whether to bring into power a party and a leader with 10 years in power and 10 years as the main Opposition leader or a four-year-old party (YSRC) or a leader who spent 16 months in jail,” he said, alluding to the corruption charges that led to Jagan’s arrest.

Balakrishna is Naidu’s best choice in the NTR family, as far as politics is concerned. By launching Balakrishna, Naidu has made the path easier for his Stanford-educated son Nara Lokesh, who married Balakrishna’s daughter, Brahmini. If the situation so arises, Balakrishna could always make way for his son-in-law from Hindupur.

In 1995, when Naidu toppled his father-in-law NTR, he had chosen to promote Harikrishna, another son of NTR, but ended up burning his fingers.

Harikrishna had later ganged up with Naidu-baiters, prompting Naidu to dump him from the cabinet.

Harikrishna had launched a party, Anna TDP, in the 1999 general election but it was routed by the Desam-BJP combine.

Naidu had kept the NTR family at a distance before taking Balakrishna and Harikrishna into confidence only after the 2009 elections.

Andhra Pradesh votes on April 30 and May 7