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NTR Factor in Andhra Pradesh Politics and TDP

The political and organisational vacuum created in Andhra Pradesh by the resentment of rich and middle peasants among upper castes and poor peasants among the backward classes has been fulfilled by the formation of Telugu Desam Party under the leadership of film star-turned-politician N.T.Rama Rao. The economic dominance and caste solidarity of rich peasant castes was further strengthened by the emergence of TDP. It is in this light of caste consciousness, economic dominance and political power of forward castes that we have to understand the underlining issues of the institutional reforms of the early TDP government and the present reshaping model of society, polity, economy and administration of Chandrababu Naidu government.

As a part of the strategy of indicating the continuity in political style, along with the political urge represented by its social base, the TD government has focused its attention on several issues such as providing clean and efficient government, ensuring security and equal status for women, restoring the dignity and self-respect and past glory of the Telugu people, controlling smuggling and black marketing, bringing down the prices of essential commodities, distributing inputs to agriculturists, generating employment for youth and banning capitation fees.

Apart from this, the programmes adopted by NTR such as the Rs.2/- per kg. rice scheme for the poor, the mid day meal scheme for school going children, and the sale of dhotis and sarees at half price, drew away significant support among the rural poor, who had earlier constituted Mrs. Gandhi’s electoral base. Along with these, the promise to create new administrative arrangements could also help to accommodate a larger number of political aspirants. None of these measures are intended to, singly or together bring about structural changes in the system. Further, “the industrial class, which was just emerging from the agrarian sector has managed to put a halt to the question of land reforms”.

At the level of electorate, the TDP government managed to inspire the confidence of the people in their capacity to run the government than other opposition parties in the state. This has been largely the result of democratic expressions given to the changes in administration taken up by the TD government. As pointed out by Balagopal, “all the social and political urges represented by well-grown regional elites have been expressed in political language in the idiom of decentralisation, autonomy and federalism. These expressions are not to be taken literally as the actual expressions of all those who talk interms of them”. This kind of adoptive rhetoric is more evident from its early efforts to changes in administrative system.

Soon after it came to power in 1983 TD government took the decision to abolish the Legislative Council. It is important to note that TDP, which has 2/3 majority in the Legislative Assembly, had no representative in the Council at the time of its abolition. The reasons given by TDP in seeking the abolition of the Council were that “there was an urgent need to curb unnecessary expenditure and to avoid needless delays in policy-making”. Depriving the Congress of it’s hold over the Council and having a free hand in policy-making is the real reason.

Alterations in the local-self government institutions at the District to the Village levels also have to be understood in this context. The main intention in introducing District Planning Board in 1984, as parallel to Zilla Parishad, and the changes at Mandal level and Village level were to extend the party patronage to the village level. Right from the time of its assuming power, the TDP has been mentioning that it would bring administration closer to the people by doing away with the Panchyat Samiti and establishing smaller units called Mandals, which would be self-contained administrative and local self-government institutions. These changes have interpreted by the Party and some intellectuals in the phrases like administrative decentralisation, strengthening the foundations of democracy and abolition of feudalism.

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