When it comes to political dynasties in the country, few can match the charisma and the melodrama associated with Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao's personality and his family. Even 23 years after his death, the legacy of the founder of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister dominates the political scene in the state, in one way or another.
As Andhra Pradesh gears up for simultaneous elections to the state Assembly and the Lok Sabha on April 11, NTR's name, portraits and statues remain an integral part of the TDP's campaign led by his son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu.
This election is witnessing the entry of NTR's third generation into electoral politics with Naidu fielding his son Nara Lokesh as his political successor. NTR's family, however, is no longer confined to TDP but is spread across the political spectrum.
NTR took a plunge into politics in the early 1980s to end the monopoly of the Congress party and altered the political landscape of the state forever.
The matinee idol, who enjoyed the status of a demigod among the masses, stormed to power within nine months after floating TDP on the slogan of Telugu self-respect. With his pro-poor image and populist schemes like Rs 2 per kg of rice, NTR created a niche for himself in politics.
After five years of Congress rule in between, NTR returned to power with a landslide majority in 1994. His second marriage with Lakshmi Parvathi, however, created a rift in the family.
In August 1995, NTR's son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu led a revolt, citing Lakshmi's growing interference in the government and party affairs. Backed by NTR's sons and daughters, Naidu became the Chief Minister.
A few months later, NTR died of cardiac arrest at the age of 72. He had eight sons and four daughters from his first wife Basvatarakam, who had died of cancer in 1985. However, it was Chandrababu Naidu who carried NTR's political legacy forward.
Lakshmi initially claimed NTR's political legacy but found no public support and went into political oblivion. She is currently with YSRCP. Though politically not active, she is praying for Naidu's defeat.
Currently, a son and a daughter of NTR, two sons-in-law including Naidu and a grandson are active in politics, albeit in different political parties.
NTR floated TDP on an anti-Congress plank but his daughter Daggubati Purandeswari and her husband Daggubati Venkateswara Rao joined the Congress in 2004. Purandeswari, who was elected to the Lok Sabha twice on a Congress ticket and even became a minister in the UPA government, switched loyalty to BJP in 2014.
She is now contesting from the Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency. Her husband, however, preferred YSRCP and is contesting for the Andhra Pradesh Assembly from Parchur.
NTR's son and popular actor N. Balakrishna is seeking re-election from Hindupur constituency on a TDP ticket. He is also father-in-law of Naidu's son Lokesh, who is contesting from Mangalagiri. Balakrishna's second son-in-law M. Bharat is the TDP candidate from Visakhapatnam parliamentary constituency, facing Purandeswari.
Naidu, who had been grooming his son as his political successor for last few years, was facing some resistance from another brother-in-law and actor Nandamuri Harikrishna, who died in a road accident last year.
Harikrishna was keen to see his son Junior NTR taking over the TDP mantle. Named after his grandfather and popularly known as Junior NTR, he is one of the most prominent actors in the Telugu film industry.
It is also interesting to note that no member of NTR's extended family is into active politics in Telangana, which came into being with bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.
Chandrababu Naidu fielded Harikrishnas daughter and Junior NTR's half-sister N. Suhasini from Kukatpally Assembly constituency in Hyderabad in the recent Telangana Assembly elections but she lost the battle to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) candidate.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)