A day after the Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed a Bill renaming the NTR University of Health Sciences (UHS) as YSR UHS amid heavy opposition from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Telugu actor Junior NTR reacted to the controversy. Jr NTR, who is the grandson of TDP founder and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Rama Rao, said that renaming the university would neither raise the stature of former CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy (father of present CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy) nor lower the stature of NTR. The decision to rename the university triggered widespread protests by TDP members in both houses of the Andhra Pradesh Legislature, and also at the gates of the University of Health Sciences in Vijayawada.
In a tweet, Jr NTR said, “Both NTR and YSR are great leaders who have gained immense popularity. The respect brought by replacing one's name with another’s does not raise the stature of YSR, nor does it lower the stature of NTR. Renaming the university cannot erase the fame NTR earned, his stature in the history of the Telugu states and his memories in the hearts of the Telugu people.”
In November 2021, after TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu broke down at a press meet saying that he was hurt by YSRCP leaders humiliating his wife Bhuvaneswari, Jr NTR took to Twitter to condemn the alleged abusive comments by the ruling party. He had posted a video saying politics should be limited to public issues and that personal matters should not be involved. Bhuvaneswari is Jr NTR’s father Nandamuri Harikrishna’s sister.
Jr NTR, who is the son of late actor Harikrishna and Shalini Bhaskar Rao, had campaigned intensely for the TDP in the 2009 elections. However, he has since remained distant from the NTR family and TDP’s affairs. In a recent political development, Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Jr NTR in Hyderabad in August. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) maintained that it was merely a ‘courtesy’ visit, the meeting triggered speculation in political circles that the BJP wanted to woo the actor ahead of the Telangana Assembly election in 2023. The meeting was reported to be part of the BJP’s larger strategy to use Tollywood and other celebrities in Telangana for its soft power.
Both Houses of the Andhra Pradesh Legislature witnessed acrimonious scenes on Wednesday as the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government brought in a Bill to rename the NTR UHS as YSR UHS. At the end of the five-day monsoon session, the Legislative Council approved the Bill amidst strong protests by the opposition Telugu Desam Party and others. Earlier, the Assembly passed the Bill after 12 TDP members were suspended from the House.
Chief Minister Reddy justified the renaming of the UHS, established in 1986 by former CM NTR, after his late father YS Rajasekhara Reddy. "My father was an MBBS doctor. He was the one who initiated schemes like Aarogya Sri, 108 (ambulance) and 104 (mobile clinics). It was he who established three new medical colleges in the state as Chief Minister between 2004 and 2009," Jagan said.
"This government, his son's, is now setting up 17 new medical colleges. So, out of the total 28 medical colleges in the state, 20 are due to YSR or his son," Jagan claimed. During its rule, the TDP had not set up even one medical college, he added. "Should not credit be given to the person who deserves it?" Jagan asked. He said the decision to rename the UHS was taken after a thorough consultation.
Jagan claimed that he had all the respect for NTR and pointed out that his government named a newly formed district after the legendary actor-turned-politician. The Assembly then passed the amendment Bill without opposition. When it was taken up in the Council, the main opposition TDP members were on their feet, raising a vociferous protest against the government's move. The BJP also opposed the renaming of the university. However, Council Chairman Moshen Raju completed the formality amidst the din. Both Houses were adjourned sine die.
With PTI inputs