With the elections just a few months away, political equations are undergoing monumental shifts in Andhra Pradesh. In Kurnool, when the politically prominent Kotla family’s Suryaprakash Reddy and his wife joined CM Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP and shared the stage with Deputy CM and rival Kambalapadu Ediga (KE) Krishnamurthy’s family, it unveiled a hitherto unfamiliar political scenario.
Suryaprakash Reddy hails from one of the tallest Congress families in Andhra, his father Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy being a former Chief Minister of united AP. He and KE Krishnamurthy both hail from Kurnool and are known for their historical rivalry.
On the occasion of Suryaprakash and his wife Sujatamma joining the TDP, Naidu said that it was “historical”. He said, “Decades of political history of the district has whirled around these two families. The coalition of these two historic families is historic, they’ve come together for development but not for politics, their coalition will be remembered in history.”
The statements by Naidu aptly sums up the political rivalry between the Kotla and KE families, which was nurtured from the times of Vijayabhaskar Reddy and KE Madanna, Krishnamurthy’s father. However, till 1994 both were members of the Congress; later KE Krishnamurthy re-joined the TDP after a fallout with Vijayabhaskar Reddy over the Dhone assembly ticket.
KE family opposed to entry of Kotlas?
Initially when reports of the Kotla family’s entry into the TDP emerged, the KE Krishnamurthy faction is said to have objected as it would threaten KE’s strongholds such as Dhone and Pattikonda constituencies. According to several reports, both families agreed to work together following discussions with TDP chief Naidu. Naidu has reportedly assured that both Dhone and Pattikonda seats would be given to the KE family, while it is expected that the Kurnool MP seat will be given to Suryaprakash Reddy and the MLA seat given to his wife Sujatamma.
While the development has boosted the morale of the TDP cadres, it has also come as a shock to Butta Renuka, the current Kurnool MP, who had defected to the party from the YSRCP. Several reports suggest that she will be accommodated in Panyam or Adhoni assembly ticket.
History of rivalry
According to senior political observers, the rivalry between the two families dates back to the pre-independence era and is as old as KE Krishnamurthy. Krishnamurthy’s father KE Madanna, hailing from the Goud (BC) community, was a social activist who fought against Rayalaseema factionists of dominant castes like Reddys.
Senior political observer Kalkura Chandrashekhar from Kurnool says, “KE Madanna defeated Venkata Subba Reddy, Kotla Vijayabhaskar’s uncle, in the District Board Member elections in Madras Presidency in 1938… the rivalry took shape between these families from then.”
The Kotla family was in the Justice Party while Madanna was a long-time Congress leader. The tensions between the two families continued even after Kotla Vijayabhaskar joined the Congress.
Chandrashekhar recounts that Madanna along with a few other political contemporaries like Pendekanti Venkata Subbaiah, Narsappa and others backed Damodaram Sanjeevaiah, who became the first Dalit chief minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1960, while the Kotla family supported Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy.
Chandrashekhar says, “All the while, until the TDP came on the scene, this rivalry was within the Congress party, it is not that they were never together, they were with Indira Gandhi in 1977.”
In 1985, KE Krishnamurthy decided to quit the Congress and join the newly formed TDP and won as third time MLA of Dhone. Soon he returned to the Congress in 1989 to win the seat for the fourth time.
During the 1994 elections, none other than PV Narasimha Rao, the then PM, had to intervene between the two leaders. As Chandrasheker recalls, “Both Vijayabhaskar Reddy and KE Krishnamurthy wanted to contest from Dhone. When Reddy managed to get the ticket, Krishnamurthy filed nomination as a rebel candidate. After PM PV Narasimha Rao intervened, Krishnamurthy contested from Town instead of Dhone but lost, while Vijayabhaskar Reddy won. With this, KE moved to the TDP.”
KE Krishnamurthy joined the TDP the second time due to his acquaintance with Chandrababu Naidu, but this time he decided to stay back. In 1999, he won as MP from Kurnool but lost in 2004. In 2009, he again won from Dhone as MLA and now represents the Pattikonda assembly since 2014 besides holding the Dy CM position.
The Kotla family remained Congress loyalists, with Vijayabhaskar Reddy serving as CM of the state twice – for a brief time between 1982 – 1983 and between 1992 – 1994. Suryaprakash has remained with the Congress since his father’s time and was elected Kurnool MP three times – 1991, 2004 and 2009. He served as a union minister until 2014 when he lost the seat to Butta Renuka.
Will it work for the TDP?
A top source from the TDP told TNM that the coming together of the two big families will help change the party’s fortunes in Kurnool. In 2014, out of 14 assembly seats in the district the TDP had managed to win a mere 3 seats and lost two MP seats to the YSRCP.
The source says, “This will definitely work as a gamechanger, we believe it will yield better results than the last time.”
While the TDP is also banking on the Reddy and OBC equation, observers like Chandrashekhar feel that the coalition of the two families is subject to the test of time.
He says, “It has to be seen how much acceptance the Kotla family gets from KE’s followers and vice-versa,” while adding, “What about their followers who were all the while fighting for them? How far this union will succeed is anybody’s guess.”
Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that many from the Kotla faction would have preferred the YSRCP over TDP.