Hyderabad: Rich tributes were paid to Telugu Desam Party (TDP) founder and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister NT Rama Rao on his 16th death anniversary on Wednesday.
NTR, as he was popularly called, was an actor-turned-politician and one of the most popular leaders in the state`s history. The growing differences between the family members of NTR were evident on the occasion as they paid their tributes separately at NTR Ghat on the banks of the Hussain Sagar Lake here.
NTR`s son-in-law and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, his wife Bhuvaneswari and their son Lokesh paid tributes. They along with several TDP leaders participated in an all-religion prayer meeting.
NTR`s sons N Balakrishna and N Harikishna also paid tributes separately amid reports of a power tussle between the families of Naidu and NTR and also among the members of NTR`s family.
Balakrishna, whose daughter is married to Naidu`s son Lokesh, had last week announced that he is ready to contest the elections.
Balaiah, as he is popularly called, said he would contest for the Assembly in the next elections. "It is for the party leadership to decide," he quipped when asked about the constituency he would be contesting from.
To a question, he denied that he is trying to be a successor to NTR`s political legacy. "We will all work together under the leadership of Chandrababu Naidu to bring the party back to power," said the actor, who also denied differences among family members.
Earlier, Balakrishna`s elder brother Harikrishna, who is the TDP politburo member, paid tributes to NTR. He was accompanied by his son and popular actor junior NTR.
Harikrishna, who wants Junior NTR to take the reins of the party, had openly expressed his displeasure over Naidu`s attempts to project his son Lokesh as his political successor at the party conclave in May last year.
Talking to reporters, Junior NTR said it was the duty of every family member and TDP leader to work for fulfilling the ideals of the party founder.
Junior NTR, who had campaigned for TDP in the 2009 elections, has since distanced himself from the party.
When asked if he would try to bring his sister D Purandeswari to the TDP or woo back Junior NTR, Balakrishna said it was for them to decide. "I will welcome whoever wants to join us in serving the people," he remarked.
Purandeswari is a Congress leader and is currently a junior minister in the Central government. Her husband D Venkateshwara Rao and NTR`s second wife Lakshmi Parvathi also paid homage separately.
Parvathi told reporters at NTR Ghat that N Balakrishna`s entry into electoral politics would not help restore the glory of TDP.
"As long as Chandrababu Naidu is leading the party, it can`t regain lost ground. People have distanced from TDP because the party has deviated from the ideals of NTR," she said.
She also alleged that Naidu has hatched a conspiracy to hand over the reins of the party to his son.
NTR had died of cardiac arrest in January 1996, a few months after Naidu ousted him from power in view of the alleged growing interference by Lakshmi Parvathi in the party and administration.
NTR, a popular Telugu actor, had launched the TDP in 1982 on the slogan of Telugu self-respect and created a record of sorts by coming to power within nine months, ending the single party rule of the Congress.