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Of Roja, a liquor baron and Chittoor

By A Ganesh Nadar in Chittoor
Last updated on: April 27, 2004 22:18 IST
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he ruling Telugu Desam Party has dumped its sitting Member of Parliament N K Ramakrishna Reddy from Chittoor in favour of D K Adhikesavulu, best known as a liquor baron.

Chittoor is the southernmost district in Andhra Pradesh, and abuts Tamil Nadu.

Adhikesavulu has been in politics for over 30 years and is today considered to be one of the richest candidates in the fray. He had contested the 1996 elections as a Congress candidate but lost. He later left the Congress fed up with the groupism.

"You cannot call me the richest candidate in terms of money. I have declared assets of Rs 40crore only in my affidavit. I am rich in the number of people I have as my supporters," he says.

He does not support the demand for Telangana. In his opinion, state capital Hyderabad, which falls in the region, has been developed by pumping thousands of crores from all over the state. Now that it's developed, people of Telangana cannot lay sole claim to it.

"This does not mean the TDP will agree to a separate Telangana sans Hyderabad. The party stands for a united Andhra Pradesh," he says.

On Saturday, the last day for campaigning, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu was scheduled to address a public meeting in his constituency. All day long, lorries and tractors flying the TDP flag were depositing people at the venue of the rally.

A huge crowd had been mobilised but the chief minister arrived half an hour past the 5pm Election Commission deadline. Thus, he could not address the disappointed crowd but only waved out to them and proceeded to Tirupati.

Unlike other candidates who were running around the constituency and making an effort to meet the maximum number of voters, Adhikesavulu was sitting quietly in the air-conditioned hall of a three-storey guest house, which he bought in order to fight the elections.

He directs his campaign from this guest house.

Everybody who came there was invited to have some food. Interestingly, Adhikesavulu's wife and children were serving the food. No ego problem here.

When he was in the Congress, he was reputed to be a personal friend of former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao. Now that he is in the TDP, he is considered close to Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

Perhaps, when money talks, people listen.

Roja spreads her charm

Nagari is a bustling township in southern Andhra Pradesh. The ruling Telugu Desam Party has fielded popular film actress Roja in this constituency bordering Tamil Nadu.

Posters show her with Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Telugu Desam Party founder N T Rama Rao. She looked demure in a sari though she is usually seen in Western outfits in movies.

Highly successful, she is one of the few heroines who can keep up with Prabhu Deva, arguably the best dancer in the Tamil film industry.

Incidentally, her election posters share space with those of her Tamil film Uzhaippali in which she is paired opposite Tamil superstar and demigod Rajnikant.

This should get her the support of Rajni fans. The actor has announced that he will vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has an alliance with the TDP.

Incidentally, Uzhaippali is playing in the town now but Roja was nowhere to be found. She was canvassing somewhere in the interiors.

Dressed in a sari, she was walking through the village accompanied by drummers. Sweating profusely and devoid of makeup, she did not look anything like the filmstar one saw on screen. Till, that is, she smiled her famous smile.

Young girls from the village garlanded her every now and then, and she smiled indulgently. She obliged some old ladies who wanted to be photographed along with her.

Halfway through she called for her Toyota Qualis. She took out water from the car and refreshed herself before proceeding further.

She drew an enthusiastic response when she shouted 'Jai Telugu Desam' thrice. She clearly had the glamour-struck people eating out of her hands.

Change of scene

Chittoor is the southernmost district of Andhra Pradesh. The district headquarters is a large town, not big enough to be called a city.

There are no flags or posters and none of the walls are painted with election graffiti. The Election Commission is strict, said the cabbie. The only exceptions were the offices of political parties.

Nagari is 60km away. The road winds through mountains showcasing some beautiful scenery. The road, like in the rest of Andhra Pradesh, is very good.

15km from Nagari, a board announces: Welcome to Tamil Nadu.

There is a visible change in the landscape and one is led to believe that the EC has a different set of rules for the two neighbouring states.

Every wall on the Tamil Nadu side is splattered with party symbols and colour. A Dravida Munnetra Kazhagan meeting was scheduled and posters and banners bearing its leader M K Stalin's picture adorned the town.

Compared to the size of his pictures, those of party president M Karunanidhi were much smaller. Surprising, considering that Karunanidhi is still very much in control of the party.

Eight kilometres later, it is back to Andhra Pradesh.

A Ganesh Nadar | Image: Rahil Shaikh
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A Ganesh Nadar in Chittoor