THE last three-and-a-half years in the life of Lakshmi Parvati, wife of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao, have been quite like the script of a Telugu melodrama. Parvati came into the limelight after she married the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo and lost no time in coming to the centrestage of Andhra Pradesh affairs. The first lady of Telugu politics, who had campaigned for NTR in the last assembly elections, was a very popular figure and it was this popularity, coupled with the influence she wielded over her husband, which led to much resentment within the TDP. She was the focus of a campaign against NTR led by the TDP patriarch's son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu, the present chief minister. When NTR's government fell after nine months in power, observers predicted that the husband-wife team would find it hard to stage a comeback. But the clouds have now cleared and Parvati is all set to ride the Chaitanya Ratham to the districts and campaign against Naidu and also to make her position in the party clear to the people. Thirty-eight-year-old Parvati spoke to Outlook at her Banjara Hills residence where thousands of supporters from all corners of the state come to take darshan of Parvati and her husband. Excerpts:
When will you be taking the plunge into active politics?
What politics! I was a member of the Telugu Desam ever since it was formed by N.T. Rama Rao. I was active during the August 1984 crisis when Nadendla Bhaskara Rao engineered the coup against NTR with the help of Congressmen. I have been with the TDP. So it is ridiculous if someone says that I am not associated with the party.
Then why did you say at the height of the campaign against you by Chandrababu Naidu that you would not mind quitting politics and being an ordinary housewife?
Naidu is a power hungry crook. If my quitting politics was his only demand, then why didnâ€™t he accept my unconditional offer not to participate in party politics? Well, I made that offer in the best interests of NTR whom I love so much. It is a sacrifice I wish to make whenever the situation demands it.
What has made you come out into the open and attack your detractors?
I know you are referring to the Nizam College meeting organised by the Mahila Chaitanya Vedika. I felt enough is enough. It was time to clarify some of the allegations made against me. Time and again I have been accused of functioning like an extra-constitutional authority when NTR was chief minister.
At the meeting I made my point clear to the people that as NTRâ€™s wife there was nothing wrong if I discussed matters pertaining to the government or the party. Has he (Chandrababu Naidu) not functioned as an extra-constitutional authority under NTR? Was he not a rank outsider? What were his credentials other than the fact that he is NTRâ€™s son-in-law?
Do you regret your alleged role in the downfall of NTR?
Why should I? I have done nothing wrong to regret.
Why are you touring the districts? Is it to further your political ambitions?
I have no political ambitions of my own. My effort is to explain to the people what led to NTRâ€™s downfall. It was a well-hatched conspiracy by Naidu.
Who do you see as your main political enemy?
In politics, as the saying goes, there are no permanent friends or foes.
Does this mean that there is a possibility of a patch-up between NTR and Naidu?
I cannot rule that out. But now it is the turn of their (Naiduâ€™s group) turn to make sacrifices. Can anyone think of the TDP without NTR? Go to the villages and ask who is the chief minister. They will tell you itâ€™s NTR.
Your party is in a shambles. How will you rebuild it?
It is for NTR to chalk out plans. As a true soldier I will do whatever work he entrusts me with.
Should NTR offer you a position in the party, will you accept it?
What are your partyâ€™s prospects in the Lok Sabha polls?
We will win 35 seats.
What about the Congress?
It will be wiped out.