TDP chief's padayatra fails to stop cadre exodus

The Telangana statehood and Y S Jagan factors have been causing cadre and leadership erosion in the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) even as its president N Chandrababu Naidu walked the first 100 km of his padayatra, aimed at rejuvenating the party and reviving his image.

On Monday, Sankineni Venkateswar Rao, one of the 13 vice-presidents of the 30-year-old TDP, met YSR Congress (YSRC) president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy at the Chanchalaguda Jail and expressed his solidarity with him. The former MLA from Thungathurthi (Nalgonda district) also announced his joining the YSRC, following which he was suspended from the TDP.

Rao, a close associate of TDP founder N T Rama Rao, is the latest migrant from the TDP to YSRC. He is the fourth senior party leader to have exited ever since Naidu displayed a pro-Telangana approach by writing to the Centre in September to speed up the Telangana process. Three other MLAs from Rayalaseema—Praveen Kumar Reddy, Amarnath Reddy and Byreddy Rajasekar Reddy—had announced their resignation immediately after Naidu’s letter was made public.

Although TDP suspended S Venkateswar Rao from the party, his act has sent shock waves within the party in Telangana. Besides failing to win a single Assembly segment in all the byelections since 2009, the TDP also witnessed the exit of several senior leaders and MLAs from the party. Ironically, most of them got elected to the
Assembly under the banner of Telangana Rashtra Samithi.

Naidu’s padayatra entered the eighth day on Tuesday. It has already clocked 120 km. It has not triggered any wave of mass support or popularity as expected in the Rayalaseema region. Instead, another TDP leader (Byreddy Rajasekhar Reddy) has launched a padayatra for Rayalaseema just 100 km away from Naidu’s route.

Naidu’s walkathon had hit several hiccups during the first week itself. The route map took him not only out of the state into Karnataka but also into forests known Maoist strongholds. In a few hours,  the police dumped 500 policemen along the forest route to avert trouble. Naidu is a known Maoist target and had already been hit by a landmine at Tirupati in 2003. The party had cautioned Naidu against over-exertion and urged him to walk for only 15-20 km per day. A medical team from the NTR Memorial Trust is following him and providing him health tips and medication for pain.

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