From a nondescript village of Nimmada in north coastal Andhra Pradesh, Kinjarapu Yerran Naidu (55) made it to Lutyens’ Delhi by dint of sheer hard work. He had no godfather to nudge him up the political ladder.
Yerran Naidu who died in a road accident in the small hours of Friday, was of a post-Congress genre of self-made politicians.
Often regarded as the Telugu Desam Party’s face and voice in Delhi, his unblemished career spanning three decades reached its zenith when he was made Union Minister. As the TDP Parliamentary Party leader, he showed his negotiating skills with national leaders across the political spectrum from the Left parties to the BJP, whether it was formation of a non-Congress front or launching a joint agitation. He was always around to prepare the ground for party president N. Chandrababu Naidu to give the finishing touches.
If a regional party like the TDP could play a key role in the formation of non-Congress governments at the Centre, it was in no small measure due to Yerran Naidu’s efforts. His role was crucial when the United Front government, a 13-party coalition, was cobbled together in 1996.
He was rewarded with the post of Union Cabinet Minister of Rural Areas and Employment the same year, no small achievement for a first time MP. If he was endearingly called “yerranna” in Andhra Pradesh, he was “desh ki netha” and “nethaji” for many of his admirers in the party and the vernacular mediapersons in Delhi.
Articulate Yerran Naidu overcame the handicap of lack of fluency in English and Hindi and left no opportunity to react spontaneously and highlight any issue concerning the State in the Lok Sabha. For the Backward Classes, he was the “tallest among the contemporary leaders” who always espoused their cause, whether it was political empowerment or reservation in public institutions and employment.
Born into a modest farmer’s family in the backward district of Srikakulam, he was attracted to politics as a youth when thespian N.T. Rama Rao launched the Telugu Desam in 1982 on the plank of self-respect of Telugus and anti-Congressism.
These two phenomena underlined Naidu’s political philosophy as he remained a die-hard loyalist of the TDP all through, despite being denied ticket in 1989 and never being included in the State Cabinet. His voters too did not let down their affable law graduate and he represented the Harishchandrapuram Assembly constituency in Srikakulam for four terms from 1983 to 1996, including once as Independent. As legislator, he was chairman of two committees — welfare of Backward Classes and subordinate legislation — and became chief whip in 1995.
I have lost my right hand, says TDP chief
There was no looking back and soon he became MP from Srikakulam in 1996 and got re-elected in 1998, 1999 and 2004. Apart from being a Cabinet Minister, he was chairman of several consultative committees including that of Agriculture, Railways and Steel. He was counted among the top leaders of the TDP now. Mr. Chandrababu Naidu, who broke down on hearing the news of his death, gave him the best tribute, saying it was like losing his right hand.
Mr. Yerran Naidu is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.