ANDHRA PRADESH

I am only obliging partymen, says Ramamurthy Naidu

HYDERABAD Dec. 4. Nara Ramamurthy Naidu, former MLA who is politically estranged with his brother and TDP president, N. Chandrababu Naidu, said here today that it was at the instance of party workers that he wished to re-enter political life.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Naidu, now camping in Hyderabad, admitted having announced his intention to quit politics after the party's debacle in the Chittoor Municipality. "But, party workers in Chandragiri want me to play an active role in party affairs and lead the membership campaign,'' he asserted.

The former MLA, who had described as an `extreme and incorrect step' the leadership's action in summarily expelling 10 of his supporters for their involvement in the violent incidents in Chittoor on Tuesday, declined to dwell further on the issue.

He asserted that they primarily wanted the high command to appoint an in-charge for the Chandragiri Assembly constituency and they wanted him in this position. Asked for his own stand on the matter, he said he did not mind the leadership appointing anyone in that post which has been lying vacant ever since he lost the Chandragiri seat to the Congress in 1999. However, he would have to take the workers' feelings into consideration.

Mr. Ramamurthy Naidu said that he had no political plans for the future. Reacting to the claim of the leadership that the membership drive was progressing briskly in Chandragiri constituency, he said with a touch of sarcasm, "You see it for yourself''.

Party sources said the rebel TDP leader had toned down his rhetoric following a telephonic talk that the district Minister, B. Gopalakrishna Reddy, had with him today. It is learnt that the Health Minister, Kodela Sivaprasada Rao, also met Mr. Naidu and counselled him against persisting with his `adamant attitude'.

Now into its eleventh day, the TDP's membership campaign was progressing at a brisk pace though it has been completely overshadowed by the Chandragiri developments. A heavy police bandobast was arranged in Chandragiri while in parts of Guntur the drive could make headway due to the naxalite threat.

According to Ummareddy Venkateswarlu, Convenor of the State Election Committee, the membership is poised to cross the 80-lakh mark on December 7, the final day of the 15-day-long campaign.

This represents a jump of nearly 22 lakhs over the previous figure of 58.86 lakhs. Mahabubnagar district topped the list followed by Warangal and Karimnagar.

He said the party had so far received a sum of Rs. 4 crores towards membership. The balance amount and the membership books would be received on December 10, 11 and 12 after which all the 80 lakh-odd forms would be scanned and stored in computers. As this was a massive exercise, the party was conducting a trial run in Prattipadu constituency where 100 per cent target had been achieved.

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