Chandrababu, Vijayasai Reddy’s closed-door meet at Taraka Ratna’s house sparks speculation

The two leaders met at the Hyderabad residence of Nandamuri Taraka Ratna, who breathed his last in Bengaluru after battling for life for 23 days


HYDERABAD: Nara Chandrababu Naidu, the TDP supremo, and V Vijayasai Reddy, a YSRCP Rajya Sabha MP, are perhaps the biggest and bitterest rivals in Andhra Pradesh politics. It’s public knowledge that Vijayasai Reddy, on one side, and the entire TDP bandwagon on the other, are eternally daggers drawn, ready to bleed each other at the drop of the hat. Not a day passes off without the two sides crossing swords. Their Twitter war of epic proportions goes on unending with the uncouthness in language often reflecting the acidic nature of their animosity.

Cut to the present. In one of the most unlikely photo ops, Chandrababu Naidu and Vijayasai Reddy came together, sat shoulder-to-shoulder and were even rumoured to have been closeted in a closed-door tete-a-tete on Sunday. Of course, it was a sombre occasion filled with sorrow that made this possible. The two leaders met, if not bumped into each other by chance, at the Hyderabad residence of Nandamuri Taraka Ratna, who breathed his last at the Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bengaluru after battling for life for 23 days. Taraka Ratna suffered a massive heart attack during Nara Lokesh’s padayatra on the very first day of the latter’s Yuva Galam initiative in Kuppam.

Conventional wisdom prompts us to believe that the chance meeting of the two veteran leaders was in consolation of each other over the irreparable loss to their two families. For all the nastiness witnessed in their everyday brawls that often stoop as low as to personal attacks, the two are distantly related by a faint thread, thanks to ‘Cupid’s quirk of fate’.

Before that can be delved deep into, reports that the two were huddled in a closed-door meeting even at such an untimely occasion assumed political significance and immediately sent rumour mills into an overdrive. A video grab of the two sitting next to each other shows their grieving faces but locked in an intense discussion. What really spiced up their meeting even at this critical hour is the speculation that the two preferred a rendezvous, far from prying eyes and snooping ears. And what really transpired between them is certain to remain in the realm of conjecture until and unless one of them actually decides to spill the beans.

This rare, unexpected moment of the two belligerent political adversaries captured in one frame, would normally have been passed off as a familiar sight one can imagine in a mourning house. But there is also a bit of history, not entirely in the distant past, that provokes people to think that it is hard to keep politics away no matter what the mood or occasion is. If this is beginning to ring a bell, with a sense of Déjà vu, of what had happened at a similar occasion in the past and in the same Nandamuri family, then you are thinking it right.

When Nandamuri Harikrishna died in a ghastly road accident in August 2018, an unexpected gesture by Chandrababu Naidu at the former’s house hogged headlines more than the tragic incident itself. The TDP chief, desperate to keep his party alive in Telangana then, allegedly broached an alliance talk with the TRS (now BRS) Working President K T Rama Rao and tried to broker the deal, with Harikrishna’s corpse right in front of their eyes. The infamous legend which made the TDP chief a butt of criticism for his sheer political opportunism continues to haunt the wily veteran politician even till now. And Sunday’s closed-door deliberations between Chandrababu Naidu and Vijayasai Reddy had striking resemblances to this event of the past. Though one’s heart may take this as only a moment of sharing grief, modern-day politics where every moment is seized upon and turned into an advantage, may force anyone to presume that there was more to it than that met the eye.

The Taraka Ratna-Alekhya Reddy riddle

To merely say that there was no love lost between Chandrababu Naidu and Vijayasai Reddy would be too polite an understatement. Waging a vengeful war that is not just confined to the realm of politics, the two would always appear to be eager to decimate each other at the slightest of opportunity. For Vijayasai Reddy, his incarceration in the disproportionate assets case of YS Jaganmohan Reddy is the biggest grouse, making Chandrababu Naidu and his TDP men his sworn enemies. The Rajya Sabha member, along with his boss and the current Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, languished in jail for well over 16 months as an under-trial.

More than the Congress, Vijayasai Reddy sees the TDP and Chandrababu Naidu as the reasons behind their prolonged imprisonment and the frequent setbacks from the judiciary in their attempt to get bail. According to sources close to him, he used to grudge over the fact that they they were denied bail even when they should have easily got it, after spending 90 days in prison. The TDP too, never took kindly to YS Jagan and, more so, Vijayasai Reddy as part of its relentless campaign in stigmatising the duo for corruption. After the political fortunes were reversed in the 2019 elections and YS Jaganmohan Reddy assumed the state’s leadership, there have been frequent attempts to pay back the TDP and Chandrababu Naidu on the same coin and get even with them by using corruption of the previous regime as a weapon.

Despite dismal luck, the YSRCP continues to spew venom on the opposition leader and needless to say, Vijayasai Reddy leads this pack with a no-holds-barred Twitter tirade.

But the bitter adversity received its biggest twist, not from the jolts in politics but the ones felt on the domestic front. Cupid playing its part between Taraka Ratna and Alekhya Reddy inadvertently turned the two foes, looking for the other’s pound of flesh, into distant relatives. Taraka Ratna was a grandson of the late NTR and thus the nephew of Chandrababu Naidu. Alekhya, on the other hand, is the daughter of the younger sister of Vijayasai Reddy’s wife.

Having said that, the ones who bore the brunt of this unlikely alliance were the two who caused it. Head over heels in love with each other, Taraka Ratna and Alekhya had to weather a huge storm that their love affair triggered in their two families and even brave a stint of ostracisation from both the sides.

The two first bumped into each other during the shooting of Taraka Ratna’s film Nandeeswarudu which was released in 2012. Alekhya Reddy worked for it as a costume designer. The film tanked at the box office like many of his previous flicks but its sets played the perfect host for his love affair with Alekhya to blossom.

For Alekhya, it was a new lease of life, having already been married once and divorced due to incompatibility. She was married to Sandeep Reddy, Nalgonda Zilla Parishad Chairman and, more significantly, the son of former Home Minister Aliminati Madhava Reddy. Post their divorce, Alekhya pursued fashion designing which presented her with the chance to design costumes for Taraka Ratna’s film later.

Given the nature of their poles-apart political backgrounds, several attempts were made and pressure exerted on the two to call it quits. But undaunted, the two remained true to their love, even if it meant enduring a boycott of sorts from their families. For several years post their marriage, the two remained in oblivion and were treated as ‘persona non grata’ even at family functions. The banishment was so hard and stringent that Taraka Ratna was not even invited by his family for his (sibling) sister’s wedding.

The sulking elders, however, mellowed down with the passage of time. As time healed all the wounds and mended the sharp edges in the relationships, the couple once again gained acceptance in their respective families. They all had been a happy unit since then until the wicked fate played its cruel joke on them in the form of Taraka Ratna’s untimely death.

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