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Called a Mad Man in Rajya Sabha, This Congress MP Ran Andhra Pradesh for Five Years With YSR

Congress Rajya Sabha MP KVP Ramachandra Rao advised party chief Rahul Gandhi to not depend on leaders of Rao's generation as they will be "useful for probably one more election", and what Congress needs, is a team that "can fight five more elections".

TS Sudhir |

Updated:February 14, 2018, 9:54 AM IST
Called a Mad Man in Rajya Sabha, This Congress MP Ran Andhra Pradesh for Five Years With YSR
Congress leader KVP Ramachandra Rao holding a placard during a protest demanding ‘Help for Andhra Pradesh’ at Parliament House during the Budget Session in New Delhi. (File Photo: PTI)

Hyderabad: A blown-up picture of an exhausted-looking KVP Ramachandra Rao, sitting outside Parliament, leaning against a tree, is the first thing you notice the moment you step into his office in Hyderabad’s upscale Banjara Hills locality.

“This is on the day during the debate on the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh when we, the Andhra MPs, were told division is inevitable,” recalls Ramachandra Rao, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP.

“An Eenadu newspaper photographer clicked the picture when I had sat down, tired after a dharna near Mahatma Gandhi statue. The photograph is as if conveying that the Parliament too is helpless and Andhra lost out,” the MP says.

Four years since that incident, Rao is still in protest mode. The latest provocation being the Union budget which gave zilch to Andhra Pradesh, not bothering to honour the promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act. Much before the Telugu Desam MPs got into the act, Rao raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha, holding the placard ‘Help Andhra Pradesh’ in the well of the House. PJ Kurien, who was in the Chair, asked Rao to return to his seat but the MP did not budge. That provoked Kurien to ask, “What is wrong with him? Has he gone mad?”

Rao replied to Kurien, his two-page letter laced with hurt and sarcasm, underlining that he is prepared to be called “mad” for the sake of Andhra Pradesh. “It is probably the best letter I have written in my life,” he chuckles.

Rewind to a decade ago and leave alone a Kurien, no one would have dared to use an adjective of that kind for Ramachandra Rao.

KVP, as he is called by people, was the second most powerful man in Andhra Pradesh between 2004 and 2009, when YS Rajasekhara Reddy was the chief minister. He was designated advisor to the CM but his importance in YSR’s life went far beyond an official tag. Rao’s identity came from being YSR’s best friend and you find proof of that in the form of several framed photographs of the late chief minister in KVP’s workspace.

The two were roommates during their student days at the Gulbarga Medical College in the late 1960s. Reddy would call Rao ‘Capstan’, a reference to KVP's favourite cigarette brand during their college days. And even today, Rao refers to YSR as ‘Rajasekhar’.

But while YSR went on to finish his MBBS, KVP, thanks to his involvement in student politics, could not complete his degree in Gulbarga and shifted to a medical college in Kakinada to finish his course.

“I wasted a lot of time in student politics. Though when I look back at it now, it was not a waste, I learnt a lot,” recalls Rao. Unlike YSR who practised medicine for three years, Rao never made use of his MBBS degree. Once YSR asked him to join him, politics became his vocation.

Mention YSR and Rao closes his eyes, as if stopping his tears from flowing out. KVP, during the years of Congress regime, was seen as the power behind the throne.

Invariably, the queue of visitors who would come to meet KVP was far longer than at YSR’s office or residence. That was because KVP was largely seen as the man who had YSR’s ear and advised him on what he should do or not do. YSR also preferred to refer most people to KVP, trusting him to take the right call.

“I was more like a mirror to him, an ‘antaraatma’,” says Rao. “Rajasekhar could discuss anything with me because he knew my advice, right or wrong, would not be motivated by any selfish cause.”

A strong votary of unified Andhra Pradesh, he believes, was a big mistake that was forced on the Congress. “Maybe someone from a generation after us will unite the two Telugu states,” the MP hopes.

The Congress paid a huge price for bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, not winning a single MP or MLA seat from the residuary state in the 2014 election. “The High command knows I am doing more than my best to revive the party in Andhra Pradesh. The problem is that people on the ground compare any Congress leader in Andhra with Rajasekhar whose stature was huge. We cannot match up,” he says.

I ask him how is his equation with the Congress High command, now that Rahul Gandhi, 30 years younger to him, has taken over. “Reasonably alright,” Rao says.

On the day Rahul Gandhi’s nomination papers were being filed, KVP advised him not to depend on leaders of his generation.

“We will be, at the best, useful for one more election. You need a team that can fight five more elections so you should choose such people,” Rao told Rahul, dropping clear hints that the new Congress president should not shy away from asking seniors to make way.

Rao’s Rajya Sabha term continues till 2020 and he is clear he will continue to be Andhra’s voice in the Rajya Sabha, hoping to correct the wrongs done to the state.

(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.)

| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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