TDP’s 40-year journey: Of legacy & lessons to survive

Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, the founder of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), gave shape and hope to Telugu people when he breathed life into the party. Shaping the party on ideals of serving the poor, and as a party which believed in efficiency, capability and skills, NTR has remained one of the strongest regional leaders India has ever seen. 
From ensuring that regional parties have a say in the country’s policies and reforms and giving an identity to Telugu people, Telugu Desam Party stood as a pillar of hope for many in the country while also shaking the foundations of national parties during its inception. 
While the transition from NTR to Chandrababu Naidu as its political heir may not have been smooth, the TDP carried forward NTR’s legacy and strength even after his passing. While NTR brought an identity to Telugu people, Chandrababu Naidu brought identity to Andhra Pradesh and its talent. While NTR stood for honesty and straightforwardness, Chandrababu stood for pragmatism and development. 
As a party that believed in the power of its capabilities and its work towards governance, good leadership, vision and development, the Telugu Desam Party has come a long way in 40 years. From being written off every time it lost the election to coming back stronger, the TDP has faced many brickbats in its journey. The worst came in 2004 and 2009 when the party was expecting to win the election but lost it badly due to negative propaganda against its growth-led policies. 
However, during bifurcation, the people of Andhra believed that a battered state could be saved by Chandrababu Naidu, who has a track record of being an able Chief Minister. While the TDP won the election in 2014 in Andhra, it lost its arm in Telangana where it got defeated. Currently, the party has negligible presence in Telangana — all thanks to TRS for its undeterred propaganda of TDP as an “Andhra Party.”
In the current phase, the TDP, after losing the 2019 assembly election to YSRCP seems to be in a state of disarray. One of the strongest reasons for this is the party’s ignorance and lack of understanding public pulse. As a party with loyal cadre, TDP has always claimed to have people’s support and votes. But, going by the current trends in politics, it is clear that neither is the party focussing on creating a strong second-wrung leadership but is also heavily relying on Chandrababu Naidu’s image alone.
What TDP requires at this stage is to move beyond Chandrababu's pro-development image and find a new USP. Second, Nara Lokesh is still a work in progress. During his stint as a nominated MLC and later, as a Cabinet minister in the state, he has faced backlash for nepotism. There is still no positive image-building exercise when it comes to Lokesh and neither is there any effort from his side to project himself as TDP’s political heir. 
Third, TDP’s royal ignorance of social media’s influence is badgering the party’s political future in a massive way. The party continues to rely on free publicity and its loyal followers who are very few in number. Its unperturbed belief and arrogance that people will work for the party for free still remains evident among the party’s leaders. 
Fourth, in an age of branding and publicity, TDP is lagging behind in every aspect. Neither is it gearing up to ace the branding game nor is trying to get rid of the negative propaganda created against the 40-year-old party. What TDP currently requires is to get rid of its age-old belief of “we know everything” and work towards infusing new and refreshing ideas while also creating space for youngsters with workable solutions. 
Given that it is currently full of senior TDP leaders and their children, it seems to be difficult for the party to get its head out of its ignorance. Therefore, what it needs right now is a strong shake-up where the party not only forges forward to create a new hope and future for itself but also makes sure it survives in the current vicious political atmosphere in the country. 
Additionally, we also believe that TDP needs to realise the importance of family members and find a way to use Junior NTR’s charisma and oratory skills to benefit the party in the long term. Currently, the only hope for TDP seems to be Junior NTR’s entry. But, the question is, will he be able to save the party from fading out? OR is this crisis just another thorn in TDP’s crown? 

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