The late N T Ramarao used to say she was the brightest of his children. But during the thespian's political journey — from 1982 to 1996 — she was nowhere to be seen. While her husband, Dr D Venkateshwara Rao, helped NTR in the nitty-gritty of politics, Purandeswari remained busy taking care of two young children and her nascent jewellery business.
But NTR’s instincts were right. In 2004, she plunged into politics. But unlike other members of the NTR clan, she did not use the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) as her launching pad. Instead, she and her husband, who had fallen out with Naidu after he staged a coup against NTR, joined the Congress.
She and husband are the only members of the NTR clan to be in the Congress camp.
While Purandeswari secured ticket for the Bapatla Lok Sabha seat, Dr Rao got ticket for the Parchur assembly seat — and both won convincingly. As a first-term MP, she made a mark in Parliament and was inducted in the council of ministers as minister of state for HRD.
Purandeswari is seeking election, second time in a row, but this time from a new constituency — Visakhapatnam. Her constituency, Bapatla, 400 km south of the present one, was changed into a reserved (Scheduled Caste) seat in the delimitation exercise. Although both the constituencies are located in coastal Andhra, they are culturally as dissimilar as chalk and cheese.
Nonetheless, Purandeswari has plunged into the campaign with aplomb, touring the constituency from early morning till 10 pm. She is locked in triangular contest, which involves M V V S Murthi of the TDP and P Srinivas Rao of the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP).
The opponents are trying to undermine her by portraying her as an “outsider”. But she remains undeterred as the constituency has consistently voted for “outsiders” — T Subbarami Reddy, M V V S Murthi, N Janardan Reddy, among others.
Purandeswari's nomination has not gone down well with a section in the Congress. Rajya Sabha member T Subbarami Reddy, a strongman of Visakhapatnam, wanted the seat for him or his wife, but the high command did not entertain his plea.
Moreover, she faces two formidable contenders. Murthi, a two-term MP from Visakhapatnam, has been grooming the constituency for the last five years. Likewise, Chiranjeevi’s PRP has a sizeable following in the region.
Purandeswari, however, remains unperturbed. “Visakhapatnam is not new to me. The people here have shown a lot of warmth and affection that should make my victory easy,” she said.