Political convenience sinks centuries-old royal feud in Andhra Pradesh

  • Lata Jain, Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
  • Updated: Apr 22, 2016 16:01 IST
The Bobbili fort was at the centre of the Battle of Bobbili in 1757. It also sparked a longstanding enmity between the royal families of Bobbili and Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh.

A centuries-old feud between two royal households in Andhra Pradesh has ended with the scion of the Bobbili dynasty joining the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) after burying differences with descendants of the Vizianagaram royalty, who are TDP members.

Sujay Krishna Ranga Rao is the latest of 11 MLAs to have crossed over from the opposition YSR Congress to join chief minister N Chadrababu Naidu in the past two months. Interestingly, Union minister for civil aviation, P Ashok Gajapathi Raju – a TDP member and descendent of the Vizianagaram dynasty – was instrumental in Rao’s induction. For his part, Rao claimed he changed camps as he wanted development.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu (centre) flanked by Sujai Krishna Ranga Rao of Bobbili (left) and Union civil aviation minister P Ashok Gajapati Raju (right).

The bitter rivalry between the families dates back to the Battle of Bobbili in 1757 when Vizianagaram king, Raja Vijayarama Raju, helped the French attack the Bobbili Fort. Bobbili troops repulsed the attack twice, but the fort finally fell in the third assault. Many members of the Bobbili royalty chose to commit suicide rather than surrender.

The battle remains a significant episode in the history of south India, with the valour of Bobbili fighters becoming part of Telugu folklore.

The hostility has lingered over generations, spilling into politics in post-independent India where each family, which wields a sizeable influence in north coastal Andhra, has chosen to back rival political parties. Until three days ago.

Raju, a confidant of Naidu, apparently met Rao and the two agreed to work together. Given their individual reach, analysts reckon their combined force will make for a strong political team in the region, and could be the TDP’s solution to counter the YSR Congress led by M Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Rao’s defection is also seen as a huge success in the TDP’s efforts to poach opposition legislators. Many party functionaries at the division and mandal level in Vizianagaram reportedly walked out of the YSR Congress following Rao’s exit.

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