ON A COLD DAY IN DECEMBER 1994, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, universally known as NTR, woke, of long habit, at 3 am. Once a movie star, the hugely popular NTR had changed the very character of Andhra Pradesh politics over the previous decade. He had founded the Telugu Desam Party in opposition to the Congress, and reaped rich electoral rewards through the 1980s. The TDP was now indelibly part of the state’s political make-up, and NTR himself had been its first ever non-Congress chief minister.
On this day, however, he had been out of power for five years. The state was in the midst of fresh elections, and forecasts from the first phase of polling were less than comforting for the TDP. NTR was 71 years old, and could no longer campaign the way he used to a decade earlier, when practically all of Andhra Pradesh turned out to greet him on its roads. He was in delicate health; he had had to leave out the interior regions of the state entirely during campaigning, and restrict himself to main roads of Andhra.