In an ugly twist to the pre-poll wrangling in election-bound Andhra Pradesh, political rivals have started questioning the antecedents of Junior NTR, a popular actor and Telugu Desam party's star campaigner.
Junior NTR is the son of N Harikrishna and his 'second wife' Shalini. An embarrassed Telugu Desam leadership has issued a stern warning to its opponents to refrain from dragging family history into the political arena.
The issue came under the spotlight after the first phase of Junior NTR's campaign in the north coastal Andhra districts proved to be a huge success. With his striking similarity to his grand father and TDP founder N T Rama Rao, Junior NTR has struck an instant rapport with the people, rejuvenating the TDP rank and file.
Rattled by Junior NTR's popularity, several opponents of the TDP have now resorted to raking up his family matters and the treatment meted out to him by NTR's family in the past.
Congress leaders, including minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir, have openly taunted Junior NTR on the issue, urging him to secure justice for his mother before talking about social justice.
NTR's son-in-law Daggubati Venkateshwara Rao has also joined the debate by asking junior NTR to remember the rough treatment meted out to him for being an 'outsider'.
"You must ask your father Harikrishna to give proper marital status to your mother," Shabbir told Junior NTR.
Lakshmi Parvathy, NTR's second wife, also asked Junior NTR to fight for justice on behalf of his mother.
"Has the family (of NTR) accepted your mother as a member," she asked. She also enquired about why Junior NTR and his mother were not invited to the wedding of Chandrababu's son Lokesh with Balakrishna's daughter Brahmini in 2007.
Apart from the Congress, leaders of Chiranjeevi's party Praja Rajyam have also targeted Junior NTR on the same issue. Political mud-slinging touched a new low when rivals termed NTR junior as the 'baby crow'.
"If he is a baby crow, then Jaganmohan Reddy and Rahul Gandhi are baby vultures," retorted fiery TDP leader N Rajakumari.
Recalling Junior NTR's visits to the family home as a child, Daggubati Venkateshwara Rao said, "He used to come in an autorickshaw to play with my daughter. Once it got late, and my wife sent him home in our car; the other members of the family created a scene and asked her not to do so".
Venkateshwara Rao wondered how the same family can proclaim Junior NTR to be their 'loved one'. He warned that Chandrababu Naidu was using Junior NTR and Balakrishna to come to power. "He will dump them later," he claimed.
The bitter feud within the NTR family had surfaced earlier, when Balakrishna held a road show right in front of his sister and union minister Purandareswari's home in Karamchedu in Gutur, and lashed out at her for joining the Congress.