Devineni Nehru Dies, Factionalism In Bezawada Ends

The death of Devineni Nehru brings curtains down on four-decade gory politics of factionalism, murder and mayhem in Vijayawada, also called Bezawada. The younger generation is far from the type of politics their fathers practised.

Dara Gopi

Amaravati: Former minister Devineni Rajasekhar Nehru died of cardiac arrest during early hours on Monday in a hospital in Hyderabad. His death, though unexpected, had brought the faction fights in Vijayawada to an end. Though faction fights of 1970-80s were not seen after the death of his arch rival Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga Rao in December 1988, the city remained tense for all these years inspite of Nehru too being silent and there were no incidents of violence. But the factionalism has been in the air. The verbal exchanges often reported in the media between Nehru and Vangaveeti Radha Krishna, son of Vangaveeti Ranga, were the only indications of the possibility of reccurance of such violence, but that too is now ended with the death of Nehru.

Devineni brothers and the Vangaveeti brothers have put the city on fire for two decades. The brothers from both the families were friends and colleagues in the beginning as they started working with the Communist leader Chalasani Venkata Rathnam. They orgaised the rickshaw pullers and taxi drivers those days and with their support, they carried out extortions and settlements of various disputes. The death of Chalasani Venkata Rathnam, their mentor and the subsequet death of Vangaveeti Radhakrishna Murthy, more popualr as Radha, in 1973 turned both Vangaveeti and Devineni families as rivals. While Nehru headed the Devineni’s clan, Radha’s brother Mohana Ranga Rao headed the Vangaveeti group. The fight for supremacy in extortions and settlements between the two families had costed dearly for the city for two decades. It had penetrated into the colleges with the two groups having their own student unions – United Independents for Vangaveeti and United Students Organisation for Devineni.

In 1974, the Vangaveeti group chased and killed Devineni Gandhi, the elder brother of Nehru at Loyola College. Subsequently in 1988 March, Nehru lost another brother Murali in the hands of the rivals. By then Nehru was an MLA from the Telugu Desam Party while Ranga was MLA on Congress ticket. With TDP in power, Nehru was said to have taken revenge in the murder of Ranga on December 26, 1988, in a span of just nine months of the murder of his brother Devineni Murali. That was the time when the city of Vijayawada was under curfew for more than a month and had witnessed heavy extortion and exploitation. There were riots and destruction properties in the wake of Ranga’s murder.

The death of Ranga had left no one to lead the group thus leaving the city in the hands of Nehru, who had major say in politics. Nehru and his another sibling, Devineni Baji Prasad, dominated the city faction politics for two decades. Though Ranga’s son Vangaveeti Radha Krishna became Congress MLA and later joined the YSR Congress, he could not challenge the supremacy of the Devineni family in the city politics. In fact, Nehru too kept those faction politics aside and tried his best to promote his son Devineni Avinash in active politics. Thus the faction politics took back seat in the city making it a safe place to live and work.  In fact, there has been an unwritten truce between the two families. Ranga’s wife, Ratna Kumari, belonging to Kamma community, was not interested in pursuing factional feuds. The members of both the families have taken care not to cross their paths and not to go for direct confrontation. In any case, Radha is no match to Nehru in leading a faction. Radha is also friendly with everyone without being aggressive.  He is unlike his father in this aspect.

The younger generations from the two families, represented by Vangaveeti Radha Krishna and Devineni Avinash, are now focusing on their political careers giving no scope for the repeat of the 1970-80 faction war. The recent film directed by controversial celebrity Ram Gopal Varma on Ranga has only reminded the people of Vijayawada of the violent days of the past sending chills up their spine.

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