Chiranjeevi factor

Published : May 08, 2009 00:00 IST

Chiranjeevi with son Ram Charan inaugurating a "railway procession" in Hyderabad on April 11. The partys symbol is the rail engine.-NOAH SEELAM/AFP

Chiranjeevi with son Ram Charan inaugurating a "railway procession" in Hyderabad on April 11. The partys symbol is the rail engine.-NOAH SEELAM/AFP

THE political script of film actor Konidella Chiranjeevi seems to have gone awry, judging by the performance of his party in the first phase of polling, in Telangana and north coastal Andhra Pradesh.

The Praja Rajyam does not appear to be the blockbuster that Chiranjeevi, the megastar, promised it would be when he launched the party in Tirupati in August 2008. It looks like a substandard remake of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

The Praja Rajyam may end up in the third place after the ruling Congress and the grand alliance (mahakootami) comprising the TDP, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India.

The Praja Rajyams strength lies in the coastal Andhra districts where elections will be held in the second phase along with the Rayalaseema region. Chiranjeevi enjoys a mass following among the youth and the Kapu community to which he belongs. The party is seen as a spoiler.

A year ago, Chiranjeevi was seen as a messiah by sections that yearned for a change. His slogan of ushering in social justice and change appealed to them. His party promised to give the weaker sections a greater share of the political cake by allotting them the ticket for at least 100 Assembly seats. It also promised to root out corruption, provide better livelihood opportunities, and bring about radical socio-economic changes.

Development, the party said, was a chimera as Andhra Pradesh ranked 10th among the 15 big States in terms of Human Development Index. It claimed that egocentric approaches of leaders had deceived the marginalised and that welfare schemes had been launched to subserve the interests of politicians. On the issue of social justice, the party observed that except for two years, when a leader from a Scheduled Caste was the Chief Minister, the reins of government had been held by the forward castes for 50 years. Of the 396 Ministers who took the oath between 1956 and 2008, roughly 70 per cent were from the upper castes, it said. Equal status and opportunities were still denied to 80 per cent of the people, the party stated.

This laudable vision, it appeared, would impress voters as the Congress is seen as a party dominated by Reddys and the TDP by Kammas. But, Chiranjeevi had other ideas. He entrusted prime responsibilities of the party to his two actor-brothers, Power Star Pavan Kalyan and Nagendra Babu, and appointed his brother-in-law and film producer Allu Aravind its general secretary.

Discontent brewed within the party. Party leaders felt there was a complete lack of transparency in the selection of candidates. C. Anjaneya Reddy, a retired IPS officer and vice-president of the Praja Rajyam, and Parakala Prabhakar, the spokesperson of the party, resigned from their posts. Prabhakar contradicted the claim that at least 38 nominees belonged to the Backward Classes. Several unsuccessful ticket aspirants accused the leadership of collecting money for issuing the ticket. The initial euphoria gave way to disappointment as many felt that the party was being run like a family-owned business. In several places, disgruntled party men attacked Praja Rajyam offices, causing confusion even in the coastal districts.

Chiranjeevi, in spite of being a debutant in politics, has been making politically correct statements on sensitive issues such as Telangana, and matching the promises of his rivals sop for sop, like free power supply to farmers for 10 hours every day. He has promised a package of essential food items at Rs.100 every month 25 kg of rice, 1 kg each of dal, cooking oil and salt, and 500 gm of tamarind.

The party has said it will respect public opinion and hasten necessary legislative processes for the creation of a separate State of Telangana. But, going by the trend of polling in Telangana on April 16, the party may not make a deep dent on the Congress and TDP votes in the region.

In fact, the Praja Rajyam and the TDP will have to contend with the latest twist given by Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy to the Telangana issue after polls concluded in the region. Reddy, who has the reputation of being the only leader who is not pro-Telangana by conviction, asked the voters of Rayalaseema and Andhra to be cautious of the TRS and the TDP. He warned that if these parties came to power, people of other regions would become aliens in Hyderabad and would find it difficult to conduct business in a peaceful atmosphere. He also cautioned that pro-Telangana activists would not allow water to flow into the Rayalaseema region.

S. Nagesh Kumar
Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment