'Power Star' Pawan Kalyan makes electoral debut but will he pose challenge to TDP, YSR Congress
Amaravati (AP), Mar 28: In a popular on-screen persona, he loves calling himself 'lion' while in another the actor boasts that his opponents are scared of him. After five years in politics, it remains to be seen if Andhra Pradesh's top star Pawan Kalyan can pose a challenge to the TDP and the YSR Congress as his party Jana Sena fights the assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh in alliance with the CPI, CPI(M) and BSP.
His supporters say Kalyan, whom they call "Power Star", would outwit his political rivals and recreate the spectacular 1983 victory of N T Rama Rao, though both the TDP and the YSR Congress dismiss such claims saying that his party has little connect with the electorate. Making his debut in electoral politics this year after launching the party in 2014, Pawan Kalyan has made a slew of catchy promises like 33 per cent quota for women, creation of 10 lakh jobs and Rs 10 lakh worth health insurance, but not all are convinced that it is enough.
The 47-year-old actor, who is all set to contest from Gaujwaka and Bhimavaram constituencies, "is followed by a section of youths but it might not be comparable to the mass support that was enjoyed by NTR," G Haragopal, a retired professor of University of Hyderabad and political analyst, said. However, his supporters argue that Kalyan is "down to earth and accessible to all which" which has endeared him to the masses and it would translate into votes for the Jana Sena-led alliance.
"Our nayakadu (leader) has been raising issues and pressured the government to address them. He enjoys support of all sections of the people," said a die-hard supporter Yugandhar, based in Tirupathi. Pointing to his speeches in public meetings and rallies, the supporters of the actor, who called himself 'lion' in film 'Attarintiki Daaredhi', said that he has been a major crowdpuller.
However, Haragopal wondered if the star's on-screen popularity would translate into votes. "The enthusiastic youths are not the kind who will carry on Kalyan's philosophy or ideology. They are all fans. But political cadre are different," he said. The actor's support for the TDP-BJP combine in 2014 "helped" the alliance, claim his supporters. Pawan Kalyan enjoys a large number of youth fan following, inspite of acting in just over 25 films since his debut in 1996.
Pawan Kalyan's task appears herculean given the well entrenched TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu on one side and a raging YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy on the other. Kalyan is a sibling of actor-politician K Chiranjeevi, who unsuccessfully launched Praja Rajyam Party and later merged it with the Congress.
"Jana Sena is not even a full fledged party. I don't think they will make any impact. The fight is only between the TDP and the YSR Congress," said Lanka Dhinakar, TDP's spokesperson. YSR Congress leader Karunakar Reddy too said that people were not even aware of who was contesting from the Jana Sena combine. However, CPI state secretary K Ramakrishna is hopeful that he will be able to get votes of youths and people of his Kapu caste.
He said, "The actual fight would be among TDP, YSRCP and Jana Sena-led alliance. Pawan's major strength is the support of the youth and natural admiration his caste people have for him." He feels national parties -- the Congress and BJP -- would not be considered seriously because of backlash they face.
While the Congress is blamed for bifurcating the state, the BJP is targeted for denying the state Special Category Status, he said.
CPI(M) state secretary P Madhu said their alliance is going to pose a serious threat to both the TDP and YSR Congress party. Kalyan belongs to influential Kapu caste, which has dominant presence in regions including Godavari belt.
Though Kalyan himself tried to reach out to all sections of voters transcending the confines of his Kapu caste, observers say the actor cannot hope to even get full share of his own community votes.
"The Kapus votes would be divided between JSP and TDP. JSP has pitched for reservation to the community, while the TDP has already brought in 5 per cent quota for the community within the 10 per cent under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservations, introduced by the BJP-led Centre," said an analyst.
Drawing parallels between Kapus and other intermediary castes in the country, professor of political science in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Ajay Gudavarthy said they would go with anyone who protects their interests. Politically, Kalyan made several right moves like backing the victims of water pollution in West Godavari and by working on solving the issue of kidney ailments in Srikakulam by roping in Harvard University researches.
Jana Sena is also enthused as many prominent persons including former Speaker Nadendla Manohar and former IPS officer V V Lakshminarayana joined the party. Kalyan has also organised 'Praja Porata Yatra' - a combination of walkathon, rallies and public meetings. NTR, after a spectacular career in the filmdom founded the Telugu Desam Party in 1982, and became the first actor from the undivided Telugu speaking state to become the chief minister in 1983 within nine months of forming the party.
The TDP and the YSR Congress will be going alone in the 2019 polls. In 2014, the TDP allotted 15 assembly and four Lok Sabha seats to its ally BJP, while its arch-rival YSR Congress contested on its own.