Monday, February 07, 2011

How Chiranjeevi failed to do an NTR

The story that did the rounds in the 1980s was that N.T.Rama Rao went to the Congress leaders in the state and requested for a Rajya Sabha seat. They did not oblige. So, he went on to form the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in May, 1982 and won a landslide victory in the assembly elections in January, 1983. Most Congressmen later regretted that they did not respond positively to his modest request because he became the key organiser of the non-Congress opposition parties which then became the National Front. Perhaps without NTR, there would have been no NF, and without NF no V.P.Singh. It was this combined opposition that defeated the Congress and Rajv Gandhi in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections.

In the case of Chiranjeevi, the opposite has happened. He has started out with Praja Rajyam Party (PRP), contested the elections and he hoped that he would become the chief minister. He assumed that his popularity as a film star would pave the way of political success for him. Instead, he is likely to end up being a member of the Rajya Sabha and a Congress backbencher at that.

In effect, he failed to do an NTR. Why did NTR succeed, and why could not Chiranjeevi? The difference is political grit. NTR had it and Chiranjeevi did not. In many ways, the two have been matinee idols, though connoisseurs and Chiranjeevi himself would admit that NTR was an exceptional thespian. But it was not star sparkle that was to clinch the issue in the political arena.

NTR was an uncompromising anti-Congressman, much like many of the socialist leaders in north India. That simple – it may even be termed simplistic – stance had paid political dividend. Chiranjeevi was not sure who his political opponents were. He attacked the late Y.S.Rajasekhara Reddy half-heartedly, and he did not bother about TDP's N.Chandrababu Naidu.

NTR talked of Telugu 'atma gauravam' (self-respect), and he reached out to people across the caste spectrum though his party was labelled a 'Kamma' (a rich and influential caste group) formation that was pitted against a Congress dominated by the Reddys (another powerful caste group). This was true as a generalisation though both NTR and the Congress had to calibrate the caste balance with care.

Chiranjeevi was reduced to a 'Kapu' (a backward caste which had made good in social and economic terms) leader by his close aides and he harped on the issue of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) not getting their due in the state's power structure. He failed to turn his popularity across castes and regions into political capital.

In the 2009 assembly elections, he had contested from two constituencies – Palakollu, his hometown in coastal Andhra and Tirupati. He lost in Palakollu and scrambled to victory in Tirupati. In 1983, NTR had contested from three constituencies – Nalgonda in Telangana, Gudivada in Andhra and Tirupati in Rayalaseema – and won from all of them.

NTR allowed his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu to become an influential figure much after TDP's electric electoral success in 1983, and it was Chandrababu Naidu who betrayed NTR in 1995 and took over the reins after NTR won another landslide victory in 1994. Chiranjeevi's party was managed right from the start by his brother-in-law and film producer Allu Aravind and brother and fellow film star Pavan Kalyan. The wrong moves and messages sealed Chiaranjeevi's political fate.

1 comment:

Kapil Sharma said...

Don't blame Pawan Kalyan for Chiranjeevi's party defeat. He just campaigned ? Party was managed by Allu Aravind who was selling tickets for Seat.

Sense of the mandate

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