The JP-Pawan combine: Will the duo emerge as kings or as kingmakers in AP?

Both leaders come from divergent backgrounds, but JP’s political knowledge and Pawan’s large fan base could help the two come out on top.
The JP-Pawan combine: Will the duo emerge as kings or as kingmakers in AP?
The JP-Pawan combine: Will the duo emerge as kings or as kingmakers in AP?
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Andhra Pradesh politics, in the backdrop of the post-Budget sledging between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Telugu Desam Party about fate of the state after bifurcation, took an interesting turn with actor Pawan Kalyan joining hands with former civil servant N Jayaprakashnarayana

Will this prove to be a winning combination – Pawan is the founder of Jana Sena Party and Jaya Prakash Narayan, aka JP, is a retired IAS officer, administrative and electoral reformer?

Pawan played king-maker by helping the BJP-TDP combine come to power in the last election. Will he again confine himself to the same role in the next election too?

It would be far-fetched to jump to conclusions at this stage. It is unlikely that the actor and ex-bureaucrat win the horses at the very outset. The political space in the state is almost evenly shared by the TDP and the YSR Congress, leaving almost nothing for any third force to come to play here.

T Lakshminarayana, a political analyst, told TNM, “Pawan and JP, as of now, are willing to work together only for a limited objective – to find the facts on the flow of funds to the state from the NDA government, in line with its reassurances during the bifurcation. They have not come out with any political agenda alternative to the ruling alliance, nor did they express resolve to occupy the Opposition’s space.”

According to him, there is nothing for them to explore in the name of finding facts as there is no conflict in the data of the funds flow from the Centre.

JP gave up his lucrative career in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1996, after serving in various positions for 16 years. He responded to Pawan’s call for a joint effort to soothe the wounds of the bifurcated state. 

It was agreed upon that a Joint Action Committee (JAC), with representatives from the civil society and political parties, would begin the fact-finding mission.

The convergence of these two leaders with such divergent backgrounds in the run-up to the 2019 general elections brings to the fore the prospects of transforming their efforts into political action – their ability to challenge the power centres in the state and at the Centre. 

JP quit the IAS to become a crusader, intending to reform the electoral system fraught with corrupt politicians and criminal elements. His call to cleanse an administration plagued by red tape and corruption through a series of reforms was well-received by civil groups across the country.

He turned politician from whistle-blower by transforming his pressure group – the Lok Satta – into a political party. 

From the Kukatpalli assembly in 2009, he found his way into the united AP Legislative Assembly. His overwhelming popularity in Andhra, especially among the educated middle class in his Assembly segment, fetched him Rs 10 lakh as voluntary donations alone, from his voters, at that time.

His popularity, however, waned with his humiliating defeat in the Malkajgiri Lok Sabha elections in 2014. He announced his decision to renounce politics and get back to his original role of a conscience-keeper.

By exiting from active politics, he admitted that he was not cut-out for present-day politics. JP took an active part in the movement against the bifurcation of the state, thus earning the wrath of the protagonists of the Telangana movement. 

His return to politics has left people wondering what might be in store for him.

Pawan Kalyan, who shot into the limelight during the 2014 elections as a supporter of the TDP-BJP combine, has earned the reputation that he only makes noises when he isn’t busy shooting for a movie.

Pursuing ‘vacation politics’, Pawan took up the issue of special category status for Andhra only occasionally. Other subjects he spoke about even more sporadically included defending farmers from pooling in their land to build the new capital, kidney disorders in Uddanam region of northern Andhra and the agrarian crisis in Rayalaseema.

But he failed to unveil a coherent political agenda, giving expression to people’s discontent against the ruling establishments.

Instead, he chose to be enigmatic – he visited Civil Supplies Minister Paritala Sunitha and accepted refreshments from her after encountering distressed farmers in Ananthapur. He also failed to establish himself as an alternative leader with a clear direction and vision, by praising the TDP and the TRS governments in Andhra and Telangana, thus earning the sobriquet as their “B-team” from the Opposition. 

Pawan enjoys considerable clout among his fans, the Kapu community to which he belongs and the educated youth with IT backgrounds.

JP is venerated as a messiah out to cleanse the system by the Telugu diaspora across the world, some sections from his Kamma community and the intelligentsia. His party’s presence in the 2009 elections adversely affected the winning prospects of the TDP in more than 20 Assembly segments, by splitting the Opposition vote. He became a blessing in disguise for the Congress, leading to its comeback.

Pawan’s statements have made it clear that he is not going to take Leader of Opposition YS Jaganmohan Reddy on board. He has repeatedly stated that he will not align with any party or leader involved in criminal cases and with corruption charges against them. 

However, his invitation to Congress former MP Vundavalli Arunkumar to join the JAC has become a matter of criticism as the latter’s party presided over the bifurcation. 

Pawan, a thespian turned politician, is still new to the nuances of politics and lacks the ability to quickly grasp issues. 

In contrast, JP, by virtue of his working in the top echelons of the administration for several years, has got a deep understanding of issues with a roadmap for remedies. But he is not able to come out of his bureaucratic style of doing things. Which is why he failed in electoral politics. 

Will these two leaders with divergent backgrounds – one with fan following and little political acumen and the other, with intellectual pursuits and a small base, succeed in the shrewd Andhra politics?   

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