Pawan Kalyan has sounded the conch in Tirupati, but is he ready to emerge as NTR 2.0?

Pawan Kalyan finally seems to have come to terms with the role he wants to play in AP politics.
Pawan Kalyan has sounded the conch in Tirupati, but is he ready to emerge as NTR 2.0?
Pawan Kalyan has sounded the conch in Tirupati, but is he ready to emerge as NTR 2.0?
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By Srinivas Alavilli

The politics of Andhra Pradesh just got very interesting. Film star turned reluctant politician, Pawan Kalyan, the man who delivered electoral victory on a platter to Chandrababu Naidu less than 3 years ago, declared war against him in a massive public rally in Tirupati last Saturday.

This is a clear departure from his policy of ‘give them time’ to fix issues adopted so far.  Pawan Kalyan also pointed a finger at the Prime Minister himself for the first time ever.  The most telling signs of all, he declared an agenda and announced a political program. 

The agenda was to agitate for special category status, and the program was a public rally in Kakinada on 9th September followed by a tour of the districts.

Jana Sena, the party Pawan Kalyan floated almost 3 years ago never had any organization to speak of, no office bearers, no second rung leaders no spokespersons for the party other than the founder president. 

It is clear from the tone and the message delivered in Tirupati, that the party will now take shape in a more formal sense, without which it cannot run a state wide campaign. While it remains to be seen if he makes good on this plan, political observers will have to admit that this will be a major turning point in state politics.

Pawan Kalyan finally seems to have come to terms with the role he wants to play in AP politics. His interest in politics was revealed in 2008 when he campaigned extensively for Praja Rajyam, a party floated by his brother and film star Chiranjeevi.

 That experiment failed miserably, Chiranjeevi merged his party into the Congress in exchange for a place in the Union Cabinet, and Pawan Kalyan severed his ties with his brother, politically speaking. 

It was only a matter of time, before he entered politics and that moment came in 2014 when he announced a new party Jana Sena and yet stayed out of elections quoting  lack of  ‘time’ and ‘resources’.

He supported Narendra Modi for PM and threw his lot with the Telugu Desam and campaigned extensively.

Special Category status has now become a universally emotional demand across Andhra Pradesh. There is deep rooted sense of injustice among the people of Andhra Pradesh and the wounds of separation and loss of Hyderabad are still fresh.

The recent pronouncements of Arun Jaitely and flip flops from Venkaiah Naidu have added fuel to the simmering fire. The wily politician that he is, Chandra Babu Naidu has been successfully transferred the blame to alliance partner BJP, without putting any political pressure on them.

But people are increasingly growing tired of Naidu’s good cop - bad cop games and the made for media governance that focuses on the new capital and events like Pushkarams.  Pawan Kalyan seems to have sensed the timing and grabbed the opportunity with both hands, discrediting Venkaih Naidu, Chandra Babu Naidu and various MPs, in the process. 

 The invocation of Telugu ‘Aatma Gouravam’ (self respect) and the aggressive posturing that, “We shall not be beggars”, is clearly reminiscent of NTR. Indeed, the tremors are already being felt in Delhi with news coming through about possible announcement from Union Government.

While mainstream media gave the Tirupati speech wide coverage, they seemed to have missed out on two key declarations from him that have far reaching implications. Freedom from the traditional caste politics of AP and an ideological break away from the BJP.

Politics begins and ends with caste in Andhra Pradesh and it is admirable that Pawan Kalyan fiercely refused to be tagged to a caste identity. He even admonished the media for calling out his caste selectively when convenient for them. 

Other than Dr. Jaya Prakash Narayan of Lok Satta, no other leader worth his salt ever dared to call for ‘caste free’ politics. The support base of Pawan Kalyan is predominantly youth at an impressionable age who can truly free Andhra Pradesh from its caste based politics.

Pawan Kalyan may have also sounded a death knell for the BJP in Andhra Pradesh politics. Given the circumstances that led to the new state with the old name, just before the 2014 elections, even Narendra Modi would privately admit that his charm wouldn't have worked here, without the vote gathering power of the ‘Power Star’, even though he was a popular figure throughout the country. 

Therefore, BJP tried to woo Pawan Kalyan into the party possibly with an aim to make a play for power on their own and garner MPs for Modi 2019.  This has not only been corroborated by Pawan Kalyan in the Tirupati meeting, if anyone in the BJP still harboured such ideas, he dismissed the speculation by declaring that he doesn’t agree with their ‘Hindutva’ ideology.

He asked the BJP to focus on real issues instead of cow politics and if they genuinely care for cows, they should take care of them in individual capacity, like he does.  

Whatever happens in 2019, we can safely assume that the BJP is politically dead in AP and quite possible that Modi himself would lose the election anywhere in AP.

Even for popular film stars with enormous following, politics is extremely tough and it takes a lot to make a mark electorally. The agitation for ‘special category status’ has all the necessary emotional elements to build a party organization and make it a potent force in 2019.  In addition, if Pawan Kalyan is able to build an organization free of caste identity, it will be a watershed moment for AP politics

All of this of course, depends on whimsical leader’s ability to stay the course and deliver genuine people’s political revolution.

Srinivas Alavilli is a software professional at Oracle and volunteers for civic, social and political campaigns.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.

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