It was in October 2017 that Kannada film actor Upendra announced that he was making his foray into politics when he launched the Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Paksha (KPJP) in Bengaluru’s Gandhi Bhavan.
The party’s first press conference was memorable for its unconventional setting where journalists were seated on the stage instead of occupying seats in the audience. Upendra spoke about the values of the party from the aisle alongside an audience made up mostly of his supporters.
The party, however, broke up even before it could contest in its first election, after differences emerged between Upendra and Mahesh Gowda, an independent politician he founded the party with.
A few months on and Upendra appears to be re-enacting his political plunge all over again, this time by launching his own party – Uttama Prajaakeeya Party (UPP) – on his 50th birthday on Tuesday in a lavish ceremony at his residence in Kathriguppe in Bengaluru.
“A year ago, we were riding on a different boat. We didn’t know that it was leaking. This time we have built our own boat and it is us who are accountable for it,” said the actor reflecting on his roller-coaster year.
He claimed that he had learnt from the experience but added that in spite of KPJP’s failure, he would not abandon the ideals the party was based on. Several members of KPJP have made the switch along with Upendra to the newly formed UPP.
In fact, much like the KPJP, UPP is campaigning on the ideals of transparency, honesty and accountability. “The power of truth can travel all over the world. This is a silent revolution, one that is not visible until it is huge and all around us,” Upendra reasserted when questioned about whether the party’s idealism will be accepted by voters.
Furthering the pro-people focus around the party, Upendra claimed that anyone can join the party from any part of the state if they can submit ideas with documents and proofs to the party. The proposals will be reviewed by the party’s expert committee which includes Upendra. “We have received over 10,000 proposals from interested people and are reviewing each proposal. We have five or six people with us here today as well,” Upendra said.
Actors turning to politics have had mixed success in the state. Actor Umashri is a cabinet minister and ‘Rebel Star’ Ambareesh has also been a minister with the Congress in the past. Others like Shankar Nag and Anant Nag have campaigned for the Janata Dal in the 1980s, but this is the first time an actor is launching his own political party.
Upendra burst on the Kannada movie scene in the late 90s with a film aptly named Upendra, a psychological thriller about a man who calls himself ‘Naanu’ (me). His stardom was cemented with songs such as ‘Uppigintha ruchi bere illa’ (There’s no better taste than salt) and ‘Bari Olu’ (Just lies), which went on to become popular across the state for their quirky lyrics.
Upendra is hoping to ride a similar wave in politics but has not given a timeline for the party’s first foray into electoral politics. “We are asking for candidates to write to us but there is no deadline. If people want to plan for an election five years from now, we would welcome that too,” he added.
The actor is aiming to balance his film career with his political one and plans to contest elections from either Bengaluru or from his hometown of Kundapura in Udupi district.
After a career in films laced with political and social messages, one even having him play the role of a Chief Minister, Upendra is now set for his second crack at politics. With a campaign built on the concept of transparency and honesty, the questions are only going to be sharper from here on for Upendra and he will have to answer them soon or his political dreams will remain confined to his films.