“No caste-based politics. We will win because we are honest and dedicated to social work.” These are the words of fans and members of Sandalwood actor Upendra’s inner circle, wanting to be a part of his new political venture. The actor made the announcement about the new party – Uttama Prajaakeeya Party – on Twitter on Sunday.
“Leaders of democracy, To bring a complete change through “Prajaakeeya” a new manifesto based ART of Governance (Accountability, Responsibility, Transparency) we are officially launching “Uttama Prajaakeeya Party” (UPP) in my residence on 18-09-18 at 10.30 AM. Please join us. Upp,” the tweet reads. The actor’s close associates claim that they already have over 100 members, and thousands of fans willing to help out and also join the party.
Upendra had announced his political ambitions over a year ago. Six months into aligning with the Karnataka Pragnyavanta Janata Paksha (KPJP), Upendra quit the party – just ahead of the state Assembly elections – and took with him a large chunk of KPJP’s members. The actor had then said that he would one day form his own political party. And that day is almost here – September 18, which also happens to be Upendra’s birthday.
Speculation is rife that Upendra’s new venture will put up six candidates for the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. However, a trusted lieutenant of the actor told TNM that Upendra has not given it a thought yet. “So far, we are still in the process of launching the party. We have not yet decided whether we will contest the Lok Sabha elections. We may do so if we find good candidates,” said Narendra Kumar, a former KPJP member, who is all set to be a part of UPP.
Sources close to the actor say that Upendra’s support base is largely concentrated in the greater Bengaluru region and that efforts are on to mobilise support in pockets of coastal and northern Karnataka.
“Upendra’s fans in the northern and coastal region will act as our support base and they will help spread the word. We believe in contesting without spending a lot of money. Currently, his supporters are in Bengaluru region and Upendra may contest from Bengaluru South. That’s not a given either. The major issue is that we have to compete with the larger parties without funds to advertise,” the source said.
Currently, the party is depending entirely on social media to spread the word. Unlike the BJP and Congress, which have dedicated teams for various legs of the campaign, the UPP will largely depend on the efforts of Upendra’s fans to carry out the social media campaign.
“We will only campaign on social media. We don’t have funds for other kinds of campaigning techniques. Besides, we will vet our candidates after conducting a series of interviews. Right now we have activists, social workers and Upendra’s fans doing all the work,” the source said.
But considering Upendra’s first political venture – Karnataka Pragnyavanta Janata Paksha – ended before it even took off, there is some cynicism around the launch of his new party.
In August 2017, right before the Assembly Elections, Upendra announced his entry into politics. In that very month, he announced the launch of Karnataka Pragnyavanta Janata Paksha (KPJP). While everyone assumed that KPJP was started by Upendra, it was only when the internal feuds blew out of proportion that the truth was revealed. Upendra had joined the KPJP and was to be its face, while the party was actually started by Mahesh Gowda.
“Mahesh Gowda had realised that it would be difficult to campaign by relying only on Upendra’s goodwill. This did not sit well with Upendra. He wanted to be the star of the campaign and wanted to have the last word in every matter. Politics requires a certain amount of altruism. It also requires the capability of sacrificing a few things in order to strategise. Upendra doesn’t have the tact to be a politician. He can be a star, he has followers. But he doesn’t know how to translate it into votes. Mahesh and Upendra fought about this a lot,” says a KPJP member.
Six months of feuds led to Mahesh Gowda’s decision to remove Upendra from the party. But a day before Mahesh’s announcement, Upendra announced his decision to quit. Although these were monumental changes in Upendra’s life, the political scenario moved on. The KPJP was forgotten and only one of its candidates – R Shankar, who swung from Congress to the BJP to the Congress after the elections – was briefly remembered as a member of KPJP.
Sources close to the actor say that even in the new political party, Upendra is not allowing any other member grow. “The system is autocratic. Everything is about Upendra. This cannot work,” a source says.
“It’s an echo chamber,” the KPJP member says. “No one is willing to see through the tinted glass for what the world actually is. The concept of caste-free politics is what we are all striving for, but does it actually work? Upendra is living in a dream world and every follower echoes what he says,” he adds.