There’s a lot riding on the film stars campaigning in Andhra Pradesh for the Lok Sabha elections. The state bifurcation issue will play a dominant factor in the regions of Seema-Andhra and Telangana. Vicky Nanjappa reports
Andhra Pradesh has never been short of star power and a host of stars are expected to be out campaigning and contesting the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Actors enjoy the status of demigods in Andhra Pradesh and draw huge crowds. But when it comes to winning the battle no one has been able to repeat the feat of (actor and former chief minister) N T Rama Rao.
The star list this election season includes, Chiranjeevi, Vijayshanthi, Pawan Kalyan, Nagarjuna, Roja, Mohan Babu, U V Krishnam Raju, Balakrishna, Jayasudha, Ali, Murali Mohan and Junior NTR.
Many of them are contesting the elections, but stars like Nagarjuna, Pawan Kalyan and Mohan Babu will stick to campaigning for political parties.
Junior NTR, who has campaigned for the Telugu Desam Party earlier, is hoping to contest the elections. He is in talks with party president Chandrababu Naidu.
A lot is riding on these stars. The bifurcation of the state is a hot topic this election and will play a dominant factor in the regions of Seema-Andhra and Telangana.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has managed to rope in several big film stars. If they are able to get votes along with the crowd, then the party can expect some magic in the final result. Pawan Kalyan is a big catch for the BJP as he enjoys a huge fan following. Though he is not contesting, he has agreed to campaign for the BJP to ousts the Congress.
The BJP is also hoping Nagarjuna will campaign for them. His meeting with BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi surprised many as the actor is considered close to the YSR family.
Mohan Babu is another big star who is aspiring for a BJP ticket. In all probability he may be given a ticket. The BJP hopes to convert his fan following into votes. Babu is not new to politics and has been a former member of the Rajya Sabha under the TDP banner. He is likely to quit the TDP and join the BJP.
Krishnam Raju, who was earlier with the Praja Rajyam Party, is also planning to join the BJP. He had lost the elections last time, but feels confident of fighting on a BJP ticket. He said the voters did not go with him because they felt the PRP had no chance of forming the government.
Raju has been a two-time MP and also a minister in the (former prime minister) Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
For the TDP, Balakrishna and Junior NTR are the big stars. However, they would benefit from the other film stars in the fray if the BJP-TDP alliance attains finality. Balakrishna is the brother-in-law of Chandrababu Naidu and has already stated that he will campaign for the TDP.
Junior NTR was part of the campaign for the TDP last year, but had to pull out due to a road accident. The TDP is expecting a lot from the grandson of NTR. He has now expressed his wish to contest the elections too and Naidu would only be too glad to give him a ticket.
The TDP also has in its fold, Murali Mohan and comedian Ali. They do have a fan following, but the TDP would want them to bring in the crowds.
In the Telangana region, the Congress will rely heavily on Vijayashanthi and Jayasudha. Vijayashanthi recently quit the Telangana Rashtriya Samithi and joined the Congress on the assurance that she would be given the Medak seat.
Vijayashanthi is not just a crowd puller but also an experienced politician. She is likely to give a hard time to the TRS candidate against her in Medak.
Jayasudha will contest from the Secundarabad seat under the Congress banner. She will be up against Kishen Reddy, the Telangana BJP chief. It is expected to be a tough fight. Reddy too is aware that Jayasudha is not a push over.
The YSR Congress has Roja, who incidentally is the only one from the film industry. She was part of the TDP and contested the Chitoor seat twice unsuccessfully in the past. This time she would hope to ride the (YSR Cong chief) Jagan Mohan Reddy’s popularity in the same constituency.
Chiranjeevi -- probably the biggest star in Andhra Pradesh in the past two decades -- has the toughest job when compared to the rest. He leads the election campaign for a fading Congress in the Seema-Andhra region. He has a lot of fans but then asking them to vote, especially when he is part of the party blamed for the bifurcation of the state, will be a tough ask for him.
At first he thought he would rely on the votes from the coastal belt, but then with his brother Pawan Kalyan too seeking votes from same vote bank, the job for Chiranjeevi has become tougher. His rallies, off late, have not been drawing in major crowds and as per estimates there were hardly 7000 to 10,000 people when he commenced his campaign. He was the one who launched the PRP and the party looked to threaten every other party. However, he has put up an above average performance. Many feel that merging the PRP with the Congress not only earned the wrath of his brother but also a large number of his fans.
The problem is that there are too many film stars this election and they are all from the Seema-Andhra region.
The people of Telangana have accused the industry of bias. Analysts say that barring Vijayashanthi and Jayasudha none of the other stars would make an impact in Telangana.
But no one has been able to repeat the performance of N T Rama Rao who floated the TDP. He propagated the Telugu cause probably for the first time in Andhra Pradesh and his scheme of giving rice at Rs 1 per kg did the trick for him. Will the new brand of stars be able to repeat that?
Image: Film star Pawan Kalyan