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Parliament's drama man

September 01, 2018 09:46 IST

Naramalli Sivaprasad's over-the-top style of protest has become a unique tool to generate attention at the national level.
B Dasarath Reddy reports.

Photograph: PTI Photo

Indian Parliament has seen protests of all sorts -- from slogan-shouting and placard-waving to even a pepper spray attack.

But few protests have been as creative as the ones by Naramalli Sivaprasad, the Lok Sabha member from Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh.

Once a stage artiste who also acted in several movies before joining the Telugu Desam Party in 1998, Sivaprasad has showed up in Parliament dressed as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Krishna, a fisherman, a maulvi, a Christian priest, an astrologer, a street singer, a farmer, a schoolboy, a transgender -- even Hitler.

In 2014, at the height of political protests over the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, Sivaprasad attracted attention by lashing himself with a whip outside Parliament, and then also in front of the Speaker in the House to protest against the division of the state.

When he landed at Tirupati airport from Delhi after this whip-lashing episode, a massive rally welcomed him.

The protest, he felt, had had an impact.

Then on, he started wearing makeup and appearing in different avatars on every single day when Parliament was in session.

"I wanted to use my artistic talent to make the protests more appealing to people," says the 67 year old.

He is well aware that while his protests send a political signal to people back in Andhra Pradesh, they don't necessarily effect a concrete change.

If initially he had misgivings about how his style of protest would be received, those were laid to rest when one day Bharatiya Janata Party leader Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu walked up to him to find out what message he had brought to the House that day.

Others who took note of his protest were leaders such as Sonia Gandhi and Arun Jaitley.

 

This random side-show of his, which was initially viewed as a distraction by his party colleagues, has now become a parallel track of protest by the TDP, particularly after the party broke away from the National Democratic Alliance during the last Budget session of Parliament.

Today, senior MPs from the party also want to be seen by his side.

Sivaprasad's over-the-top style of protest has become a unique tool to generate attention at the national level.

An entertainer at heart, Sivaprasad never appears as the same character twice.

The only time he did so was when he came dressed as Krishna.

"So far, I have appeared in 46 get-ups," says the doctor-turned-politician.

To make a case against the split of Andhra Pradesh, he appeared as Krishna when he visits the Kauravas to persuade them for a peaceful settlement with the Pandavas so that the impending war can be avoided.

He also appeared dressed as B R Ambedkar, with a message for Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi.

"This was Ambedkar advising the prime minister to bring a Constitutional amendment that would grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh," he says.

IMAGE: The many characters Sivaprasad has depicted during Parliament. Photograph: PTI Photos

While Sivaprasad's son-in-law Prasad arranges the costumes and wigs, his wife Vijayalakshmi helps him with the make-up.

He starts getting ready at 9.30 am and is all set by 10 am.

Then for about 10 minutes he rehearses his lines for the day. And by 10.25 am, he is standing in front of the Gandhi statue at Parliament house, ready with sound bites for the media.

Before he was elected to Parliament in 2009 and then again in 2014, Sivaprasad was minister of information and public relations and culture in Nara Chandrababu Naidu's government for two years.

He and Naidu studied together from Classes 4 to 10.

As children, they also acted in a play, Paruvukosam (self-pride), with Naidu in the lead role and he playing a comedian.

Today, had it not been for his protests, Sivaprasad says he wouldn't have been half as famous.

B Dasarath Reddy
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