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Millions attend Telugu star Balakrishna's political debut

Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad | November 05, 2008 18:47 IST

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Guntur turned in to a "Yellow Sea" on Wednesday as more than a million supporters of Telugu Desam Party from all over coastal Andhra region flooded to the city for the "Yuva [Images] Garjana" (Roar of the Youth) rally to witness the popular Telugu film star Balakrishna launching himself in to an active political role.

People started flooding in to the venue near Acharya Nagarjuna [Images] university on the outskirts of Guntur and the ground was fully by 1 pm , almost four hours ahead of the opening of the rally. The sea of humanity clogged the Chennai-Vijaywada national highway No 5. Thousands of vehicles were stranded on both the sides and the people had to walk for miles to reach the venue of the meeting.

TDP President N Chandrababu Naidu [Images] along with the star attraction of the day Balakrishna reached the venue in a helicopter as it was impossible for the vehicles to reach the place.

If the idea behind the Yuva Garjana was to counter the threat from the newly launched Praja Rajyam party of another popular actor Chiranjeevi [Images], and the effort was a major success. The turnout of the supporters of Balakrishna and the TDP was as big, if not more, as was mobilised by Chiranjeevi on August 26 for his inaugural rally at Tirupati.

TDP painted Guntur and its surroundings yellow, the official colour of the party, by decorating every inch of available space including both the sides of the road, the traffic islands, footpaths with yellow banners, festoons, cut-outs of the party leaders and hoardings. The entire 30-kilometre long route between Vijaywada and Guntur was also decorated in the similar fashion with welcome arches and banners.

The show was unique in more than one ways. Since the death of the family patriarch and TDP founder N T Rama Rao's death in January 1996, it was the first time that most of his children and grand children had gathered on one platform and one of his sons N Balakrishna was taking the plunge in to politics. Giving Balakrishna the company on the occasion was his brother, actor and TDP N Harikrishna, and two new generation Telugu heros among the NTR's grand children Taraka Ratna and Kalyan Ram.

However despite the best efforts of Naidu, another popular hero from the family and NTR look alike, Junior NTR did not participate in the rally, though his cut-outs shared the space with other stars of the family.

Though officially the reason for NTR Jr's absence was his hectic shooting schedule in Hyderabad, party and family sources say he had differences with the other family members on some issues. NTR Junior is the son of Harikrishna's second wife and he is unhappy that the other family members.

By deploying the star power of NTR family, Naidu has made it clear that he intends to heavily bank on NTR's charisma in the next elections in a last ditch effort to return to power after five years.

Party leaders said that the rally was an impressive show of strength and it will boost the morale of the party cadre specially in Krishna-Guntur-Prakasham belt which is a Kamma dominated area. Though Kammas have all along been the supporters of TDP, in the 2004 elections they had deserted Naidu completely.

Even as Balakrishna and other family members vowed at the rally to bring the TDP back to power under the leadership of Naidu, Balakrishna's sister, Congress MP and Union minister Purandareshwari lashed out at the members of NTR clan for supporting Naidu, who had dethroned their father. "They should have at least felt the pain our father underwent when Naidu ousted him from power and snatched the TDP leadership from his hands," she said.

Not to be left behind the Congress legislature party also released a CD with the excerpts of the speeches of NT Rama Rao in the past in which he had criticised Naidu.

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