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Monday, December 10, 2007

Analysis: Chiru prefers to play the waiting game

HYDERABAD: Through his succinct statement on Friday, Telugu film star K. Chiranjeevi has sent across a loud and clear message that he will not be hustled into announcing a decision on entering politics. As he is entitled to, the decision on the timing and venue of his political ‘arangetram’ will be solely his.

Chiranjeevi’s caveat should cool off a bit the enthusiasm displayed by his fans, caste organisations nursing political ambitions and, not the least, the media, all of whom were eagerly anticipating the political atmosphere in the State to turn electric if he took the plunge.

His statement has not, however, totally disappointed his admirers as he has not foreclosed his options - evident from his appeal to supporters to remain patient “till I make an announcement on the issue”. Nevertheless, he avoided taking the bait unlike Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu who virtually allowed him to be pushed by the media into advancing the Assembly elections in 2004.

The assumption was that he could encash on the sympathy generated by Maoists’ abortive assassination attempt on him at Alipiri. But, the rest is history.

Each section egging him to enter politics had either an interest or a presumption for seeing him in the seat of power.

Piggy-ride

Like elsewhere in the South, film fans in the State hold their superstars in exalted status and yearn to see them as larger-than-life leaders in real life as well. After all, MGR, NTR and Jayalalithaa went on to become powerful Chief Ministers after holding sway over the tinsel world. Several caste organisations, seeking to seize their due share of political power were keen on piggy-riding on Chiranjeevi hoping that as a member of the Kapu community he would lead them against Kammas and Reddys. The film star never responded to their overtures, at least publicly, as it would be na├»ve to champion the cause of particular castes and yet gain a pan-Andhra Pradesh image. NTR never did so and his trump card when he launched his party in 1982 was protection of ‘atma gouravam’ (self-respect) of the Telugus.

Also, the assumption that BCs are a monolithic group who will vote one way or the other at Chiranjeevi’s call has no basis. Kapus of coastal Andhra, Munnurkapus, Setti Balijas, Yadavs and Gouds differ in their political preferences between and among themselves.

A deeper study of their political inclinations and socio-economic needs would be needed before a ‘a Mayawati type’ alignment with the ‘politically deprived’ sections of upper castes can be knitted together in AP.

A section of the media perceives there is a political vacuum in the State which Chiranjeevi is eminently suited to fill.

Strong contenders

The indisputable fact, borne out by poll statistics, is that Congress and Telugu Desam enjoy a vote base of at least thirty per cent in the worst of times and remain strong contenders for power - quite unlike the situation in 1982 when the only opposition to the Congress came from within.

During the past week, Chiranjeevi has basked in the adulation of supporters who have created a jumping board for him to take a leap into politics.

But, before he does so, he has hard home work to do – balancing the caste equations and learning from history before he can get his electoral arithmetic right.

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