Andhra Pradesh politics took a glamorous turn on Monday with Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi beginning his much-awaited political journey by inaugurating the office of his party. He will formally launch the party later this month.
Chiranjeevi told reporters that he would launch the party "before the end of this month" and would make an announcement "in a couple of days".
The actor, who had so far confined himself to social service, is launching his party when the state is gearing up for the elections scheduled early next year.
The posh office built in the upmarket Jubilee Hills neighbourhood was inaugurated by the actor in the early hours on Monday in the presence of his family members, close aides and two rebel leaders of the ruling Congress party and the main opposition Telugu Desam Party.
Amid chanting of Vedic hymns by priests, the office was opened at 12.50 a.m., as per the 'mahuratam' set by astrologers. The family performed special prayers to seek divine blessings. The function was held in secret and the media was not invited.
However, as the word spread about the actor's arrival, a large number of his fans and media persons gathered outside. Dancing in gay abandon, the actor's fans raised slogans and expressed their confidence that their hero would be the next chief minister.
The actor's mother Anjana Devi, wife Surekha, brothers Nagendra Babu and Pavan Kalyan, son Ravicharan Teja, brother-in-law and key adviser Allu Arvind and close aides Mitra and K.S.R. Murthy were present.
Rebel Congress MP Hariram Jogaiah and former minister K. Vidyadhar Rao, who was expelled from the TDP recently, also attended the function. Jogaiah and Rao earned the ire of their leadership by openly supporting Chiranjeevi.
Talking to newsmen, Chiranjeevi defended conducting the function in a secret manner, saying it was done as per Hindu traditions. "Now, nothing will remain secret," declared the actor, who has been ruling the Telugu film industry for over two decades.
"The party will be launched before the end of this month. We will announce the date, venue, party name in a couple of days," Chiranjeevi said.
"I know the people's pulse - they are waiting for me to announce the launch of my party," said the 53-year-old actor, who enjoys a huge fan following in the state.
He is likely to launch the party at a massive public meeting in the temple town of Tirupati on Aug 22, his birthday. Allu Arvind recently visited Tirupati to choose a venue for the public meeting.
The actor expressed his grief over the devastation caused by heavy rains and flash floods in the state and appealed to his fans to help the victims. "I appeal to my fans to lend a helping hand to those affected by the floods," he said.
In November last year, one of Chiranjeev's close aides claimed that he had decided to launch a party. The speculations led to his fans holding meetings in different parts of the state to urge him to make an early announcement.
Chiru, as he is popularly known, came out with a statement few days later, appealing to his fans to remain patient till he makes an announcement. Continuing the suspense, the actor had said in January that he needed more time to take a decision.
However, in the last three months, Chiranjeevi's brothers and aides held meetings with trade unions, women, IT professionals and other sections of society at different places in the state to prepare the ground for the party's launch.
People are drawing a parallel with thespian N.T. Rama Rao's political entry in 1982. He had come to power within nine months of launching the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
After formally launching the party, Chiranjeevi is likely to undertake a state-wide tour on a special chariot. State assembly elections are due next March.