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Will Andhra see a repeat of NTR?

Chiranjeevi’s massive show of strength at Tirupati reminded many of the stunning impact another Telegu actor had on Andhra Pradesh politics 26 years ago. Ashok Das reports.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2008 23:52 IST
Ashok Das

Chiranjeevi’s massive show of strength at Tirupati on Tuesday reminded many of the stunning impact another Telegu actor had on Andhra Pradesh politics 26 years ago.

Barely nine months after he launched the Telegu Desam in April 1982, N.T. Rama Rao had become chief minister of the state.

Will Chiranjeevi make an equally decisive impact in the assembly polls scheduled for mid next year? The short answer is: no.

“People are fed up of both the Congress and the TDP,” said Ch Hariram Jogiah, who quit the Congress last week to join Chiranjeevi. But, in fact, is he was being far too hopeful.

Make no mistake about Chiranjeevi’s popularity in the state. He probably has a fan following larger than NTR’s in his heyday. But NTR’s image - since he had played the lead in numerous mythological films — had a halo of divinity associated with it, which Chiranjeevi — who played the usual, Amitabh-Shahrukh kind of roles — does not.

NTR presented the Telegu people for the first time with a regional alternative to Congress rule. Till the TDP’s launch, the Congress had ruled Andhra since the state was created. NTR became an embodiment of Telegu pride, which at the time, had been hurt by the cavalier way then Congress general secretary Rajiv Gandhi had treated then state chief minister T. Anjaiah in full public view.

Chiranjeevi can’t bank on such emotional draw.

There’s also the caste trap. Chiranjeevi belongs to the land-owning Kapu caste, and some of his supporters are projecting his party as Kapu assertion, against the Reddys who dominate Congress and Kammas who rule TDP. But this is too simplistic in the present day political scenario.

Besides, the Kapus are not evenly spread across the state, dominating only in five coastal districts, who can make a difference in about 65 of the state’s 294 assembly seats.

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