Pawan Kalyan's Jan Sena Party hangs in balance
Will Pawan Kalyan follow into the footsteps of his brother and merge Jana Sena Party (JSP) with some other political entity? Will the actor make a comeback to Telugu films and give up politics for good? These questions are doing the rounds in Andhra Pradesh with just a few days left for the declaration of Assembly and Lok Sabha poll results on May 23.
JSP is not expected to surprise and at most may tilt the scales in the fight between Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), the main contenders of power.Notwithstanding the huge fan following Pawan Kalyan enjoys, especially among the youth of the Kapu community to which he belongs, JSP may do well only in a few pockets of East Godavari, West Godavari and Krishna districts, which have a sizeable chunk of voters from that community.
The maverick star’s political future will largely depend on the composition of the new Assembly. If TDP or YSRCP narrowly fall short of a majority, JSP may emerge as the kingmaker.
Elections to the 175-member state Assembly and all 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state were held on April 11.JSP contested the polls in alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). These parties are largely restricted to a few constituencies.
Under the seat sharing agreement, BSP contested 21 Assembly seats while CPI and CPI-M fielded candidates in seven constituencies each. For the Lok Sabha, BSP fielded candidates in three constituencies while and CPI and CPI-M contested two seats each. The remaining seats were contested by Pawan’s party.
‘Not scared of defeat’
While YSRCP and TDP are equally confident of storming to power, JSP is aware of its limitations. That’s the reason the 50-year-old actor while addressing a meeting of his party’s candidates on May 12 remarked that he is not scared of defeat.
Popularly known as the “power star” for the angry young man image in his films, Pawan stressed the need to the organization at the village level and fight local body elections whenever held.Pawan advised party leaders to work for strengthening the party, irrespective of the poll results. However, speculation of Pawan returning to films and the JSP merging with some political party after the poll results have been doing the rounds for last couple of weeks. Amid increasing demands by his fans that he resume working in films, there is talk that he will wind up JSP, just the way his elder brother Chiranjeevi did by merging Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) with the Congress in 2011.
‘Megastar’ Chiranjeevi had floated the PRP amid much fanfare in August 2008 when the then Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy dominated politics in undivided Andhra Pradesh. There was hardly any political space as TDP was strong as the main opposition.Chiranjeevi was expected to achieve what thespian N. T. Rama Rao had achieved by leading the TDP to power within nine months after floating it in 1982. Given the huge popularity Chiranjeevi enjoyed, he was often compared with NTR but the conditions in which the latter floated TDP were entirely different.
Chiranjeevi’s other two brothers Naga Babu and Pawan Kalyan also joined him in the campaign as they drew huge crowds. However, PRP came a cropper in the 2009 elections, winning just 18 seats in the 294-member Assembly and drew a blank in the Lok Sabha.
With YSR retaining power, many leaders quit the PRP to join Congress. The death of YSR in a helicopter crash the same year and subsequent revolt faced by Congress government from his son YS Jagan Mohan Reddy resulted in Congress approaching Chiranjeevi for a merger giving him a face-saving exit. Under the deal, the superstar was made a member of the Rajya Sabha and union minister of state with independent charge.The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to carve out Telangana state in 2014 and the humiliation Congress faced in the elections ended Chiranjeevi’s political career.
Chiranjeevi led the Congress campaign in 2014 while Pawan Kalyan, who had floated JSP the same year, did not enter the fray. He campaigned for the TDP-BJP combine, sharing the platform with Narendra Modi and Chandrababu Naidu. All his anger was directed towards Congress for dividing Andhra Pradesh but he avoided criticizing his elder brother.
After BJP went back on the promise to accord special category status to Andhra Pradesh, Pawan turned against the party and also targeted both Naidu and Jagan for their failure to pressure the Central government.The actor, who unlike his elder brother has good oratory skills and connects easily with people, addressed a few public meetings and led a campaign on a couple of public issues. However, he lacked consistency as a burst of activity was often followed by a prolonged lull. This proved to be a handicap in building the organization as despite claiming to be a party with a difference, JSP revolved around the actor’s charisma.
Pawan’s reclusive and mercurial nature did not help in the growth of the organization. He was often criticized for going into a shell and remaining incommunicado even for his close aides.Pawan Kalyan was heading the youth wing of PRP when Chiranjeevi was leading the party. He was reportedly opposed to PRP’s merger with Congress and the memories of the bitter episode are still fresh in his mind.
During an interaction with JSP leaders, he explained how conspiracies were hatched against PRP and ultimately led to its downfall. “The leaders from various parties came to PRP with hopes (of getting some posts). Nobody came with an objective,” he explained and dismissed the talk that he will follow the footsteps of his eldest brother.
The actor told party leaders that he did not form the party for the sake of power but wanted to see a change in the society. He claimed that with JSP’s entry in the political fray some change was visible. “The change has begun and this is our victory,” Pawan told the party meeting.Hinting that he is in politics for a long innings, Pawan said he was not scared of defeat. He told the party leaders that he did not focus on the number of seats the party will win. “More than the number of seats, what is important is the change we bring,” he said.
Claiming the support of lakhs of youth, Pawan asked JSP’s rivals not to underestimate the party’s strength. Political observers say if JSP fails to emerge as a kingmaker with sizeable number of seats, Pawan, like Chiranjeevi, may find it difficult to keep his flock together.During the campaigning, Pawan dropped clear hints that he will remain in politics and will not be active in films. His popularity and mass following is because of his celluloid image. This will make it a challenge for Pawan to remain afloat without acting in movies.