By T S Sudhir
On 29th May, Chiranjeevi’s camp was on cloud nine. The reason : Sonia Gandhi had invited Boss for a meeting, a privilege denied a couple of days later to CM aspirant, Y S Jaganmohan Reddy. The Congress wanted Chiranjeevi to support its Rajya Sabha candidates in Andhra Pradesh. The evergreen hero seemed more than willing.
But a week is a long time in politics. By the 4th of June, when it was time to file nominations, Praja Rajyam realised it had celebrated the rise of a new dawn in Chiru’s political innings, a bit too early.
According to political grapevine at the State secretariat, Praja Rajyam leaders expected that the Congress would request Chiru to file a set of nominations. Apparently one of the RS nominees was very keen that Chiru do that. But the call never came.
Miffed PRP leaders shared their anguish with the editor of a leading vernacular daily, who, instead of publishing the juicy news item, conveyed Chiranjeevi’s state of mind to Rosaiah. The chief minister immediately called Chiranjeevi, thanked him for his support and called back the editor to tell him to now publish the item with the headline : `Rosaiah thanks Chiru’ !
What happened behind the scenes?
One, several Congress leaders were not too happy with Chiranjeevi obtaining a direct entry into 10, Janpath. Two, Telangana leaders thought tying up with Chiru, who is openly in favour of a united Andhra Pradesh, will damage their electoral prospects in the Telangana region, where byelections are due in August.
Three, leaders from coastal Andhra, Chiru’s home turf, saw in him a potential rival. They were not pleased to find the actor not just co-starring with them but being given a hero’s welcome into the arms of the party.
In the political akhara of Andhra Pradesh, Chiru is fast realising he is a novice. After his debut performance did not ensure him a gatepass to the seat of power, Chiranjeevi has been engaged over the last one year, fending off aggressive poaching by Chandrababu Naidu, who is determined to tear to shreds Chiru’s political callsheet.
Congressmen are meanwhile gloating over how Chiranjeevi has been outsmarted. Not only did the leadership keep his 16 MLAs as a buffer in case Jagan acted truant but also `used’ him when the party wanted to send a message to Jagan, that in the revolving door of Indian politics, it could even be exit Jagan, enter Chiru.
A Congress minister from coastal Andhra gleefully told me that Chiranjeevi’s pro-Congress noises in Delhi had reached the districts. “The people now see Chiru as a Congressman and by making the mistake of coming too close to the ruling party, Chiranjeevi has lost the political space of an opposition leader.”
PRP leaders however view it differently. Vidhyadhar Rao, who served as Naidu’s agriculture and industry minister in TDP governments and is now one of Chiranjeevi’s closest advisors, says “It is a win-win situation for us. This will help us strengthen our party. We are not looking to join the government.”
But that is also because the PRP is a house divided over whether to go whole hog with the Congress and it is quite possible that some of the anti-Congress MLAs could even split the party.
So for now, flirting with the Congress seems the best option. Because in the event of the formation of Telangana, a weak Congress will bank on KCR in Telangana and Chiranjeevi in Andhra, to keep Naidu away from power.
How far PRP’s gamble of accepting the `Congress ka haath, Chiranjeevi ke saath’ has paid off will be known in the local body elections later this year when the alliance’s durability will be put to test.
Meanwhile, in keeping with the time-tested formula of doing a double role, Chiru is reportedly toying with the idea of giving his fans what they love him best for. As he mulls whether to woo the masses megasize through 70mm, two scripts, one of them a political thriller and the other a masala entertainer, are awaiting a nod from the Megastar.
And if all goes according to script, Chiranjeevi’s film and political career could witness the mother of all comebacks. If all goes according to script, that is.