By T S Sudhir
A K Antony and Chiranjeevi are poles apart as personalities but they have one thing in common. Chiru’s `Chirutha’ Ram Charan Tej is a rising star in Telugu cinema and Antony’s son Ajith Paul Antony has similar ambitions in Mollywood.
But it is not to take career tips for Ajith that Antony arrived at Megastar Chiru’s doorstep on Monday afternoon. The defence minister’s secretive airdash was to deliver by Speed Post, Sonia Gandhi’s invitation to the Praja Rajyam supremo to come to Delhi. “Strengthen the ties between the Congress and the PRP” reasoned the invite.
Chiranjeevi had met Sonia last year when the Congress, apprehensive that Jagan’s MLAs may play truant in the Rajya Sabha elections, SOS-ed the PRP for support. Ever since, the party has been treated as a steppeny by the Congress, which reaches out to it, everytime Jagan threatens to puncture the Congress tyre.
What could the Congress-Chiranjeevi jugalbandi mean for Andhra Pradesh politics? Given that politics in the state post-YSR has become a khichdi (or avial, as Antony would have put it), the coming together won’t be music to many a politician’s ears.
The first politician to react has been the grand old man of Andhra Pradesh politics, G Venkatswamy, who has vowed to oppose the move to give a break to Chiranjeevi in a Congress production. Taking on the Congress leadership for a disconnect from the grassroots workers, Venkatswamy has even called for Sonia’s head.
Outside the Congress, Jagan has to take a call now on whether he should ask those Congress MLAs who have an extra-political relationship with him, to vote against the Kiran Kumar Reddy government in the event of a no-confidence motion. So far he has been a “gentleman”, only issuing threats and taunting the Congress that Kiran survives at his mercy. Not very gentlemanly, you may say, but then the Indian political industry stopped manufacturing that brand a long while back !
The Congress calculation is that Chiru, given a call sheet embellished with one Union cabinet berth, 3-4 state ministries, a couple of MLC seats and perhaps even a merger would agree to sing and dance with the Grand old party. But whether Chiru will be able to bring to 24, Akbar Road all his 18 MLAs itself is suspect given that at least four of them prefer singing the Jagan bhajan to a duet with Chiru.
Seasoned politicians like Chandrababu Naidu ridicule Chiranjeevi’s political acumen but to give the actor-turned-politician credit, he, despite running the Chiranjeevi Eye Bank in Hyderabad, has not fallen back on a `two eyes’ theory like Naidu to present a wishy-washy approach to Telangana. He has been brave enough to state his position clearly, espousing a united Andhra Pradesh, despite the political damage.
And there in lies the problem. The Telangana group sees Chiranjeevi as a censor for statehood to Telangana. Already there are noises among Telangana Congressman who consider it an affront that a Samaikhya Andhra man’s support will provide oxygen to Kiran Kumar Reddy.
Is taking Chiru’s support a message to Telangana that Congress doesn’t want T? It would seem so. Because if Congress had wanted, it could have wooed K Chandrasekhar Rao for the support of his 11 MLAs. That it chose to go with Chiru is a sign that speaks louder than words.
Another worry is how will the Kapus (Chiranjeevi’s community) within the Congress or other heavyweights from his home district react to this love affair with Chiru? The likes of Dasari Narayan Rao or Kavuri Sambasiva Rao are unlikely to celebrate Chiru landing the plum role of a cabinet minister or a deputy CM.
The Congress also has a pathetic track record in taking care of political `friends’. Remember Tiger Narendra, the then MP from Medak, whose support YSR enlisted for the UPA government ahead of the vote on the nuclear Bill in 2008. Narendra, amidst major fanfare, drove to 10 Janpath, met Sonia Gandhi and was promised a bright political future. Narendra is today a nobody in Andhra Pradesh politics. Chiranjeevi ought to read up Congress history before enrolling himself there.
Of course, it is not that Chiranjeevi has many an ace up his sleeve. His Praja Rajyam is a poacher’s delight and it would only make sense for him to make the most of the Congress desperation to insure itself.
In the midst of all this, it is unlikely Chiranjeevi can get time and focus, to don the greasepaint for his 150th film, that Ram Charan plans to produce. Chiru who has been exercising vigorously of late, to lose all that unhealthy flab he gained thanks to the indisciplined life of a politician, has been listening to scripts from filmmakers keen to direct him. But his real life script, directed by Sonia, seems all set to be a superhit.
100 days, anyone?