Decoding Pawan Kalyan’s political strategy


By T S Sudhir

Let it be said loud and clear. Chandrababu Naidu and YS Jaganmohan Reddy can ignore Pawan Kalyan at their own peril. It will be easy to dis Pawan’s political moves as filmy antics or make unflattering comparisons with his elder brother Chiranjeevi who entered politics with high aspirations in 2008 but has now returned to the world of greasepaint and glamour. If the optics of the reception the Jana Sena founder is getting is anything to go by, he has emerged as the third axis of Andhra politics. 
Critics of this theory will say film stars always draw crowds, the youth are there for the selfie craze, Jagan also draws huge crowds (which is also a fact) and that very little of this outpouring will translate into votes in the absence of a serious political organisation at the mandal and booth level. 
Yes and No.
Pawan when he burst on to the political scene in 2014, came across as a man confused about what exactly he wanted to achieve or even say. His mind seemed to be bursting with several ideas at the same time. `Pawanism’ as his fans referred to his thought process, was too Utopian in nature. It was almost as in his mind, the state would be transformed within the span of a song like it happens in movies. 
Over four years, Pawan conveys the impression that he has matured politically. First he was sensible enough to realise that the kind of movies he was doing (Sardar Gabbar Singh, for instance) were a waste of time and money. And if he was serious about a political career, he needed to right away dip into the huge amount of goodwill he enjoys. 
Is the crowd frenzy only because of his film career? You cannot write off the movie star appeal but if that was so overpowering, the same fans would have made all his films into superhits at the box office. The fact that Pawan has scored more duds than hits as a star shows he exudes a different kind of appeal and aura, that goes beyond 70mm. 
What has Pawan done right in the last one year or so? 
First he picked up on the resentment over the denial of special category status. As a lone ranger, Pawan did not have to worry about how other south Indian states would react to Andhra getting such a status. He was driving home the point that Telugus of Andhra had been deceived by the Centre and the party sharing power with it in New Delhi and Amaravati, the Telugu Desam, had done precious little about it. By doing so, he hit directly at Naidu’s image of a doer.
Two, Pawan has made effective use of social media. His video post on the cracks that had developed on the road to Polavaram on Sunday, taking a jibe at Naidu’s claim of real time governance, showed he knew how to connect with people on issues that mattered. The cracks that appeared over a distance of one km, uprooted several electrical poles and raised fears about possible seismic activity in the area where the dam is being constructed.
His decision to undertake a train journey from Vijayawada to Tuni in East Godavari district was an excellent tool to mobilise his fans and interact with people in flesh and blood. Much of the visuals that have come out seemed targeted at his fans, very filmy in approach, but Pawan also knows he needs to retain his admirers by giving them what they like.
He has kept the attack sharply focused on Naidu – be it by asking farmers to protest against any moves by the Andhra government to acquire more lands in and around Amaravati, accusing the Telugu Desam of tampering with voter lists, calling his embrace of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress as “ritualistically opportunistic”. He even retweeted a tweet by Amitabh Bachchan that said, “Never argue with someone who believes his own lies” commenting that the “tweet is so relevant” to Naidu. This is with an eye to grab a sizeable chunk of the anti-incumbency vote that would otherwise all go into Jagan’s kitty.
As expected, the Congress leaders who have worn their anti-TDPism on their sleeve all these years, have started to desert the party ship. Jana Sena that has already inducted former Assembly Speaker Nadendla Manohar (in pic), is likely to be the new tent for many of these leaders. While the Congress leaders would look to salvage their own political careers by assuming a new identity as a Jana Sena-ite, their entry will help Pawan streamline the process of fighting elections. Their experience will come in handy. 
Pawan is also not spreading himself too thin. If his travels are an indication of his strategy, he is focusing sharply on the two Godavari districts, which also has a significant Kapu population and are always seen as the two districts that decide who will get to rule Andhra Pradesh. North coastal Andhra is another area he has travelled extensively in. 
The difference in the vote share between TDP+BJP+Jana Sena and the YSR Congress in 2014 was less than 2 per cent. With Naidu losing both his allies, his vote percentage is bound to come down. That should ideally benefit Jagan but Pawan may end up taking away a chunk of the youth vote from the YSR Congress.
But it is not as if everything is hunky dory for Pawan. There are a lot of sceptics especially from his Kapu community, who felt let down by Chiranjeevi and are wary of trusting Pawan completely. Over the next five months, Pawan will have to convince these undecided voters why they should go with him.
Pawan realises he won’t be able to do an NTR, sweeping the polls like the thespian did in 1983 within eight months of forming the TDP. His strategy seems to be to emerge as the HD Kumaraswamy of Andhra and force either of the two parties to do business with him on his terms. We will know in May if this script works out the way he has planned. One thing is certain : It won’t be easy. 

Notes from polling day

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By T S Sudhir
My previous blog that talked about a neck-and-neck fight in Seemandhra with a slight edge to Naidu, exposed me to much abuse from YSR Congress. Not that TDP supporters are any better. You say anything remotely critical of their boss and they come at you like an organised troll army. I wonder why either of them expects unbiased mediapersons to be biased?
I am a passionate student of politics and to cheapen this fascination by attributing motives just exposes their own biases.
Here are my observations from my own field trip to Krishna district on polling day and talking to my friends and colleagues who were present in different districts of Seemandhra on May 7.
Is there a wave? 
I did feel a strong, silent, determined wave in favour of the TDP-BJP alliance but only in the urban pockets. Not so much for Narendra Modi but for Chandrababu Naidu. With `development’ as the sole criterion, many of them – from Srikakulam to Chittoor – seemd to have voted for giving Naidu another chance. And this was across different age groups. First time voters, who I thought may have perhaps preferred a younger Jagan than an older Naidu, plumped for experience over an unknown, untested commodity.
The Minorities factor in our cities and towns
But there is a flip side to the urban vote as well. A directive had been issued just before polling day both to Muslims and Christians by respective religious groups not to vote for the TDP because of its alliance with the BJP. In many assembly segments, the Muslim vote is critical and if the voters of the two communities have indeed voted as per the diktat, we could have tight contests going either way. This could significantly neutralise the TDP traction in urban areas.
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Urban vs rural divide
The elections, I feel, is going to throw up a sharp urban vs rural divide. While the TDP-BJP will do reasonably well in the urban and semi-urban constituencies, the rural areas are likely to plump for Jaganmohan Reddy. The Reddy-Dalit-Muslim-Christian-rural youth plus YSR legacy votebank that Jagan has sewn up is likely to deliver rich dividends in the countryside. The welfare agenda pursued by YSR is like a fixed deposit that Jagan will be able to tap. The TDP perhaps made a mistake by over focusing on the urban constituencies and was not able to penetrate into rural pockets as well as Jagan did. The YSR Congress chief also with his penchant for yatras, ensured he was among the people all the time, creating a connect and a feeling of being one of their own. That familiarity may have worked better compared to the star appeal of a Pawan Kalyan. I suspect the final seat tally of the TDP and YSRC will display a sharp urban-rural divide.
Will high polling be a factor?
Yes and No. The usual thumbrule is that low polling benefits the ruling party while high polling indicates a wave of anger against the incumbent government. But in Seemandhra, you have the peculiar situation of the government that was in power till a couple of months ago, not being in the race virtually. Except on paper. In the absence of the Congress putting up a serious fight, the battle for Seemandhra is between two opposition parties – TDP and YSR Congress. So in that sense, polling percentage won’t make much of a difference. However, high polling indicates that the people want to get their voice heard. And a high turnout in the rural areas would be to Jagan’s advantage. The critical factor would be how many rural constituencies the TDP is able to win.
Would cross-voting have happened?
Given how keenly fought this election was, it would seem that tactical voting (that is, a voter choosing TDP-BJP in assembly and YSRC in Lok Sabha or vice versa) would be unlikely on a large scale. Most voters I spoke to, or my colleagues interacted with, were clear about what they were looking for. It ranged from development, corruption-free regime, growth for the new state, welfare schemes, sops. Naidu scored better on the development factor while Jagan won the race by a huge margin when it came to implementing a better welfare agenda. But I still feel that the Modi factor would play a role as voters who are aware of the difference between a PM and a CM would plump for the alliance rather than the standalone YSRC. I think the TDP-BJP alliance will do better in LS than in the assembly elections because voters realise that a friendly central government is critical to a new state in dire need for funds.
Is Corruption an issue?
Yes, a huge issue in the urban pockets. Many urban, educated voters did not have anything nice to say about Jagan and felt that between Naidu and Jagan, the former was comparatively (yes comparatively) less corrupt. Somewhere the TDP’s sustained campaign about YSR Congress party’s “CBI candidates” has struck a chord in the cities and towns. Even in rural pockets this was an issue, but not to the extent as in urban polling centres, with many arguing, “who is not corrupt?”
Naidu’s problem is Naidu
Government officials who had voted enmasse against Naidu in 2004, angry with the kind of insults he heaped upon them during his surprise inspections, this time, seemed open to giving him a chance. “Ten years in the opposition would have sobered him,” one of them said. But doubts persist especially among farmers, weavers, the landless class. Naidu’s credibility is suspect and he is still seen as someone who will be more happy being the CEO of AP Inc. For the poor, looking for free medical facilities, free power, free education, Naidu does not seem the man to go to. This despite the freebies Naidu is promising to dole out. The trust factor is still missing as far as Naidu is concerned.
Naidu’s best bet is a desperate TDP cadre
The TDP cadre has worked hard in Seemandhra. Because a third successive defeat will mean curtains for the party. Already the TDP is close to extinction in Telangana and the karyakarta cannot afford the same in Seemandhra. Because if the TDP folds up, they cannot go to a YSRC or a Congress. So 2014 is a do-or-die battle for them too. Just like it is for Naidu. That also explains the pitched battles that were fought between the TDP and YSR Congress workers in different parts of the region on May 7. The TDP cadre tried to get as many to the polling stations yesterday and would hope that would be enough.
Where will the Congress vote go?
Will it go to the TDP or the YSRC? My sense is that the Lok Sabha vote will go to the TDP and the assembly vote distributed depending on individual candidates and their appeal and anti-incumbency in the case of sitting MLAs, between the TDP and YSRC. Congress itself will find itself plumbing to never-before depths. That would also be a plus for Jagan.
Seemandhra is known to swing one way and not giving vague verdicts. But this election is likely to go down to the wire. The vote margin between the two parties isn’t likely to be much even though in a straight contest, even a small difference could result in a rich harvest of seats.

Battle for Andhra Pradesh : Naidu vs Jagan

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By T S Sudhir
Disclaimer : This post is not about predicting who will win the battle for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. At least I will not stick my neck out in public because in the age of social media, I do not want my Twitter timeline to be abused by trolls using inappropriate vocabulary. 
It is a fascinating contest taking place in the heat and dust of Seemandhra. The mood is angry out there as the wounds of bifurcation haven’t healed completely, the feeling of `we will show them’ is burning in their hearts. They are still uttering the `D’ word but this `D’ is not about division but about Development. Despite the loss of Hyderabad, those in Seemandhra want to show that they can build a state better than Telangana and a brand new capital city that would be the envy of those living in the city of the Charminar.
That is the context in which this match is being played between Nara Chandrababu Naidu and Y S Jaganmohan Reddy in the 25 Lok Sabha and 175 assembly constituencies of Seemandhra. With the Congress out of the race and also-rans like Kiran Kumar Reddy there only as side actors, it is a clear one-on-one fight. No holds barred.
These are my takeaways from my travelling around Seemandhra districts and conversations (and phone chats) with both partisan and neutral observers of politics in this region.
Modi wave 
The most obvious question that every visitor from the north of the Vindhyas would like to know the answer to. On the surface, there is no Modi wave. No one even talks about the NDA’s PM candidate in these parts. But listen carefully and you will realise why Seemandhra’s results may well leave Modi smiling.
The disgust against the Congress is so deep, so intense that the natural beneficiary of that anger is Modi. When people look for a national option that is fiercely anti-Congress, Modi becomes the most obvious choice as far as Parliament is concerned. That is where Naidu has done the smart thing by tying up with Modi. Because then Naidu gains from the desire of those voters who are looking at who should occupy 7 RCR next and those votes are likely to go into the TDP-BJP alliance kitty.
In contrast, Jagan has virtually nothing to offer as far as New Delhi is concerned. Apart from a feeble proclamation that he is willing to do business with anyone but the Congress. For a state looking for dollops of grants from Delhi, having ruling party MPs would help. This factor will give Naidu a decisive edge over Jagan in the Lok Sabha polls in Seemandhra, particularly in constituencies with a higher awareness quotient. The tide may not be against YSRC to the same extent in LS seats with a higher proportion of not-so-politically aware voters.
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The Pawan Kalyan factor
The reason why Modi is not such a talking point is also because the BJP in this region is a non-entity in Seemandhra. With Kishan Reddy reducing the Andhra Pradesh unit in the last five years to a Telangana unit, the Seemandhra unit of the BJP was a decrepit outfit. But what is helping its cause is the pinch-hitting that actor Pawan Kalyan has done for Modi in the last one week of the campaign. The actor has a tremendous fan following and he is using his fan clubs and Jana Sena to take the message of `Modi for PM’ to the masses in Seemandhra far better than the BJP. If the BJP-TDP alliance does well, they owe it in large measure to Pawan Kalyan.
Kapu vote
The hope is that like elder brother Chiranjeevi whose party Praja Rajyam polled a large number of Kapu votes in 2009, Pawan would be able to net a majority of the 27 per cent Kapu vote in Seemandhra. A large number of first-time voters in Guntur told me that they will vote for TDP only because Pawan Kalyan told them to. While a large number of votes he would attract would come from the community, the flip side is that he is seen more as an actor, some kind of a youth icon and not so much as a Kapu representative. Also the Kapus are not entirely comfortable voting for a Kamma party (TDP) so I doubt how many votes will get transferred because of Pawan’s campaigning for the alliance.
The fact that Naidu at the last minute announced that one of the two deputy CMs will be a Kapu, reveals his desperation and perhaps an indication that Pawan has not been able to convince the community to plump for the bicycle. This is significant. 
As a damage control measure, YSR Congress has managed to persuade Kapunadu, an umbrella organisation representing the community to back the party. Moreover, YSRC has fielded a fair number of Kapu candidates in key constituencies.
Development Development Development
Like Vidya Balan in `The Dirty Picture’ says “Entertainment Entertainment Entertainment”, Naidu has gone into overdrive uttering the Development word. With hoardings of Naidu with Bill Gates and Hi-Tec city plastered all over urban constituencies of Seemandhra, Naidu is promising to create another Cyberabad. Talk to people who have seen Naidu as CM between 1995-2004 and they want to give him a chance. They see in him a more mature and visionary leader, wiser from having been dumped twice by the voters, who would put Seemandhra on the path to development. In contrast, to this section of the electorate, Jagan comes across as an inexperienced leader along with also the taint of corruption cases against him.
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Naidu’s credibility crisis
But then this does not mean everyone is in favour of Naidu. The former CM still suffers from a credibility crisis, especially in the countryside and most remember his tendency to use and throw. There are also two Naidus who are campaigning. One is for the urban areas promising development and the other offering dollops of unimplementable and economically nonsensical sops. Politicians who offer fish to eat without making the unskilled learn fishing, can be disastrous.
This is the cuss word Naidu utters everytime he has to abuse Jagan. He calls him a psycho and derides him by saying his place is in jail. Jagan too has provided ammunition by giving tickets to people like industrialists like Koneru Prasad (Vijayawada LS) and Ayodhya Rami Reddy (Narsaraopet LS) who are chargesheeted in different cases, like him. But is the criticism working? Among the educated lot in urban centres, yes. But talk to people in rural Seemandhra and they ask you who is not corrupt and whether Naidu is 100% clean.
Jagan’s argument that the cases were politically motivated too has worked for him as most people believe that he would not have gone to jail if he had stayed on in the Congress.
YSR legacy
More than himself, his mother and sister, it is his dad’s legacy that is working like a fixed deposit for Jagan. Eight of every ten YSR Congress supporters who I spoke to, in any part of Seemandhra, have good things to say about YSR and how they want to give the son a chance because the father passed away soon after they had given him a second term in May 2009. But will this feel-good factor alone work magic for Jagan, up against the might of Modi-Naidu-Pawan Kalyan, is the question. But if he has to encash it, it has to be now. 2019 will be too far away.
The Minorities factor
Losing this vote is a calculated risk Naidu has taken and this entire bloc could move to Jagan. Muslims constitute 4.5% of the coastal AP population but it is the Christian population that is his biggest strength. On paper, they are an insignificant number but a large of practising Christians are still seen in census as Dalits and other backward classes. That number is estimated roughly as around 10%. The BJP tie-up will make them shun the TDP even though they know Jagan too could go with Modi post polls if he gets the seats.
Telugu Congress Party
The biggest blunder Naidu committed was to admit a whole lot of Congress turncoats into the TDP, converting it into a branch office of Indira Bhavan. If they were liabilities in the Congress, how can they win elections in the TDP. Getting TDP cadre to gel with the campaigners of the Congress turncoat and to canvas for someone who you criticised till a month ago, has been Naidu’s biggest challenge. If the TDP suffers in the assembly contest, it will because of this singular reason. I suspect many of them will lose.
Have money, will contest
It does not matter if you have never been in politics before. If you are loaded and willing to splurge, you are welcome to wear the party colours. Any party. Look at the profile of the candidates and you will know why. From Jaydev Galla to Koneru Prasad to Rami Reddy to Kesineni Nani, both the TDP and YSRC have fielded crorepati candidates. Those in the know of things say, many a candidate is spending between 10 to 25 crore rupees in an assembly contest and upto 70 crores in a Lok Sabha contest. Imagine the next few years will be spent in recovering that money with interest. “In politics, it is easy,” said a former MP. Thankyou.
Congress = Zero
This is the side story of this election. The ruling party that sent 29 and 33 MPs to Parliament in 2004 and 2009 respectively is poised to fall to unimaginable depths this election. Its vote share is unlikely to even touch double digits in Seemandhra and it will be a miracle if it wins any Lok Sabha seat. Chiranjeevi, its star campaigner, has not drawn any crowds and if you asked people to name the Congress candidate, in most cases they did not even know. But the anger against the Congress is not just because of bifurcation, it is also due to lack of good governance in the last five years. The electorate is fed up with the Congress and they want to deliver it a stinging electoral slap. “Iss thappad ki goonj suni tum ne” (Did you hear the sound of this slap?)
At the Guntur rally, the only one Sonia Gandhi addressed in Seemandhra, hired crowds (for 100 to 200 rupees per person) admitted they were upset with the Congress decision to bifurcate but came only because money was offered. A farce of a democracy Indian elections have become.
Kiran Kumar Reddy, a non-entity
A traffic constable manning the crowded Kaleshwaram market in Vijayawada, where Kiran Kumar Reddy was addressing a public meeting, told me, “If it was not for the fact that he was our CM, we will never allow him to hold a meeting in such a place, throwing the traffic out of gear. He is a loser.” One wonders why Kiran is even bothering to campaign since he is not even a serious player in the race. At best, he will eat into a bit of the Jagan vote and only help TDP in the bargain.
Since this is a straight contest, even a margin of 2 per cent difference between YSRC and TDP-BJP can result in a huge difference in the harvest of seats and convey the impression of a sweep. But on the ground, each seat is being very fiercely contested.
At the moment, Naidu seems to be ahead in the race, with a clear edge. Partly because of the alliance’s focus on 94 of the 175 seats that are urban or semi-urban. But poor candidate selection (two in every district, by TDP’s own admission) means the party starts with a minus of at least 25 assembly seats.
Elections are usually decided in the last 48 hours. A lot will also depend on the distribution of money and liquor at the last minute by both parties and whether that will sway a large number of voters. Also established merchants of community votebanks also will be purchased enmasse by both parties. The voting percentage will also matter as a higher turnout will work to the TDP-BJP’s advantage.
A defeat for Jagan will leave him licking his wounds and put him at the mercy of a Chandrababu Naidu who is on record saying he would like to send him to jail. A defeat for Naidu – a third one in a row – would end his political career and poachers would gobble up the TDP. As far as the Congress is concerned, it will take a lot of effort for it to ensure it does not go the Tamilnadu way in Andhra Pradesh.

What’s cooking between Modi and Nagarjuna?

By T S Sudhir
Just why did Telugu superstar Akkineni Nagarjuna go all the way to Ahmedabad to visit Narendra Modi? The visit raised eyebrows because it came just days after Congress leader Chiranjeevi’s actor-brother Pawan Kalyan had called on Modi. Kalyan and Modi’s common war cry of “Congress hatao, desh bachao” bound them together.
But what was cooking between Modi and Nagarjuna?
Conspiracy theories have been flying thick and fast since it was revealed that Nagarjuna will meet Modi. Was he seeking a BJP ticket for wife actor-activist Amala? Was it to ensure “protection” (to quote a Telangana BJP activist) for his businesses in Hyderabad should a TRS-led Telangana government probe into the land deals? Was he meeting Modi at the instance of industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad to facilitate Jaganmohan Reddy’s entry into the NDA post elections?
Nagarjuna did not let the cat out of the bag, rejecting any political ambitions and choosing to praise Modi’s development mantra. Having been taken around a tour of a model village near Ahmedabad, the actor gushed, “It has wi-fi, broadband. I asked if this is the only village that has such facilities and I was told most villages in Gujarat are like this.” Pointing to the uninterrupted power supply in Gujarat, Nagarjuna took a dig at the situation back home in Hyderabad saying, “The place where I live – Jubilee HIlls – has a three-hour power cut.”
Just like Kalyan, Nagarjuna also gave Modi a thumbs up and voiced hope that he will expand the Gujarat model of development across the country. His critics however, point out that Nagarjuna, the astute businessman he is, has always moved close to whoever is in power. He was close to Chandrababu Naidu when he was CM and likewise with Y S Rajasekhara Reddy after 2004.
Taking a cue from the two stars, Tollywood’s call sheets all of a sudden seem filled up with Modi’s dates. Next to take the Hyderabad-Ahmedabad air route will be veteran actor Mohan Babu, who was once Telugu Desam Rajya Sabha MP. Many more tinsel town stars are apparently in line to take Amitabh Bachchan’s invite to “kuch din to gujariya Gujarat me”


Is Kalyan the `Pawan’ of change in Andhra Pradesh?


By T S Sudhir

Title of screening : Jana Sena
Cast : Pawan Kalyan
Running time : 105 minutes
Release date : 14 March 2014 
Screening at Novotel Hotel convention centre, Hyderabad
Rating : 2.5/5
If `Jana Sena’ were to be a film, it would get fantastic reviews: if the reactions of the two film journalists flanking me at the opening show was anything to go by, Pawan Kalyan has delivered a total paisa vasool film. The lady to my left spent more time clapping to the Power Star’s punch dialogues rather than taking down notes while the exuberant journalist to my right put finger to tongue to whistle incessantly instead of pen to paper.
In this mono act, Pawan gave a `I, me, myself’ performance. He was alone on stage, armed with a sheaf of papers, replete with punch dialogues, with liberal references to many of his films. Though Pawan has the reputation of having his heart in the right place, on Friday evening he came across as someone who had woken up one fine day and decided to criticise everyone else for the problems facing the country. Sample this : “Mr Rahul Gandhi, you have to learn from your grandmother how to lead the nation.”
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This expensive production – the party was launched at an air-conditioned convention centre amidst 500 bouncers for security and barcoded passes for the nearly 5000 people who were invited – seemed aimed at retorting to the barbs aimed at him by different politicians. Didn’t someone tell Pawan that if trolling the Congress and TRS was his intention, all he needed was a handle on Twitter to do the same at zero cost?
So Jairam Ramesh became `Mountbatten’ for his role in the division of Andhra Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi and Robert Vadra got threatened and KCR’s daughter Kavitha chided for not revealing the source of the funds into her NGO, `Telangana Jagruti’. “I don’t give a damn” he screeched as he vowed to ensure the Congress did not win a single seat in Andhra Pradesh. “Congress hatao, Desh bachao” was his parting shot and in some part of the country, Narendra Modi would have chuckled. To borrow a line from Vidya Balan, it was “entertainment, entertainment, entertainment”. Though to be fair to Pawan, this was no Dirty Picture, the arrangements at the venue were neat.
With 19 films behind him, several of them superhits, this 42-year-old obviously knows how to hold the attention of the audience. So the film began with a bang, with him jogging on to the stage (I must admit I had imagined that he would emerge out of the smoke riding a bike), amidst an uproar from the assembled fans. Midway, he lapsed into flashback talking about his childhood in Nellore, a bit of song and a dose of mother sentiment (when will Tollywood get out of this hackneyed plot structure?). The audience at this stage was fairly quiet, waiting for the climax. And the hero did not disappoint, verbally bashing up the political `villains’. If only dialogues could win elections, Akshay Kumar would be PM.
Pawan’s entry into politics got everyone excited primarily because it highlighted mega cracks in Megastar Chiranjeevi’s family. Ironically, the Union minister of state for Tourism is also the campaign committee chairman of the party in Andhra Pradesh that his younger brother now seeks to demolish. Clearly Chiranjeevi is not able to get Pawan to toe his line. “Bhai, tum yahan sign karoge ya nahin?”
In political terms, Pawan Kalyan’s entry means different things to different people. The Congress is as good as dead in the 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh so flogging it is the easier thing to do. Given that the actor has vaguely ruled out contesting elections this time, all eyes are on who he extends a helping hand to. Sources say Chandrababu Naidu is keen on Pawan’s call sheet and may offer him a role in a TDP-Jana Sena co-production. It would also be sweet revenge for Naidu who holds Chiranjeevi responsible for spoiling his electoral chances in 2009 by launching his Praja Rajyam and eating into the anti-Congress vote. Naidu’s calculation is that Pawan could ensure the Kapu and youth votes come into the alliance kitty. 
On the streets, there would be few who would take this Friday release seriously. Being an aware citizen is one thing, being a responsible leader quite another. With his aloof, temperamental image, most do not think Pawan Kalyan is cut out for politics. Besides the manner in which his brother let down those who voted for him, hoping that he will emerge as an anti-Congress, anti-TDP political force in time to come, has meant there is a trust deficit with regards to Chiranjeevi’s thammudu (younger brother).
At the end of the 105 minutes, Pawan Kalyan did not give the impression that he was the new political star who had arrived on the Andhra scene. His motivational speech wouldn’t give Robin Sharma a run for his money either. His glitzy promos talked of a revolution, a world of equality, peace and brotherhood. All nice, positive, noble thoughts but all I want to know is – Who is the producer-director of this film?

Decoding Kiran Kumar Reddy’s gameplan

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By T S Sudhir
As Kiran Kumar Reddy and the assortment of four ex-Congress MPs and a former state minister joined hands and raised them in the air, one couldn’t help thinking – “How Third Frontish”. After all, this `Hands Up’ style is patented by the group of the Lefties, the Mulayams and the Deve Gowdas that comes together once every five years, driven by the common ambition to put their hand up to become the next prime minister of India.
Kiran Reddy is also the Third Front in the new divided state of Andhra Pradesh, determined to stop the Jaganmohan Reddy juggernaut and the Chandrababu Naidu bicycle in their tracks. Given that the Congress fort is in shambles and certain to lose its deposit in a majority of the 175 assembly and 25 Lok Sabha constituencies, the three men from Rayalaseema will be in the race for the top job at the temporary Andhra Pradesh secretariat within the municipal limits in common capital Hyderabad.
“I do not get into anything without doing my homework. If I have waited so long, it is obvious that I have done my homework well,” says Reddy. Reminds you of that student in your class who would try to psychologically deflate you on the eve of an exam by telling you that he is better prepared than you and how you have missed out on critical portions in the syllabus. Kiran’s new party already seems to have had that effect on an already on-the-edge Naidu, who tweeted : “Dirty game of floating parties before elections to divide anti Congress vote in “ON”. Voters see the game, as PRP merger is fresh in minds.” Naidu, who blames Chiranjeevi for his loss in 2009, is clearly wary of Kiran emulating the Megastar and helping Jagan in the bargain.
But on paper, Naidu may actually gain this time around. Because both Jagan and Kiran may appeal to the same Congress constituency and by splitting it, may help the TDP cause.
“Politics is not arithmetic,” explains Reddy. “Why do you think I will take votes only from Jagan and not from Naidu?” Reddy’s argument is that caste equations will not play a role this time and people will vote for the politicians they think tried their best to keep Andhra Pradesh united.
Reddy’s strategy is take a leaf out of Arvind Kejriwal’s book. His party which will be formally unveiled in Rajahmundry on March 12 at 4 pm, will field an assortment of new candidates, the bulk of who will be those who took part in the united Andhra Pradesh agitation post the Congress decision to bifurcate on July 30 last year. Reddy’s calculation is that the 8 lakh odd government employees and their extended families, who are aggrieved over the division will back his political outfit, instead of Jagan and Naidu, who he accuses of tacitly supporting the bifurcation.
“I am starting this party only so that voters do not have to use the NOTA option,” says Reddy. What he does not tell you is that if it was not for the pressure mounted by the six expelled MPs, who desperately have been looking for a symbol to contest on, Reddy would have been keep the decision pending. Unlike Purandareswari, who has been embraced by the BJP, these MPs have not found takers from other parties to their applications.
Reddy is not looking at contesting the municipal elections to 146 municipalities and ten corporations on March 30, preferring to keep powder dry for the elections in Andhra Pradesh on May 7. He has exactly 60 days starting today to unleash himself in a new avatar to the public. He has borrowed a leaf out of the late N T Rama Rao’s book, talking of `Telugu self-respect’ and hopes it would be good enough to give his new party on the block a majority. As things stand now, that may be wishful thinking as in the public mind, Reddy and his group come across as politicians who only flattered to deceive. Till the last day, they made everyone in Seemandhra believe that they would be able to stall the bifurcation process by hook or by crook. In the end, Reddy had to lay down his arms, exiting both as chief minister and from the Congress party. One would think he can at best hope to get a few seats, hope for a fractured mandate and then bargain with the party that needs those extra numbers. 
Andhra Pradesh, already hurt by the division, needs an able administrator to not only apply the healing touch but also work towards developing the 13 districts, now that Hyderabad has been lost. An uncertain mandate and a khichdi government will do its cause no good.

Kiran and his lameduck government

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By T S Sudhir
The divide in Andhra Pradesh never looked more stark. The state assembly on Monday witnessed the strange sight of the ministers storming the well of the House. What’s worse, these ministers from the Telangana region were protesting against their own boss – chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who on Saturday had asked the assembly speaker N Manohar for permission to move a resolution seeking to reject the state Reorganisation Bill sent by the President to the House.
If you needed any more proof that the government in Andhra Pradesh is a lameduck government, you need not look beyond the state assembly. Cabinet ministers conveniently forgot that they have taken oath under the Constitution to serve the state of Andhra Pradesh, not a specific region. If Kiran Reddy is at fault, so are his colleagues from all three regions.
Deputy chief minister Damodar Rajanarasimha asked for the dismissal of the chief minister. Sitting at his home in Banjara Hills, he told me that he and other Telangana MLAs have no faith in Reddy’s leadership and that he must go. Rajanarasimha, who would be a contender for the top job, is predicting major political action in the next week. He and Reddy have not spoken to each other for the last six months, an indication of how deeply divided the state already is.
Rajanarasimha’s demand was echoed by other MLAs from the Telangana region. Former Congressman, who is now an MLA on the Telangana Rashtra Samiti ticket, J Krishna Rao said, “He has to say sorry to the House, he has to take back the resolution and then he has to step down.”
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Panchayati Raj minister Jana Reddy wrote identical letters to the Governor, Assembly speaker and Chairman of the Legislative Council, pointing out that the state cabinet has never discussed moving such a resolution and therefore the demand ought to be rejected forthwith.
Former speaker of the Andhra Pradesh assembly K R Suresh Reddy also wrote to his successor, arguing that timing of the resolution is “suspicious” and that Manohar should reject the notice given by the CM. “The Leader of the House along with the Speaker is responsible to ensure smooth conduct of business. But here the CM, by this action, has thrown the House into pandemonium at a time, when such important debate is being conducted on an important issue,” said Suresh Reddy.
Under the rules, any member can move a resolution under Rule 77. “I myself have done so. I therefore cannot question the CM’s right to do so. But whether he can do so as the Leader of the House which means the leader of the government, is questionable,” said Jayaprakash Narayan, Loksatta party president and MLA.
But it is not as if Kiran Reddy is short of support. The Seemandhra lobby of 175 MLAs is backing his move, cutting across party lines. YSR Congress and Telugu Desam have already backed a move to move a resolution in favour of united Andhra Pradesh. The strategy to force voting is to show to the world that numerically speaking, those demanding division of Andhra Pradesh are not in a majority and therefore New Delhi’s unilateral decision to bifurcate the state cannot be entertained.
The state assembly has time till January 30 to discuss the Bill and return it to the President. Given the acrimony and the divide, it is highly unlikely that the House will see any meaningful debate this week.