Can Pawan Kalyan be the game changer in Andhra Pradesh politics?https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/can-pawan-kalyan-be-the-game-changer-in-andhra-pradesh-politics-5621992/

Can Pawan Kalyan be the game changer in Andhra Pradesh politics?

Pawan Kalyan's party Jana Sena's debut is being watched with a rare mix of curiosity and alacrity. It can upset many an applecart. Pawan's political base is the numerous Kapu community - a significant force in Andhra Pradesh.

Can Pawan Kalyan be the game changer in Andhra Pradesh politics?
Pawan Kalyan is very much unlike his elder brother and film star Chiranjeevi who was seen as sane, stable and risk-averse – an establishment man. Pawan, however, is seen as temperamental, mercurial and risk loving.

Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party has announced its first list of candidates to contest the Andhra Pradesh assembly and parliament elections in a bid to show that it too is a serious player this time. Jana Sena Party’s debut is being watched with a rare mix of curiosity and alacrity. It can upset many an applecart.

Formed in 2014, Pawan Kalyan ‘s Jana Sena Party has a motto to ‘Fight for the rights of each and every common person’. Pawan is no common man. He is called Power Star, his elder brother, film star Chiranjeevi is the Mega Star and nephew Ram Charan the Mega Power Star. There are around seven film stars in his extended family all playing angry young men out to right the wrongs in society. The family is also an entrenched player in film production and distribution business in Andhra Pradesh. So nothing surprising that the family tries it’s luck in politics too.

One would expect the law of diminishing returns to set in as far as voter confidence in parties led by film stars is concerned, but it has certainly not bottomed out. Pawan Kalyan is a testimony to that. He attracts enthusiastic crowds wherever he goes and fans worship his style and theatrics.

Pawan Kalyan is very much unlike his elder brother and film star Chiranjeevi who was seen as sane, stable and risk-averse – an establishment man. Pawan, however, is seen as temperamental, mercurial and risk loving.

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While his elder brother jumped into politics in the fag end of his film career, after a 150-film run, Pawan is in the thick of political action when he is just 47, (with 25 odd films) looks young and could play the angry young man-cum-romantic lead in Telugu films for some time to come.

At the first hint of trouble, Chiranjeevi wound up his Praja Rajyam Party and merged it with the Congress. Pawan appears to be made up of sterner stuff and might not yield so easily.

Pawan’s brother Chiranjeevi won around 17 per cent of the vote in 2009 Andhra Assembly polls and won a paltry 18 seats (of a total of 294) in a tightly contested election which led to the defeat of Chandrababu Naidu and the victory of YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Observers feel that if Chiranjeevi had not taken away some of the anti-incumbency votes then, Naidu would have won the race.

But Pawan set the record straight by helping Naidu win the 2014 Assembly elections when he campaigned extensively for the Naidu-Modi combine in Andhra. Analysts say that if not for Pawan, Naidu might have lost the AP polls, despite a Modi wave.

Chiranjeevi was a much bigger draw than Pawan when he stood for elections. He also had much broad-based support from various sections of society, and despite such favourable circumstances got a modest 18 seats. Pawan’s support base appears to be led by his young fans across the state and sections of the Kapu community that he belongs. He is tied up with the CPI and CPM which are considered spent forces in AP, but from whom Pawan might draw ideological sustenance and lessons on tenacity.

Pawan has had an election makeover. He sports a lush beard, wears red coloured headbands, raises his fist ‘lal salaam style’ and always has a sense of injury and anger in his speeches. One of his recent Twitter posts reads thus: “I am a small pawn in the game of political chess; but established political classes should remember ‘I am a soldier ’ who’s is willing to fight.” Quite an angry young man.

If you all think that Jana Sena is an ego extension of the actor Pawan Kalyan, you have to pause. Jana Sena claims to have an ideology based on the book ‘ISM’ which is in turn based on the thoughts of Pawan Kalyan. A cursory look at the contents of book points to chapters like: Egoism and idealism, Manifestations of Egoism, Self Preservatism etc.
If all this sounds a bit woolly, offbeat and impractical. The party is nothing but that.

Pawan’s political base is the numerous Kapu community in the state and numbers are hard to come by for their population across the state. Numbers vary from 8 per cent to 15 per cent to 27 per cent. Numbers aside they are a significant force in the state and have pockets of concentration in the Godavari districts.

Kapus are a community thirsting for political power and Pawan is angling to lead a Kapu led social and political coalition. The Kapu card is such a no-brainer that the BJP has appointed a Kapu to lead the party in the state.

His brother’s effort the last time around helped the ruling party and led to Naidu’s defeat. Pawan will upset the applecart this time too.

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The only question is who gets to benefit? Naidu or Jagan?