In the theatre of Indian politics, K A Paul, pastor and evangelist from Andhra Pradesh, occupies the absurd end of the spectrum. He is now in the news for reviving the Praja Shanthi Party (PSP) and threatening to contest from all 175 Assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh. Started in 2008, the party had not seen much action till now.
The PSP could at best be an also-ran in Andhra politics with not much traction on the ground, but it is now garnering attention for some peculiar reasons. Jagan’s YSR Congress Party has complained to the Election Commission that the party had fielded at least 35 assembly candidates with names similar to their own candidates. For example. in Ongole constituency, Jagan’s party has Balineni Srinivas Reddy and Paul’s party has Balineni Srinivasa Rao as their candidate.
If you think this is not confusing enough, Paul’s election symbol, the helicopter with its rotor blades, when seen in a smaller size could be eerily similar to the fan symbol of Jagan’s party. Add to that the fact that colours of the party flag too are similar.
If you think that YSR Congress is making a mountain of a molehill and such paranoia is common among political parties contesting elections, take a pause. In the recently concluded Telangana Assembly polls, candidates who got the Truck symbol got a surprisingly large number of votes and ate into the votes of the TRS party which contested on the Car symbol. TRS claims that the car-truck confusion led to the defeat of the TRS candidates in a couple of constituencies and ‘unknown’ truck guys got more than 10,000 plus votes in quite a few constituencies.
Paul for his part always talks big. He says it is Jagan’s party which is copying him and his style and wants the voters not to be misled. In a bid to increase his political profile, Paul wanted to contest against Pawan Kalyan in Bhimavaram, but arrived late enough for his nomination to be rejected.
Born in an obscure village in North coastal Andhra Pradesh, Paul turned to Christian evangelism at a young age and travelled to the mecca of evangelist Christianity; the United States, and quickly made a name for himself. He jumped onto the bandwagon of world peace and found for himself powerful friends and patrons. So powerful, that he travelled the world in his personal plane, thanks to some millionaire backers.
He peddled the utopia of world peace and was always willing to give a sympathetic ear to dictators ostracised by the international community.
There were reports of him holding huge evangelical gatherings in Africa and there are international news reports of him playing a part in Liberian dictator Charles Taylor’s resignation and subsequent exit from his country. He has also claimed friendship with Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Yasser Arafat and Mother Teresa among many other international celebrities.
Truth and fantasy is a wafer-thin line for K A Paul which he seems to cross at a moment’s notice. Recently, he told the press that he was in touch with both Indian government and Imran Khan to initiate a peace process after the Balakot strike.
One can laugh off Paul but in a tightly contested election as in Andhra Pradesh now, he has sufficient wherewithal to hurt the chances of the YSR Cong at least in a few constituencies. The rotor blade of the helicopter can be easily mistaken for the fan. It can’t get more absurd.