With hardly any time left for the first phase of polling in Andhra Pradesh Thursday, the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) of Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi appears to be out of the race for power but may emerge as a king maker in the event of elections throwing up the state’s first-ever hung assembly.
In an indication of the shape of things to come, Chiranjeevi Sunday cancelled his meetings in Khammam and Nizamabad in the Telangana region due to poor public response.
Though a key region for any party to come to power, Telangana has not been the priority of the superstar. He is instead concentrating on coastal Andhra, the region he comes from.
Till last week, Chiranjeevi and his brothers – actors Pavan Kalyan and Naga Babu – held no road shows in Telangana, which sends 119 legislators to the 294-member assembly and accounts for 17 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
The field reports also suggest that the party has no presence in Telangana, where the main fight is between ruling Congress party and the Grand Alliance led by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
The spate of resignations by leaders over the manner in which tickets for assembly and Lok Sabha elections were distributed and allegations made by Prakala Prabhakar while quitting as general secretary have already rattled the PRP, which was floated in August last year with the slogan of social justice.
Chiranjeevi, known as a sensitive person who finds it difficult to swallow criticism, was shaken by the events of the last few days, especially the resignation of Prabhakar, who claimed that the party leadership sold the tickets.
With nearly a million turnout at his first meeting at Tirupati on Aug 26 last year, the 54-year-old Chiranjeevi had taken the state politics by storm.
Political analysts had forecast that he would break the record of legendary actor N.T. Rama Rao, who came to power within nine months of launching the TDP in 1982.
But the party does not seem to be in the reckoning for power, if one goes by the field reports and the party’s campaign.
Political pundits said the failure of the actor to build the organisation was the main reason for the PRP not emerging as a serious contender for power.
‘After the meeting at Tirupati, he did nothing for two months. He could have used this period to build the organisation. There is a leader at the top and there are followers, fans and well wishers at the bottom. There is no party structure in between,’ said G. Chakrapani, a political expert.
Analysts said Chiranjeevi committed the mistake of admitting anybody quitting TDP and Congress into the party, instead of building new and young leadership at the grassroot level.
Despite exuding confidence of coming to power, Chiranjeevi appears to have sensed the public mood and reconciled to the situation. He is focussing only on coastal Andhra, especially on four districts where the Kapu community, to which he belongs, has considerable presence.
He is hoping for a good performance in East Godavari, Krishna and parts of north coastal Andhra besides his native district of West Godavari.
The actor is now said to be eyeing the role of king maker by winning as many assembly seats as possible in coastal Andhra. If his party bags 50 to 60 seats, it could hold the key for power in the event of a hung assembly, which looks possible with no wave in favour of any party.
AP 2009 Election Live Results