Will Pawan Kalyan Change the Fate of Andhra Politics

‘Power Star’ Pawan Kalyan has been Tollywood’s loose cannon hero since ’96, and an equally unpredictable politician since 2014. He’s currently on a recruitment spree, and has been roping in bureaucrats from the most unexpected places into his Jana Sena party.

His singular antics worked on the silver screen. But is he really set to become the new saviour of the citizens of Andhra Pradesh this year? And how well does he play the game?

Despite being Chiranjeevi’s younger brother, he refused to pander to the megastar’s audience and set a trend all of his own. There have been a number of entrants from the ‘Konidela’ family into Telugu cinema, all quite successful.

But Pawan Kalyan still looms large, and all alone.

Right from 1996, in which he debuted in the film ‘Akkada Ammayi Ikkada Abbayi’, he’s only acted in ONE film per year, or at the most, two. This is something that actors dare to do AFTER they turn into bankable superstars. 2014’s Attarintiki Daredi was the biggest grosser of all time in Telugu cinema, until Baahubali broke reality. And that was the year he entered politics, and called his party Jana Sena.

‘Pawan Kalyan’ was the most searched celebrity politician on Google that year.

Pawan Kalyan revamped the image of a politician. He wasn’t the white-shirt-white-dhoti ‘babu’ who bends in humble ‘Namastes’ to the audience. In 2014, at the launch of ‘ISM’, a book he wrote on his ideology, and that of his party Jana Sena in Vizag, he came dressed in a hoodie and jeans. The ‘audience’ lapped it up. He spoke about how he didn’t come for votes or political power or high position. But because his gut burned. And then he waved, like a film celebrity.

People have opinions about who’s a better actor between Chiranjeevi and Pawan Kalyan.

BUT, unscripted, Pawan Kalyan is boss. He’s got clear diction that flits between casual Vizag slang, Hyderabadi overtones and explosive poetry in chaste Telugu. He’s a born public speaker. His only goal when he launched Jana Sena, was to eliminate the Congress party from the state. In 2009, the INC coalition won 34 of 42 seats. And 33 of these belonged to the INC. In 2014 though, the INC won all of 2 seats. As star campaigner for Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, Pawan Kalyan effectively routed the Congress.

But, this is Andhra Pradesh, and one doesn’t do politics on the basis of ideologies. Here, politics is all about caste. Speaking purely on the basis of numbers, TDP won because the ‘Kapu’ caste, who form 15% of the electorate, voted for Chandrababu Naidu, and against Congress. And this, is why Pawan Kalyan could be a game changer for 2019.

The Kapu votes will decide the government this year, since they’re a homogenous group who typically vote all-in for ONE chosen candidate.

Despite Jaganmohan Reddy’s 3,600 kilometre Padayatra..

Despite Chandrababu Naidu’s 5% reservation bill to the Kapus…

Pawan Kalyan is yet again, the dark horse, who is capable of drawing the Kapu votes all to himself. He’s one of them, and has two decades of cinema and its enduring fandom in his favour. His political decisions have never been flamboyant. He’s already managed to rope in big names who will strategise his campaign blitzkrieg further.

Whether Pawan Kalyan stands a chance at becoming CM this year is debatable. But he’s definitely a force to reckon with.

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