Hyderabad: Chiranjeevi, the 53-year-old Telugu actor whose entry into politics is expected to significantly alter the electoral equation in Andhra Pradesh, announced on Tuesday evening that his party would be called Praja Rajyam (or citizen’s kingdom).
The actor made the announcement and said the main agenda of the party would be “social justice”, at a meeting in Tirupati that was attended by an estimated 800,000 of his fans, who poured into the temple town from all parts of the state and had to be controlled by the police even before the start of the meeting.
Chiranjeevi is one of Telugu cinema’s most popular actors and hopes to emulate south Indian actors such as N.T. Rama Rao, the late founder of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, the late M.G. Ramachandran, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu and leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), and J. Jayalalithaa, the current leader of AIADMK, all of whom parlayed their popularity into electoral success.
In the course of the meeting, Chiranjeevi called for a “change” in all areas and announced his party’s largely populist policies in areas such as education, agriculture and health.
The meeting happened at the Avilala Cheruvu ground, at the centre of which a giant digital screen was installed.
The venue was decorated with huge paintings of B.R. Ambedkar, one of the authors of India’s Constitution and the political leader adopted by all parties focusing on “social justice”, including the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Jyotiba Phule, a 19th century social reformer from Maharashtra.
In a speech that lasted around two hours, Chiranjeevi said his party would oppose the government’s move to acquire agricultural land for the creation of special economic zones (SEZs).
“The government should act as a trustee of public assets, but unfortunately we now see them acting as brokers in acquiring and disposing off public assets.”
The Union government has approved 91 SEZs in Andhra Pradesh and work is progressing on 64 of these, with the state government serving as the agency in charge of acquiring the land needed.
In anticipation of Chiranjeevi’s social justice platform, the ruling Congress government in Andhra Pradesh on Monday announced several sops for students belonging to four backward communities, including the Kapu community to which the actor belongs.
The Kapus constitute 19% of the state’s total population.
The actor also said that his party would study the Telangana issue before arriving at a decision.
“Our party would carry out a detailed and scientific study on these issues and arrive at a consensus decision. If separation is found to be the only solution to the issue of Telangana, then we will ensure a peaceful separation.” The Telangana Rashtriya Samiti has been demanding statehood for Telangana.
Earlier, on 23 August, TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu said Chiranjeevi’s entry into politics, announced by the actor on 17 August, was unlikely to have any significant impact. “Let him (Chiranjeevi) come. He has conducted one public meeting. No name. No work.”
Leaders of other political parties could not immediately be contacted on Tuesday evening for comment.
PTI contributed to this story.