Hyderabad: Almost a year ago when Telugu actor Chiranjeevi launched his Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) in Andhra Pradesh, he was hoping to do an encore of the famous 1983 victory by yesteryear film icon N.T. Rama Rao and his Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
Rao, known better as NTR, had come to power in Andhra Pradesh defeating the Congress party.
Not only did Chiranjeevi’s PRP fail to emulate NTR’s winning streak since then, but it may already be falling apart.
Election debacle: A 16 April photo of Chiranjeevi during an election campaign near Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. Aijaz Rahi / AP
The PRP won a mere 18 of the 294 assembly seats during the state elections in May and none of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from Andhra Pradesh.
The fallout of that debacle has been the departure of several leaders who had joined the PRP from the Congress and the TDP.
On Tuesday, T. Devender Goud, a senior leader from the backward classes, rejoined the TDP after quitting the PRP.
Goud, who had been with the TDP since its inception in 1983, had resigned from the party in June 2008 accusing it of being against carving a separate statehood for the Telangana region.
E. Peddi Reddy, who had followed Goud to the PRP, has also returned to the TDP. Actor-politican U.V. Krishnam Raju also quit the PRP last week. Parakala Prabhakar and Puchalapalli Mitra, PRP’s spokespersons and founding members, quit the party in July.
Political analysts say the PRP has failed to build a broader political agenda beyond trying to encash on Chiranjeevi’s charisma and that the party is being run like a family enterprise instead of as a political movement.
“PRP lacks a clear political agenda and it may not survive till the next general elections if it does not build movements on public issues and ensure grass root level strong cadre across the state,” says C. Narasimha Rao, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national executive.
Goud says the party’s top brass is politically ignorant and not receptive to suggestions on evolving a clear programme. “PRP is yet to come out with a clear political agenda and is still under the impression that it can do wonders with the charisma of Chiranjeevi, which I didn’t subscribe to. Having lost the confidence in PRP evolving as a political force to reckon with, I have decided to rejoin TDP to strengthen it in its fight against Congress.”
“There were some lapses on the part of the party’s strategy in building a strong cadre base, which was largely owing to inadequate time between the inception of the party and general elections. Our political agenda is around social justice and we failed to effectively communicate it to the masses,” agrees D. Shravan Kumar, general secretary of PRP’s youth wing Yuva Rajyam, but is quick to defend his leader. “Chiranjeevi is a fresh student of politics and he has already shown significant improvement in taking up issues in the state assembly.”
The TDP has welcomed back Goud and Reddy and has extended an open invitation to its former leaders such as Kala Venkata Rao and Tammineni Sitaram. They had switched to PRP last year.
“...Parties like PRP cannot survive for long since they (have) failed to offer either a political agenda or the ‘change’ they promised,” says Kambhampati Rammohan Rao, TDP’s spokesman.
The Congress, however, is cautious about writing off the PRP.
T. Tulasi Reddy, spokesperson of the Congress, says, “Despite being a less-than-a-year-old party, it could garner 17% of votes in the elections... Their future in the state politics depends on how they consolidate their position with the support of a clear political agenda, credibility of their leadership, performance of their elected members in the state assembly, and the people’s movements they take up.”
The PRP’s future now hinges on the coming election to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).
“The performance of PRP in the GHMC elections is going to act as a litmus test to retaining its leaders. The party is bound to lose (a) good number of its leaders if it repeats the poor show (of the general election) in the GHMC elections as well,” says Narasimha Rao.
PRP’s Kumar is unfazed by the top-level departures. “None of the leaders who left the party have added any value to PRP. Almost all of them joined the party from other political parties just before the elections. As a result, the party is unlikely to be affected by losing such leaders.”