Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Some Notes on the Chiranjeevi factor....

Telegu cine-star Chiranjeevi has raised a storm in the political discourse in Andhra Pradesh. The launch of his Praja Rajyam Party, at an impressive rally at Tirupathi, is being seen as an event that will alter the course of politics in Andhra Pradesh in the same way as did N.T.Rama Rao with his Telegu Desam party in 1983.

Well. There may be some parallels between the two events. But then, the two cannot be seen the same way simply because 25 long years separate the two and this quarter of a century has also been a dynamic and vibrant phase in the political discourse in Andhra Pradesh as well as in India. And more than the similarities or the parallels, what we have between NTR’s Telegu Desam Party and Chiarnjeevi’s Praja Rajyam are a set of contextual differences as well as sociological distinctions.

Let me deal with the contextual differences at the outset. When NTR set up the Telegu Desam Party in 1983, it was able to occupy the large vacant space called the opposition to the Congress party in Andhra Pradesh. It may be stressed here that Andhra Pradesh, along with Karnataka happened to be citadels of Indira Gandhi’s Congress party even in the 1977 general elections. The Janata Party, in Andhra Pradesh was more of a secluded platform consisting of leaders who left the Congress or those who were part of the Swatantra Party bandwagon and in any case they were leaders without any base.

And even after the Emergency and the Janata Party’s stuning victory in the Match 1977 elections and the split in Indira’s Congress subsequently, the anti-Congress platform in Andhra Pradesh was hardly a force. Brahmananda Reddy, who was Union Home Minister during the Emergency and joined the anti-Indira collective subsequently to head the Congress(U) in 1979, was soon back in Indira’s Congress by 1980. And he did not have any impact on the State’s political discourse at any time.

The largest and substantive opposition to the Congress, thus, was constituted by the communists in Andhra Pradesh; and they too were not a huge force particularly because the 1964 split (when the CPI-M was born) and the 1969 split (when the Naxalites set up their own platform walking out of the CPI-M) meant that the communists were divided both vertically and horizontally in Andhra Pradesh.

NTR’s arrival and the Telegu Desam Party being founded happened in this larger context. And there was the immediate context too. The frequent change of Chief Ministers, thanks to the high command culture reaching its peak in the last days of Indira’s Congress and the humiliation heaped upon T.Anjaiah, the Congress Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh who was asked to resign simply because Rajiv Gandhi, then the crown prince in the Congress party, did not like his face provided the immediate setting for NTR’s political agenda and his appeal to the Telugu pride would make a lasting impact on the elections in January 1984.

It was a wave that none could see. Not even Chandrababu Naidu, a Youth Congress leader at that time. Naidu, it may be recalled here, had joined his father-in-law’s party only after the TDP won the assembly elections in January 1984. It was, in many senses, a culmination of a long phase of Congress dominance and the prevalence of a decadent high command culture and the space that the communists had created but remained unable to occupy that NTR captured in 1984. None of these factors are relevant now in Andhra Pradesh.

Let me now come to the sociological aspect. NTR’s arrival in 1983 also marked the emergence of a political platform representing the Khamma community in Andhra Pradesh; this was in reaction to the continuous dominance of the Reddys in the State’s political discourse. The anti-Congress sentiment was also an anti-Reddy sentiment in that sense and the TDP could thus start off from a block that was a few metres ahead of the starting block. A social group, longing for political power was the TDP’s base even when the party was founded and they trooped in to support the party because of their tradition antipathy to the Reddys.

This is not the case with Chiranjeevi. His social base – the Kaapu community – is traditionally a Congress base and had stood by the party even in the last election. This being the case, it is only likely that Chiranjeevi, at this stage, is most likely to eat into the Congress party’s base. And when this happens in a context where the Congress is most likely to suffer some losses due to anti-incumbency, the end result could well be advantage to the Telegu Desam Party. 2009, after all, is a different setting from 1983 and a lot of water has flown down the Krishna in the 25 years between NTR’s arrival and Chiranjeevi’s entry into the political scene.


Anonymous Rajesh said...

How can one bring in the economic factor into your analysis? You have stated clearly that social base of NTR was different not only from Congress of that time but also of Chiru of latest phase of Andhra politics. Who patronized NTR's party? Who is patronizing Chiru's efforts? What was/is the financial base of NTR's and Chiru's political ventures? Definitely one cannot resort to personal earnings in filmic career as answer. Why are we not bringing the political economy into our analysis?

8:16 PM  

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