Pawan Kalyan’s ‘Gabbar Singh’ antics revive PRP-time ghosts; advantage YS Jagan?

Those unversed with the current brand of politics in Andhra Pradesh can easily mistake Pawan Kalyan's crunchy one-liners for a curtain-raiser of his Gabbar Singh sequel

Pawan Kalyan’s ‘Gabbar Singh’ antics revive PRP-time ghosts; advantage YS Jagan?

HYDERABAD: “Had I been in politics since 2009, I would not have let YSRCP come to power in Andhra Pradesh.”

“I will not allow YS Jagan and his YSRCP men to win again in the 2024 Assembly elections..!”

♦ “Jagan, if you have guts, try and stop my entry into the Assembly in 2024…!”

♦ “Strip off YSRCP leaders and beat them black and blue. Let’s see who is going to stop us…!”

♦ “If I’m really pissed off, I will drag Drarampudi Chandrasekhara Reddy (Kakinada Urban MLA) and the YSRCP men out into the open, rough them up and chase them in the streets…!”

♦ “I will soon give the Kakinada Urban MLA my signature ‘Bhimla Nayak’ treatment…!”

♦ “YSRCP is full of goons and rowdies…!”

♦ “My life is under threat from YSRCP goons. Intelligence people alerted me that I could be bumped off…!”

♦ I decided to take the YSRCP goons head-on after telling myself that I would lose the elections again...!

These were a few handpicked gems from a deluge of rants being used, of late, by Pawan Kalyan, the chief of Jana Sena and the aspiring chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. For close to a week, the Power Star has been liberally flinging these ‘self-glorifying’ pontifications from atop his famous campaign chariot ‘Varahi’ during a selective tour of the erstwhile combined Godavari districts.

Needless to say, the potshots are meant to rebuke, heckle and demean ‘Jagan and co’ and in the process put himself on the ‘holier than thou’ pedestal. In an add-on benefit, they would also pepper his speeches to keep his unruly fans eternally on a hysterical high, at least until he plays the Houdini act.

But those unversed with the current trend and brand of politics besieging Andhra Pradesh can easily mistake these crunchy one-liners for a curtain-raiser of Pawan Kalyan’s Gabbar Singh sequel. With little exaggeration, Pawan Kalyan’s Varahi Yatra street-corner public meetings carry all the trappings of an out-and-out mass entertainer: There was no dearth of breathtaking visual brilliance, thanks to the dime a dozen ultra modern cameras and drones capturing the Che Guevara admirer’s antics from all possible angles; a perfect setting in narrow thoroughfares crammed with milling Jana Sainiks and fans; a carefully crafted narrative that is contrived to resemble an act of extemporaneous outpouring. And finally, the barrage of acerbic barbs and pokes, something he treats as sacrilegious when it comes from his opponents. A few ‘song and dance’ interludes and a high-decibel BGM are the ones missing to make this a perfectly packaged potboiler. His fans certainly compensate a bit for these shortcomings with their wild celebrations all through their leader’s sermons.

The ‘Gabbar Singh’ analogy does not simply end here if one has the appetite to put the Jana Senani’s nearly decade-long political run in perspective.

One can easily draw parallels between his checkered political career with that of the Gabbar Singh series. Like the blockbuster first part, Pawan Kalyan’s maiden experience at electoral politics – of course as a bystander and celebrity cheerleader – could be passed off largely for his perceived last-minute contribution to the victory of the TDP-BJP combine in the 2014 polls. YS Jagan was tantalisingly close to attaining power before the YSRCP was pipped at the post in that election.

The second part Sardar Gabbar Singh was a downright dud at the Box Office and equally worse was his 2019 election escapade. His Jana Sena sank without a trace even as the Power Star tasted humiliating defeat in both Bhimavaram and Gajuwaka. Pawan Kalyan often cribs that he would have been a sure-shot winner had he gone to polls in alliance with the TDP and the BJP. But a theory floated in the post-mortem of the 2019 elections claims that he was very much in consonance with his besties in the TDP and the BJP but in a camouflaged poll pact, mainly aimed at causing collateral damage to YS Jagan’s prospects.

The theory also asserts that the electorate could fully see through the stooging act and hence rejected Pawan Kalyan and his Jana Sena at the hustings. No one needed to dig deep into the merits of this theory as the YSRCP wrested an unprecedented 151 seats in the state Assembly while the TDP was reduced to be the only marginalised opposition party in the House with 23, exactly the same number of legislators that it enticed to its fold from the YSRCP, post the 2014 elections.

Now, looking to be third time lucky (technically so), he is once again rampaging the streets, dishing out a filmy concoction, belting full-throated dialogues and issuing wild threats to his opponents. Pawan Kalyan’s latest round of histrionics will be best-relished in the theatres by his frenzied fans. But they will only be jeered and dismissed with repugnance in the realm of electoral politics where the ‘proof of the pudding’ becomes evident from voting.

His new campaign vehicle Varahi also brought in a sudden, striking change in his approach. Since the beginning of the yatra, the actor-turned-politician has been repeatedly threatening to strip off, rough up and peel the skin off the YSRCP leaders in what is being viewed as the display of the language of the barracks. Interestingly, Pawan Kalyan is resorting to the same old tactic of verbal bashing that once caused irreparable damage to his elder brother Chiranjeevi’s erstwhile Praja Rajyam Party before the 2009 polls. His call then to the PRP activists to strip the Congressmen of their white robes and pound them (Congress leaders ni panchaludadeesi kottandi), in a veiled reference to the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, assumed legendary proportions for all wrong reasons and backfired badly on the PRP.

Target Dwarampudi, why?

In all the glut of his oscillating standpoints, two things remained starkly unwavering. The first was his constant rhetoric that YS Jagan and his party should not be allowed a second term. This predictably goes in line with his oft-repeated refrain that he would not let the anti-Jagan opposition vote to split. He has also been deftly using this as a ruse for his discourse on the strategic need to have the TDP in the mix of a BJP-Jana Sena alliance.

The second factor that took everyone by surprise is that he found his choicest meat to tuck into in YSRCP MLA Dwarampudi Chandrasekhara Reddy in his latest outing. In at least three of his meetings during the current phase of his political cameo, Pawan Kalyan singled out the ruling party legislator from Kakinada Urban for an unprovoked and bitterly hostile attack.

As the adage goes, politics may be a game of the unscrupulous and leading a blemishless life may not be the cup of tea for many of the modern-era nethas. As a two-time MLA in three attempts from Kakinada Urban, YSRCP’s Dwarampudi Chandrasekhara Reddy would certainly stand trial on the merits, or the lack of it, of his performance in the next elections. Pawan Kalyan’s targetted attack against Dwarampudi Chandrasekhara Reddy must have given a shot in the arm for the local Jana Sena activists. But the manner in which he singled out the Kakinada Urban legislator and went hammer and tongs against him with a torrent of accusations for three straight days certainly raised eyebrows.

The Jana Sena chief was at his wits end to paint Chandrasekhara Reddy as if he was the most heinous creature on the face of the earth, which came as a big surprise. To avoid flak for speaking out of context, he had his alibi in the alleged ill-treatment of Jana Sena’s women activists in the past by the legislator but Pawan Kalyan’s desperation to urgently foment the ‘baddie’ image on the local MLA left a sour taste in the mouth for many, including the Kapu influencers whose support the Power Star might need in future.

In one such dignified admonishment, popular Kapu idealogue Mudragada Padmanabham advised the Power Star to stop reducing political slugfests to street-level brawls. He also stoutly defended Dwarampudi Chandrasekhara Reddy, challenging Pawan Kalyan to contest against the two-time MLA and beat him in the ballot bout rather than indulging in verbal onslaught.

All said and done, despite the hatred in his speeches, Pawan Kalyan appears to be on the offensive with his eyes firmly set on some key Kapu-dominated Assembly seats in the Godavari districts. It is spoken locally as a foregone conclusion that Jana Sena would get to field its candidate in Kakinada Rural in the event of a pre-poll alliance with the Telugu Desam Party, which looks most certain for now. Pawan Kalyan has already reportedly decided on the candidature of its leader Pantham Nanaji for this seat.

Also, he seems to be under the impression that the two Godavari districts with sizable Kapu population were instrumental in tilting the scales firmly in favour of the YSRCP in 2019. This proved to be the last nail on the coffin for Jana Sena, TDP and the BJP, especially in the wake of the Rayalaseema region overwhelmingly supporting YS Jagan with 49 out of 51 Assembly seats.

Pawan Kalyan’s Varahi Yatra in the undivided Godavari districts is believed to be a part of a larger opposition gamble with ‘reverse social engineering’ to wean away the Kapus from the YSRCP. The objective is to help the TDP make maximum gains from the YSRCP’s loss and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena play the spoilsport for the ruling party just what his brother Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party did to the TDP to crash Chandrababu Naidu’s dreams to stage a comeback in 2009.

Dwarampudi Chandrasekhara Reddy became the obvious target for the anti-Jagan think tank in their bid to portray the YSRCP as a party of only Reddys. The strategy is to infuse a sense of disillusionment among the Kapus and even the BCs whom the TDP has been trying hard to win over with a host of enticements.

As if to prove these premonitions right, Pawan Kalyan has been going soft on the Kapu MLAs in the YSRCP. His bazookas, which kept booming relentlessly against Dwarampudi Chandrasekhara Reddy, have fallen silent against Dadisetti Raja in Annavaram. In Kakinada, Kurasala Kannababu was hardly touched. From Annavaram to Bhimavaram, Pawan Kalyan would have continued with the same strategy to polarise the Kapu vote against the YSRCP. But he encountered an unexpected adversary in Kapu idealogue Mudragada Padmanabham who countered the Jana Sena chief with a cultured dressing down and a stinging rebuttal.

YS Jagan’s confidence rests on a strong welfare plank

Unlike his opponents, YS Jagan has been consistent in his outreach to the target groups with little ambiguity in his plans and statements. The sudden blitz of hype for the opposition unity notwithstanding, the YSRCP chief continues to ride high on the success of his flagship initiatives which, as per his assertions, haven’t left a single family untouched in Andhra Pradesh.

Buoyed by this success, YS Jagan is seeking a positive vote for his second term as a token of affirmation for his government’s welfare regime, dotted with a slew of development projects. Such is his confidence that he is openly asking the electorate to vote for his party only if they feel that they benefitted from any of the schemes in his welfare basket. The same forms the basis for his recent slogan of ‘why not 175?’, designed to enthuse and gear up his YSRCP cadre towards a clean sweep in the Assembly and also leave a lasting impression in the minds of the public that his party is well-entrenched in the state. The audaciously ambitious campaign however appeared to have lost a bit of its fizz since the time the TDP made some unexpected gains in the recently held MLC elections.

Unnerved, YS Jagan has been relentlessly highlighting the fact that YSRCP was never aligned to any party to reap electoral benefits and would do the same in the next elections as well. Despite a high-decibel opposition campaign on the so-called massive-scale corruption and lawlessness in his regime, YS Jagan has so far been able to dismiss it as mere hollow rhetoric while constantly exposing the chinks in the armour of the Pawan Kalyan-Chandrababu Naidu combine. The YSRCP chief has not been shying away from any opportunity to take potshots at the opposition’s inability to commit to a solo fight and field their candidates in all the 175 Assembly constituencies.

Perhaps to showcase YS Jagan’s ‘go-it-alone’ trait and the ability to resiliently fight against all odds, history has recently served up a perfectly timed reminder of the YSRCP’s first significant strides in electoral politics in undivided Andhra Pradesh. In June 2012, YS Jagan guided his party, while himself languishing in jail in the disproportionate assets case, to win 15 of the 18 Assembly seats it vacated and a lone Lok Sabha seat in the byelections. That this formally began the downfall of the Congress which was eventually decimated from Andhra Pradesh in the tumult of the post-bifurcation politics is well-documented in history.

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