JSP's Pawan Kalyan still looking to establish himself as key player in Andhra Pradesh politics

Amaravati, April 4 (IANS) A decade after floating Jana Sena Party (JSP), Tollywood star Pawan Kalyan is still looking to establish himself as a key player in Andhra Pradesh politics but the next month's polls may well determine his future as a politician.

While a victory for TDP-JSP-BJP alliance will result in TDP president Chandrababu Naidu becoming the chief minister for another term, Pawan's fans will be eager to see what role he gets to play.

With ousting YSR Congress Party from power as his priority this time, the star is making calculated moves by entering into alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Often criticised by his opponents for being a part-time politician, Pawan is not a man in a hurry. He is ready to bide his time and by asking his supporters and party cadres to give him five years, he has made it clear that he is here to play a long innings.

Unlike his more popular elder brother Chiranjeevi who wound up his Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) within a couple of years of its launch, Pawan is determined to carry on his fight to achieve his goal of new age politics.

By agreeing to play second fiddle to Chandrababu Naidu, Pawan has drawn flak from a section of his die-hard supporters, especially youth. He, however, knows the limitations of Jana Sena as a political entity, and by contesting a limited number of seats, he wants to avoid a repeat of 2019, when his alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Left parties came a cropper.

Power star, as he is popularly known among fans, had to bite the dust in both the Assembly seats he contested in 2019. The lone MLA elected on Jana Sena ticket also switched loyalties to YSR Congress later.

Aware of his strengths and weaknesses, the 52-year-old is cautious not to repeat his past mistakes and this is the reason he did not bargain hard for seats.

He agreed to bring down the number of seats to a realistic level to ensure that the TDP-JSP-BJP alliance materialises to avoid a split of anti-YSRCP votes.

A bitter critic of Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, he is determined to put an end to what he calls the evil rule of YSRCP. Analysts say Pawan displayed maturity in seat sharing talks to make sure that the alliance takes shape.

He tried to pacify his party cadres that if Jana Sena had won a few seats in 2019 polls, it could have bargained for a higher number of seats.

Analysts say Pawan Kalyan recognised the fact that JSP has limited political space as state politics is currently dominated by two regional parties.

He displayed maturity and was quite realistic which led to the forging of a tripartite alliance. Pawan initially wanted 42 Assembly seats (out of a total 175) but he climbed down to 24. Later, to bring BJP on board, he finally settled for 21 seats. Similarly, he agreed to two Lok Sabha seats (out of 25), down from three that TDP had offered before BJP came forward to join hands.

In 2019, Pawan had contested from Gajuwaka and Bhimavaram from Visakhapatnam and West Godavari districts respectively but lost in both places to the YSR Congress candidates.

This time he selected Pithapuram constituency in Kakinada district and he is considered to be on firm footing.

"Pawan is much more calculative this time. He understands his weaknesses and strengths. He is taking one step at a time and not playing to the gallery," observes political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

Most of the seats Jana Sena is contesting are in Godavari districts where YSRCP is considered weak and Kapus, the community to which Pawan belongs, is in a position to decide the outcome.

Despite the disaster of 2019, Pawan has not given up. As someone who does not fear defeat, the star is determined to carry on his fight. Analysts say the actor-politician, who connects well with people, especially youth has now started gaining acceptance.

Seen as a youth icon, he crafted the image of a fighter and he is seen as a crowd-puller. In tune with his screen image of an angry young man, Pawan displayed aggression during the showdown with the Jagan government on a few occasions while taking up people's issues.

"Sustaining a party for 10 years is not an easy task and that too without any representation in the Assembly. He carried on the fight despite being ridiculed and humiliated by the ruling party over his personal life," says political analyst P. Pavan.

Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has been harsh in his personal attacks on Pawan. Often referring to his three marriages, Jagan remarks that the actor has no respect for the institution of marriage. At every public meeting, Jagan calls Pawan a "package star" and "foster son" (of Chandrababu Naidu).

The analyst also mentions that a few months ago Pawan Kalyan was seen as a leader of Kapus but he does not confine himself to a caste. They said the Jana Sena leader speaks more like an NGO.

"He does not do politics in the conventional sense but talks about society. Other parties and leaders talk about castes but he says he is for all," said analyst P. Pavan.

After launching the Jana Sena Party in March 2014, the actor supported the BJP-led NDA in the elections held the same year. Angry with Congress for bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, he campaigned for the TDP-BJP combine and shared dais with then Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu. The factor is believed to have played a key role in the TDP coming to power in Andhra Pradesh.

Pawan Kalyan later distanced himself from both BJP and TDP for going back on the promise to accord special category status.

In 2019, JSP won from just one seat - Razole - out of 140 it contested. The party had fielded candidates in 18 LS seats but drew a blank. It had an alliance with the BSP, CPI and CPI(M) and none of them could open their account.

Lack of a cohesive political strategy, organisational structure and credible agenda were attributed to the humiliating defeat. Pawan was unfazed by the disaster.

"Jana Sena was founded on the idea of new age politics. We stand for clean and corruption-free politics. I will remain in politics till my last breath and fight for people’s issues and stand by them," he had said.

Pawan, who made his film debut in 1996 with 'Akkada Ammayi, Ikkada Abbayi' and has a string of hits, is seen as a person yearning for some higher purpose in life.

He admitted on several occasions that sometimes, he used to feel completely out of place in the movies.

The actor, who has good oratory skills and connects easily with people, feels disturbed by the social disparities, miseries and exploitation.

Responding to the critics who call him a part-time politician and full-time actor, Pawan said he acts in films as this is the only source of income for him. In recent times, he started devoting more time to political activity.

His entry into the Assembly and the victory of his party candidates on a few seats may give Pawan Kalyan a perfect launching pad to emerge as a full-time politician and don a real-life role he aspires to work for a change in society.

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