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Andhra Pradesh politics readies for 'star wars'
By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, April 17 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh seems to be heading for 'star wars' with several popular Telugu actors gearing up to take the plunge into politics ahead of next year's assembly elections.
While superstar Chiranjeevi plans to launch his own political party, actor sons and grandsons of former chief minister N.T. Rama Rao are jumping into the fray on behalf of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) headed by his son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu.
There are still others mulling to take a plunge on behalf of the ruling Congress party.
Chiranjeevi, one of the most popular and highest paid actors in India, is likely to take the state politics by storm by floating a new party like the thespian of yesteryears, NTR, did in early 1980s by launching the TDP. His key advisor and brother-in-law Allu Arvind recently hinted that he might launch the party in two months.
Both the ruling and main opposition parties were rattled. Some leaders of both the parties have even declared their support to Chiranjeevi's proposed party. One Congress MP has even predicted that the actor would be the new chief minister.
Worried over the impact the actor's party could have on his plans to return to power, Naidu has launched efforts to muster support of NTR's actor sons and grandsons. While one son N. Harikrishna is already with the TDP, he also managed to win over N. Balakrishna, a popular actor.
Naidu, who is launching on April 20 a 150-day-long 'yatra' (tour), has also succeeded in roping in NTR's three actor grandsons. The popular among them is NTR Junior, who has a huge fan following, especially among the youth.
Naidu, who led a revolt against NTR in 1995 to become the chief minister, hopes that by keeping the NTR family on his side he would be able to counter the Chiranjeevi factor. TDP sources hinted that he could even be ready for a common cause with the superstar against the Congress party.
The TDP chief's attempts, however, evoked sharp reaction from NTR's daughter and Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandareswari, who said she could never forgive Naidu for "backstabbing" her father. She claimed that the humiliation meted out to NTR had led to his death in 1996.
However, neither Purandareswari nor her legislator husband D. Venkateshwara Rao has any film background.
Some Congress leaders have said that Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy is the biggest star for them as he was more popular among the people thanks to welfare schemes like free electricity to farmers, Rs.2 per kg of rice and housing for the poor.
However, fearing desertions in the event of Chiranjeevi launching a new party, the Congress too is reportedly trying to woo some popular actors. Actor Rajasekhar and his wife Jeevitha, who were attacked by Chiranjeevi's fans in Hyderabad recently for stating that the superstar had no experience, have already moved closer to the party.
The ruling party is reportedly trying to woo young actor Mahesh Babu, son of veteran actor and former Congress MP G. Krishna. The party hopes to use him for campaigning to take on both the rival camps.
History seems to be repeating itself in this state of 80 million people, which has the country's second biggest film industry after Bollywood.
Film stars enjoy the status of demigods, especially in rural areas. Diehard fans used to worship NTR, who created a record of sorts by coming to power within nine months after launching the TDP.
Chiranjeevi, who has been dominating the film industry for over two decades, is compared by some with NTR for his popularity.
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