Tollywood hero Pawan Kalyan’s “continuous mass contact tour” in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, which began this week, has evoked mixed response. Although Kalyan, who formed the Jana Sena party three and a half years ago, has said he would contest the coming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, his soft stand against the ruling parties in both the states is said to be the reason he could not gather the momentum expected of him.

Pawan Kalyan’s comments praising Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao of the TRS as a “smart”, “hard working CM” and his comments such as “I love KCR” have confused his fans who expected him to take an anti-establishment approach. Kalyan had also complimented Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu, saying that “he is doing a good job”.

Kalyan had drawn good crowds full of his filmy fans but senior activists who joined him were confused at his political line. His recent movie Agnyatavasi, which released on 10 January, has bombed at the box office, though the producers sold it for Rs 120 crore to the distributors. The Jana Sena activists want to come to power in AP while emerging stronger in Telangana.  

The major opposition parties, the Congress and the BJP in Telangana and YSR Congress in AP, have dubbed Kalyan as the “B-team” of the ruling parties in both states, alleging he is merely trying to split the opposition votes. The difference of vote share between the TRS and the TDP in the 2014 elections was less than 5%.

Kalyan said he had not entered politics to ensure victory to one or the other party, but “I have joined politics with a long term aim of staying here for the next 20-25 years and change the character of our politics.”

Kalyan, who is popular among his fans as PSPK (Power Star Pawan Kalyan), commenced his tour of Telangana from the famous Hanuman temple at Kondagattu in Karimnagar district on Monday evening and covered several districts in Telangana in the next few days.

Pawan Kalyan has recruited district level activists through written tests and oral interviews. He gathered dossiers on problems faced by the people in various districts and areas in both the states. Several lower rung activists who had been marginalised in the TRS and Congress had joined the Jana Sena. Most of them were the champions of “Samajika Telangana” (Social Telangana), an euphemism to social justice and political power for the SC/ST and OBC category. When asked by mediapersons at Karimnagar on whether he would strive for the achievement of “Samajika Telangana,”, Pawan Kalyan remained evasive. He said that would depend on the course of his political journey and various other factors.

Pawan Kalyan, younger brother of another Tollywood star and Rajya Sabha member Chiranjeevi, is not new to politics. Pawan Kalyan was made the in-charge of the youth wing of Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party which won just 16% votes in the 2009 elections in AP and later merged with the Congress. Pawan Kalyan later fell out with his brother.

A few senior leaders of the Jana Sena expressed their disappointment with Pawan Kalyan. “Unless we offer a political alternative to the people why should we fight elections?” asked a Jana Sena Karimnagr leader who preferred not to be quoted.

BJP leader G. Kishan Reddy criticised Pawan Kalyan, saying that he appeared to be a “B-team” of the TRS in Telangana. Congress’ senior leader V. Hanumanth Rao said Kalyan was “direction less” and “chaotic”.

In AP, the opposition YSR Congress leader Ummareddy Venkateswarlu said that Pawan Kalyan’s main job was to divide the opposition votes at least by 5-6%. Other political observers are of the view that Pawan Kalyan should be given more time to prove his credentials.

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