Why there’s more to Chiranjeevi being adjudged Indian Film Personality of 2022 – India Today

By Amarnath K Menon: ‘Megastar’, as Konidela Chiranjeevi is known in Tollywood (Telugu film industry), is an accomplished artiste with an impressive track record of nearly four decades in which he has acted in over 150 films and earned wide recognition. So Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur announcing, on November 21, the choice of Chiranjeevi for the coveted honour of the Indian Film Personality of 2022 at the 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) has come as a welcome surprise for Telugu movie buffs.
Coincidentally, the honour comes a day after Chiranjeevi conceded he was not cut out for politics. On November 20, speaking at an alumni association meeting at YNM College in Hyderabad, he remarked about why he failed in politics. “I can’t take something to a conclusion if it has not come from my heart. If you want to shine in politics, you should not be sensitive,” Chiranjeevi said. “In politics, one has to verbally attack others and should be ready to tolerate what others say. One has to be brazen. At one stage, I started thinking if I really needed this.”
This is after Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) had played a spoiler in the 2009 Andhra Pradesh assembly polls and thereafter become an ally of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), by merging itself with the Congress; Chiranjeevi even served as a minister in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government.
Yet, while confessing about his limitations in politics, Chiranjeevi certified his youngest brother, ‘Power Star’ and Jana Sena Party (JSP) founder-chief Pawan Kalyan, as suited for politics.
Chiranjeevi’s comments and choice for the award came barely a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was ensconced with Pawan Kalyan for about 30 minutes at the INS Chola guest house in Visakhapatnam on November 11, while on a visit to the port city. Modi had earlier met Chiranjeevi at the July 4 unveiling of a statue of freedom fighter Alluri Sitharama Raju in Bhimavaram.
Modi and Kalyan have known each other since the run-up to the 2014 general elections and Andhra Pradesh assembly polls. The JSP chief campaigned with Modi and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu against the rival YSR Congress of Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. While the alliance trumped at the 2014 polls, the BJP-JSP alliance faced a near total rout in the next assembly polls held in 2019, enabling the YSR Congress to come power with Jagan Reddy as chief minister. Kalyan, who did not personally contest the 2014 assembly polls, lost both his constituencies in 2019 while his party managed to win one seat.

Yet, Pawan Kalyan seems determined to do what Chiranjeevi promised but could not deliver in Andhra politics in the next (2024) assembly polls. At their meeting, Modi seems to have advised Kalyan not to be hasty with regard to an alliance with the TDP this time and instead continue with the BJP or go it alone. The prime minister has also reportedly assured that the BJP and the Union government would stand by him in all his efforts.
However, after that meeting, the JSP chief has virtually gone into silent mode with regard to alliances though he continues with his strident attacks on the Jagan Reddy government. He is perhaps in two minds as to whether he should go by Modi’s advice or his own conscience. Analysts argue that the BJP is keen to make the most of it and choosing Chiranjeevi for the coveted film award was an element of the strategy to put pressure on the younger brother.
While admitting his limitations in handling the rough and tumble of politics, Chiranjeevi also maintained that his brother was adept at tackling political rivals and that Kalyan would one day achieve his goal of making it big in politics. “You are all with him. With the blessing of you all, he will one day reach some top position,” he said. Last month, Chiranjeevi had said that his support will definitely be with Kalyan and hoped that people will give him an opportunity in future. “Since childhood, I have known him for his honesty and commitment. This did not get polluted anywhere. We need such a leader,” the ‘Megastar’ said about the ‘Power Star’.
The BJP too perceives Kalyan as a potential alternative in the likelihood of the dimming electoral prospects of the TDP. Internally, though, JSP political affairs committee convenor Nadendla Manohar is sceptical about the impact of distancing his party from the TDP. Manohar and other JSP leaders have suggested their party chief take his own decision instead of relying on the BJP, which has only token presence in the state. Some of them claim that the BJP is trying to make its presence felt at the cost of the JSP.
Tollywood’s ‘Power Star’ has star power but that alone is inadequate to counter the YSR legacy enjoyed by Jagan Reddy or the political guile and organisational abilities of Chandrababu Naidu. Pawan Kalyan has plans to go on a tour of all 175 assembly constituencies to take stock of people’s grievances and target the YSR Congress government. But Kalyan’s Jana Vani programme is on hold. Whether to go with the BJP, like in 2019, or join hands with the TDP and the two communist parties, or go it alone is a dilemma that he is unlikely to resolve soon.
At the moment, the JSP, like Chiranjeevi’s PRP that enjoyed the backing of the family’s Kapu caste cohort besides disillusioned youth, can count on similar support. But that is enough only to be a spoiler in the polls. Kalyan’s political ambitions and aggression are far greater than of Chiranjeevi. Having stayed out of the electoral race in 2014 and tasted its challenges in 2019, he will run again, hoping to spring a surprise—2024 will probably be a make-or-break election for him.
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