S. Nagesh Kumar

HYDERABAD: By ensuring that Chiranjeevi did not address any substantive issue at his press conference, his political managers saw to it that the spotlight was squarely focussed on the man himself.

It looked like part one of a two-stage strategy in which Mr. Chiranjeevi’s persona should be highlighted uncluttered by contentious political issues. Lest the message be diluted, even the party’s name, ensign and manifesto were not disclosed. All this could come in part two -- the public meeting at Tirupati, nine days hence on August 26.

Showing restraint

That this strategy paid off was evident when ecstatic members of Mr. Chiranjeevi’s core team applauded him for his performance - the deftness with which he avoided responses to thorny, burning issues confronting the State and the restraint he displayed to provocative questions. But unless he addresses them, his crossing the Rubicon from actor to politician will not be truly complete.

The actor held the stage all alone while Allu Arvind, Nagendra Babu, Pawan Kalyan and Dr. Mitra, who were speaking for him all the while for eight months, waited in the backroom. Several senior politicians like Ch. Harirama Jogaiah, K. Vidyadhara Rao and Bhoomi Nagi Reddy, who have publicly declared their support to Mr. Chiranjeevi after quitting their parent parties, were absent at the gala event. The significance of this was not lost on those present.

The high- profile event, transmitted live by numerous television channels, provided the actor an ideal platform to reach out to thousands of his followers. He lost no opportunity to strike an emotional chord with them, in filmi style, by recalling how he was moved by the letters written to him by a Home Guard in Khammam and an IT techie-couple before they committed suicide. “If I had not taken a decision (on entering politics), I would be committing a historical blunder”.

A watershed

Political parties have reacted guardedly, rather than negatively, to today’s development and chosen to wait till substance took over form on August 26. This is an indication that they admit Mr. Chiranjeevi’s entry into politics was a watershed in State politics just as NTR’s was in 1982.

Without exception, they will have to re-work their strategies, particularly the principal contenders for power. The Telugu Desam Party, which must cut further losses to Mr. Chiranjeevi’s camp, would not have missed his reference to NTR as one of his inspirations to join public life while the Congress leaders have to stop being smug and contend with another challenger.