Pawan Kalyan scripts political blockbuster

True to his reel image of being a power star, Pawan persisted and finally made his mark in electoral politics, sweeping 21 of the 21 MLA seats and two out of two MP seats his party contested.
JSP chief Pawan Kalyan
JSP chief Pawan KalyanPhoto I Express

VIJAYAWADA: Film star and Jana Sena Party (JSP) chief Pawan Kalyan had always been seen as an inconsistent and unconventional politician, more so after his humiliating defeat in 2019 when he himself lost from two constituencies and his party managed just one seat.

Nonetheless, true to his reel image of being a power star, Pawan persisted and finally, on Tuesday, made his mark in electoral politics, sweeping 21 of the 21 MLA seats and two out of two MP seats his party contested. The star won from Pithapuram, becoming an elected leader for the first time.

Pawan Kalyan’s comment at a public meeting in Machilipatnam in January 2021 that “defeat is not the end of the road, but only the beginning, and there is no defeat for individuals or parties who want to forge ahead” may have been taken with a pinch of salt at the time, but his critics have been made to eat humble pie. Pawan made strategic moves, assuring his followers to trust him.

First, he kept himself relevant by allying with the BJP following the 2019 debacle. In the run-up to the 2024 elections, he sprang a surprise by announcing his alliance with the TDP after meeting the latter’s chief, N Chandrababu Naidu, in the Rajahmundry jail. Naidu was jailed for about 50 days in the alleged skill development scam. From then, he tried hard to bring together the BJP and the TDP, facing, in his own words, harsh criticism from Delhi leaders. By limiting the number of seats his party could contest, he brought the two old partners— TDP and BJP, who had parted ways before the 2019 elections—back together to recreate the magic of the 2014 elections.

The only difference was that in 2014, JSP did not contest, but in 2024, it did. However, the underlying factor in forming such an alliance, even at the cost of his party’s electoral fortunes, was his promise not to split the anti- YSRC vote. It should be noted that in 2019, a multi-cornered contest in several Assembly segments saw a split in the vote, ultimately resulting in the defeat of Pawan Kalyan’s party. Konidela Pawan Kalyan was born Kalyan Babu on September 2, 1968, in Bapatla to Konidela Venkat Rao and Anjana Devi in Bapatla , Andhra Pradesh. He is the younger brother of megastar Chiranjeevi and producer Nagendra Babu. After passing SSC in Nellore, he dropped out of college and pursued his favorite martial arts. A black belt holder in Karate, Pawan followed in the footsteps of Chiranjeevi and made his acting debut in 1996 with Akkada Ammayi Ikkada Abbayi. He went on to act in several hit films and continues to act in films even after joining politics.

“Acting is my profession and politics my passion,” he said on several occasions. Even before joining politics, Pawan, who said serving society is his main goal, started the Common Man Protection Force in 2007 and took up social service activities. In 2008, he was made president of Yuva Rajyam, the youth wing of Praja Rajyam Party, started by his brother Chiranjeevi. However, after PRP was merged with Congress and his brother became a Union Minister, Pawan Kalyan became inactive and did not join Congress. In 2014, with the ‘Congress Hatao, Desh Bachao’ slogan, Pawan floated his own political outfit—Jana Sena Party. Though he and his party did not contest elections in 2014, he allied with TDP and BJP, and the combination won the elections.

However, he did not join the government. He was more focused on public issues and brought the issue of Uddanam kidney problems to the fore. He opposed the central government’s move to privatize the Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) and led a protest march to console families of farmers who committed suicides or migrated from the drought-prone regions of Rayalaseema. He opposed the then TDP government’s decision on land pooling. Kalyan conducted a march on the historical Dowleswaram Barrage in Rajahmundry, demanding political accountability. In 2016, Pawan Kalyan decided to contest the 2019 election on his own, and the focus of his election manifesto was farmers. JSP allied with CPI, CPM, and BSP but lost the elections. He contested from Bhimavaram in West Godavari district and Gajuwaka in Visakhapatnam.

However, he ended up losing both. He was among the first to oppose the three capital plans of the YSRC government and visited the capital region, Amaravati, to extend solidarity to the protesting farmers. On several occasions, he protested the attacks on his party cadre and opposed the YSRC government’s plans to remove Telugu medium in government schools. He conducted meetings and rallies to pressure the government to withdraw its decision. In September 2021, he took up digital campaigning with #JSPFORAP_ Roads and took part personally in the Shramdhan program held in Anantapur and East Godavari districts.

Later, he supported the protests against the privatization of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. On October 16, 2022, when he visited Visakhapatnam to conduct the Jana Vani program, he was detained in a hotel. He returned to Vijayawada and strongly rebutted the YSRC government for its high-handedness. TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu extended his support to Pawan Kalyan at that time. In the party’s formation day celebrations at Ippatam, he reiterated his stance to ensure that anti-YSRC votes are not split, and from that time started working on stitching the tripartite alliance. On November 5, 2022, he took up protests against the demolition of houses in Ippatam in Guntur district.

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