What exactly do people want? On the face of it, it isn’t as much of an enigma as that age-old question, what women want. Especially in Andhra Pradesh where the answer seems obvious: development. But, what is not so obvious is how political leaders, whose avowed mission in life is public service, perceive it. The new year seems to have given them a new sense of purpose too.
To begin with, star-turned-politico Chiranjeevi, after spending almost a decade in politics — the last few years in relative ignominy — appeared to have decided that what people want from him is entertainment. The realisation having dawned, like a prisoner breathing the air of freedom, he shed the last shred of inhibition, if ever there was any, to let his hair down in his signature style item songs in his comeback film Khaidi No. 150. Neither he nor the people were disappointed at the end of his marathon jigs. Last heard, the film has stormed into the Rs 100-crore club. The 60 going on 30 actor has since signed up for a slew of films. His colleagues in the Congress, however, are still pinning hopes on good old politics, filing RTI pleas and championing the cause of special status to the State in the belief that they can wash themselves of the taint of dividing the State, by fighting for what people want.
Do Andhras really want special status? Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his colleagues in the Telugu Desam are of the view that the special package announced by the Modi government offers to the State more than any special status ever could. Naidu is now more focused on what investors want.
He flew to Davos for the World Economic Forum. By now a familiar face at the annual event, he met up with the who’s who of global business leaders from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to Hyperloop’s Bibop G Gresta to persuade them to invest or collaborate with Andhra. Naidu will be back in Vizag later this month to woo investors again at the CII Partnership Summit, which is akin to Vibrant Gujarat.
The target is an ambitious Rs 8 lakh crore investments, despite modest results from the last edition.
While he believes investors hold the key to what people want, farmers at the receiving end of his development thrust are none too happy. Fears over the lakhs of acres of land bank Naidu hopes to create are sending the distressed farmers to whoever cares to listen to them, prominent among them Chiranjeevi’s younger brother Pawan Kalyan, another actor-cum-politico. The maverick Pawan, a frenemy of both the TDP and BJP, is for now content tweeting salvos at both the parties. Action, he repeatedly warns, would follow if the State and Central governments do not act the way people want. Politics, of course, is still a part-time job for him. Acting, as people want, is his primary concern.
The main Opposition leader, YSR Congress chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, on the other hand is into politics full-time these days after a lull post the 2014 electoral drubbing.
He ventured into Amaravati the other day to bat for farmers and promised to stay put in the capital region, away from his palatial residences in Pulivendula and Hyderabad, if necessary by buying a house.
Perhaps to inject adrenaline into his cadre, he has of late been talking of “when I become the chief minister” and his partymen, taking the cue, are flexing muscles. One councillor of the YSRC hit the municipal chairman of Gudivada with footwear recently. The latter was evidently given the treatment for having ditched the YSRC.
While Jagan may be seeking a path to Amaravati, TDP leaders are definitely doing their bit to make it less thorny for him. Some of them appear to have concluded that it’s time to do what they want.
Former MLA Raavi Venkateswara Rao fired two rounds into the air with a revolver, the licence of which expired, at the Gudivada club recently. Though he claims he fired by mistake, police inexplicably couldn’t even find empty shells.
He apparently did the James Bond stunt to show off. Close on the heels of this incident, a TDP MLC Anam Satish Prabhakar threw plates at the Haritha Resorts of AP Tourism and thrashed the poor manager for not serving him well. Anakapalle MLA P Govinda Satyanarayana, meanwhile, hit the headlines for eyeing the plot of an NRI and Denduluru MLA Prabhakar grabbed the spotlight for allegedly harassing Eluru mandal parishad president Anuradha.
Chandrababu Naidu was annoyed, but can he afford to let his men run riot?
Last but not the least, coming back to the question, what people want, the recent Sankranti festival showed many do want entertainment.
The brazen defiance of the high court ban on cockfights was nothing like the Tamil Spring for jallikattu. It’s muscle-flexing ostensibly to protect Andhra’s cultural identity — “drawing a line on moralistic madness” as Pawan boasted. Is there a method in this madness?
Deputy Resident Editor, Andhra Pradesh