- Pawan Kalyan said he was used by Chandrababu Naidu, BJP
- He said he was invited to join BJP as well as YSR Congress
- The actor-politician said he has decided against it
Actor-politician Pawan Kalyan, who has made the battle in Andhra Pradesh a three-cornered contest, says he no longer plans to play the kingmaker as he was used by Chandrababu Naidu and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whom he supported in 2014.
"They want me to be the raw material for their success. They don't want me to develop on my own... why should I serve their interest?" the actor, who is partnering Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati this time, told NDTV's Prannoy Roy. "When I met Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders after the election, I somehow got the feeling that I was no longer needed. Nobody said it, but those were the vibes," he added.
Brother of actor Chiranjeevi and a hugely popular actor, Pawan Kalyan had veered into politics as part of Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam Party. When that merged with the Congress, he formed the Jana Sena in March 2014.
Ahead of the 2014 elections, the leader of the fledgling Jana Sena - which has a substantial following among the youth brigade - was roped into the NDA and invited to campaign along with Narendra Modi and Chandrababu Naidu. It is believed that he helped the Telugu Desam Party emerge the winner, even though with a relatively low margin of 5 lakh votes.
Pawan Kalyan said this time, he was invited to join the BJP as well as Jaganmohan Reddy's YSR Congress, but he has decided against it. He would be among the third big party besides Mr Naidu's TDP and the YSR Congress battling for the 175 assembly seats and 25 Lok Sabha seats of Andhra Pradesh.
Though Pawan Kalyan has tied up with Mayawati - a Dalit powerhouse and an aspirant for the Prime Minister's post -- and the Left parties, he considers Jana Sena to be in the driving seat. The allies together have been given 35 assembly seats and seven Lok Sabha seats.
Jana Sena is also contesting in a few seats in Telangana, the ones believed to have a big section of voters from Andhra Pradesh. "I am not asking for votes on basis of caste or region. I still feel the two Telugu states are one emotionally."
The party has an interesting line-up of candidates. From former IPS officers like VV Laxminarayana who investigated the cases against Jaganmohan Reddy as the joint director of the CBI, to a young man called Chaitanya, who is the son of a retired bus conductor. Laxminarayana is the Lok Sabha candidate from Vizha. Chaitanya has been fielded for the Pathapatnam assembly seat.
So isn't winnability a criterion?
"Indian society is quite fragmented. It has idealists, armchair thinkers, cut-throat politicians. There are poll managers with money who play caste card," he said. "I took the integrated, not puritanical approach. This is my strategy and if people are looking for change, if this can work, let it work."
For a politician whose fan base is largely the youth, who go into a virtual frenzy at the sight of him, Pawan Kalyan says being a politician comes more naturally to him than being an actor. "I can be myself as a politician. I can wear what I want. Not wear makeup. Not do stuff that I am not comfortable doing," he says.
Pawan Kalyan's public meetings trigger such frenzy that he is always accompanied by at least 150 securitymen, besides the local police. "Love and admiration can kill sometimes," he said, smiling.
The 47-year-old says after a long day of campaigning, he hums old Telugu and Hindi songs to relax. "But I feel shy to sing, perform in public," he said coyly.
So how close is Powerstar Pawan Kalyan to power in Andhra Pradesh? "Whatever destiny decides, I'm willing to accept and embrace. My job is to give the best of what I am doing," he said.
Asked which of the two parties -- Telugu Desam or YSR Congress - he was willing to support in need, Pawan Kalyan said, "We are going to form the government... so you have to ask them who wants to back me".