Is actor Chiranjeevi’s presence in Seemandhra a boon or bane for Congress?

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Tirupati: Megastar K Chiranjeevi, fondly called as Amitabh Bachchan of Telugu cinema, is staring down the barrel in this pilgrim hub as many angry voters, who sent him to Andhra Pradesh assembly five years ago, now paint him as a villain who couldn’t prevent the state’s bitter split.

This may mark a fall from grace for the 58-year-old Chiranjeevi, now campaign committee chairman for Congress in Seemandhra region and Rajya Sabha member, who had plunged into politics amid huge fanfare nearly six years ago.

However, the anger among various segments of voters here has raised questions on whether his presence would be boon or bane for Congress’ sitting MP Chinta Mohan, seeking to retain the seat going to polls on May 7.

The iconic actor’s failure to persuade Congress high command to stop the division of Andhra Pradesh, his disconnect with local population and unfulfilled poll promises have turned the ‘reel hero’ into a ‘real villain’ in the famed hill shrine situated in Rayalaseema region, voters allege.

Chiranjeevi, however, defends himself saying sentiments of Seemandhra people were not considered when the Telangana Bill was passed in Parliament.

Asked whether the presence of Chiranjeevi in Tirupati would be a boon or bane for the party in the ensuing polls, Tirupati Congress candidate Mohan refused to comment. “No comments,” said Mohan, who has been re-nominated from here.

Simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha and undivided Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly would be held in Telangana region on April 30, followed by Seemandhra on May 7.

On the other hand, BJP, which has tied up with TDP, has fielded Karumanchi Jayaram and YSR Congress has nominated V Varaprasad Rao in this reserved parliamentary constituency.

Although Chiranjeevi’s regional outfit Praja Rajyam Party failed to make grand debut in 2009 state elections and all its candidates lost in Lok Sabha polls the same year, the actor won the Tirupati assembly seat by a margin of about 10,000 votes. He surprisingly lost from Palakol, from where he hails.

Later, Chiranjeevi merged Praja Rajyam Party with Congress and went on to be nominated to Rajya Sabha. He was inducted into the Cabinet as Minister of Tourism.

Disappointment over the actor-turned politician’s decisions and performance is writ large on the faces of some voters and fans here.

“I regret wasting my vote by casting it in favour of Chiranjeevi’s party,” said Chandrasekara Reddy, a differently- abled resident of Tirupati.

“I used to spend up to Rs 1,000 for buying a ticket for his movies. But he has betrayed us with numerous promises and by ultimately failing on all counts. Of late, I skip the television channels when they show his visuals,” a visibly angry Reddy said.

Chiranjeevi went on to become a superstar of Telugu films from humble beginnings, in a career spanning over three decades.

Another local, Chandru from M R Palle alleged that Chiranjeevi did not do enough to redress public grievances. Stressing that he was not a follower of the “darling of the masses”, Chandru said he had voted for the actor as his friends had requested him to do so.

“The last time I saw him in Tirupati was during a massive rally in the temple town, where he launched his party, a few years back. Thereafter, he was not visible in the town except on television screens,” he added.

Locals now doubt whether they should have supported him. “I voted only for Chiranjeevi and not for Congress. Is it fair to merge your party by getting votes from those opposed to it?” another Tirupati resident asked.

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