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Chiranjeevi and the Coming Polls in Andhra Pradesh

There are similarities and contrasts between N T Rama Rao's entry into politics in 1982 and that of Chiranjeevi in 2008. But the real impact of the Chiranjeevi factor in the 2009 assembly elections may well be in upsetting the caste base of the Congress and Telugu Desam, leading to a hung assembly and the emergence of a coalition government for the first time in Andhra Pradesh.

COMMENTARYnovember 29, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly16The government should openly advertise what benefits and/or facilities it would of-fer. Respondents should be requested to indicate what terms and conditions they would offer for the well-being of those who lost land and for the state in general. After appropriate technical and financial assess-ment, the party whose offer is the best should be selected to set up the manufac-turing unit. The agreement should be open and transparent and there should be no secret annexure as in the case with TML.Fifth, the rest of land should be re-turned to those whose land was acquired. The commerce and industries minister had been repeating that land once acquired cannot be returned. This is not correct. There are various processes for restoring the land. There is Section 21 of the General Clauses Act 1897. Its heading reads as follows: “Power to issue include power to add, to amend, vary, or rescind notification, order, rules or bye-laws”. Under this section land to be returned could be denotified.Land for PanchayatIf one wanted to stay within the four cor-ners of the Supreme Court judgment in the Bhaskaran Pillai case (1997- 5 SCC.432), the surplus land should be handed over to the Singur Panchayat Samity for “planneddevelopment or improvement of existingvillage sites”. Five mauzas have been devastated by reckless land acquisition proceedings. These villages should be developed in a planned manner as pro-vided for under section 3(f)(I) & (v) of the LAAct,1894. Those who lost land should beinitially given 999 year lease.In due course, a local amendment should be made in the LA Act, on the lines of the Tamil Nadu amendment to return land to the original owners. It may have to wait fora change in government. The CPI(M) needs to be cautioned that it would be totally illegal to go on a fishing expedition to find a project which could fit into the definition of “public purpose” to utilise this land. The acquired land has to be used primarily for the purpose for which it was initially acquired.Chiranjeevi and the Coming Polls in Andhra PradeshK Rama Rayalu There are similarities and contrasts between N T Rama Rao’s entry into politics in 1982 and that of Chiranjeevi in 2008. But the real impact of the Chiranjeevi factor in the 2009 assembly elections may well be in upsetting the caste base of the Congress and Telugu Desam, leading to a hung assembly and the emergence of a coalition government for the first time in Andhra Pradesh.Telugu matinee idol Chiranjeevi’s entry into politics (EPW, 11 October 2008) isgoing to have an impact on the political landscape of Andhra Pradesh, an understanding of which is crucial for predict-ing the likely change in terms of caste polari-sation and the possibility of the state seeing a coalition government for the first time in its history after the 2009 assembly elections. A close association between the movie industry and politics has been significant in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Leading stars in both the states, M G Ramachandran and N T Rama Rao, managed to translate their appeal in the movies to votes and be-come chief ministers. Chiranjeevi’s entry has led to debates and discussions on the possi-bility of his following in the footsteps of N T Rama Rao to become the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. The first section of this article dwells on a comparison between Chiranjeevi and Rama Rao. It is followed by a look at the pre-Chiranjeevi political en-vironment and the likely fallout in 2009. Chiranjeevi and NTR There has been a temptation among the media, political analysts and parties to compare Chiranjeevi’s entry to that of hispredecessor Rama Rao, who was popularly known as NTR. While there is nodenying that there are similarities, a closer look at their profiles, and the politi-cal environments of the early 1980s and now will show that there are significant differences.The similarities are that both were/are leading movie stars with huge fan follow-ings across the state. Both decided to enter politics when they were at their peaks in the movie industry, and while a genera-tional shift was taking place in the movie world with the advent of younger stars. Both have a history of some philanthropy. This philanthropy has added to their “he-roic” images built-up in the movies. Both have unique acting skills and have por-trayed characters fighting for the op-pressed and standing against the tyranny of the ruling classes, a strong enabling fac-tor to “connect” to voters.In terms of political factors, both occa-sions have had the Congress Party in power in the state and the centre. Yet, there are more contrasts than similarities. Most im-portant, there is no evidence of a strong anti-Congress sentiment in Andhra Pradesh, as in 1983, or a major leadership vacuum in the opposition space. In terms of social contrasts, we are now in a post-liberalisation era, with its associ-ated benefits and challenges, a time with a large youth population, extensive media coverage, increased political and caste con-sciousness, and large-scale urbanisation.K Rama Rayalu (ramarayalu@hotmail.com), formerly a journalist, is now with a software firm in Hyderabad.
COMMENTARYEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 29, 200817NTR essayed a range of characters and his most enduring image came from his portrayal of gods such as Rama and Krish-na and popular mythological characters such as Arjuna and Dhuryodhana. These roles in the days of limited media cover-age of the lives of movie stars and limited access to them created a “god-like” mys-tique around NTR in the minds of the masses. Further, NTR’s non-mythological movies had a rural orientation and he often portrayed small farmers or agri-cultural labourers fighting against the tyranny and injustices of local landlords, politicians, and corrupt state officials (such as the police and bureaucrats). In short,herepresented the voice of the rural poor and the oppressed. NTR pre-dominantlyappealed to rural and semi-urban men and women, both middle-aged and elderly. His film legacy has passed on to his offspring and today his son Balakrishna and grandson Jr NTR are very popular heroes in cinema.Chiranjeevi began his film career play-ing a “villain” and went on to become a “hero”. A majority of his roles have an urban orientation – youths from the middle or lower middle class heroically and single-handedly fighting evil mafia dons, corrupt politicians and representatives of the State. His popular roles also include that of an industrial worker, a cobbler, a rickshaw puller, a labour leader and a professor who kills corrupt officials withthe help of his former students. Chiranjeevi’s enduring image is that of a protagonist who fights against all odds to emerge victorious. His appeal is to urban and semi-urban youth, particularly the unemployed, frustrated with a lack of opportunities, the urban poor, and also teens fascinated with his phenomenal dancing skills. NTR’s EntryA great deal of writing exists on the politi-cal conditions that prevailed at the time of NTR’s entry into politics. A few noteworthy points were: a vexation with the uninter-rupted rule, and misrule, of the Congress and a mood for change; a concentration of political power in the hands of the upper castes; a subservient state Congress leader-ship which was mistreated by the high command in New Delhi (the most often cited examples are the frequent changes of chief ministers and the humiliation of chief minister T Anjaiah by prime minister Rajiv Gandhi); and a weak and disjointed opposition. NTR capitalised on these factors and roused the sentiments and emotions of the people with a call to protect “Telugu pride”. The Telangana movement had lost mo-mentum in the 1980s but the call to “Telugu pride” compensated for it. NTR’s image as a do-gooder was strong enough to consoli-date anti-Congress voters, politically under-represented castes and communities, emo-tionally charged people looking for a change, and of course his legions of devoted fans. So, he managed to build a strong and dedi-cated anti-Congress platform in the form of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and also regrouped other parties across India that were opposed to the Congress into an alternative alliance, the National Front. Chiranjeevi’s task now is to pry away sections of voters traditionally aligned with the Congress, theTDP and other parties. Further, “undecided” voters and the youth need to be mobilised in a big way to vote for his party. It is presumed that his innumerable fans will vote for him anyway. Chiranjeevi being a “fresh face” to politics has no baggage and could cash in on the corruption associated with the Congress and the TDP leadership.Backdrop to 2009 ElectionsPolling in Andhra Pradesh has been above 65% since 1955 except once–in 1972, when it came down by a few percentage points to 63.5%. Since its inception in 1982, the TDP has lost twice to the Congress, once in 1989 under NTR’s leadership and then in 2004 under his son-in-law Nara Chandrababu Naidu. Popular support for the TDP has been between 36.8% (1989) and 46.3% (1983). In the case of the Congress, it has been between 33.6% (1983) and 52.3% (1972). There is no reliable scientific data on voting patterns on the basis of caste. The general assumption is that the TDP is supported by upper caste Kammas and the backward castes, especially the Gouds and Yadavs while the Congress is backed by the Reddys, Kapus, Muslims, sections of other backward communities and a majority of the scheduled castes and tribes. It would be naive to assume that these caste-based vote banks are rigid. The 1994 elections in which the TDP won a record 220 seats, and the 2004 elections when the Congress swept the coastal districts and Rayalaseema showed that caste polar-isation was not entrenched. However, it is generally assumed that a majority of the numerically and politically strong Kapu community aligned themselves with the Congress from the 1989 elections, blam-ing the TDP under NTR for the murder of their leader Vangaveeti Mohan Ranga Rao, allegedly by a TDP legislator. From 1995 to 2004, under Chandrababu Naidu, the TDP was strongly influenced by the neoliberal economic policies of inter-national financial institutions like the World Bank and moved away from ad-dressing the concerns of its core constitu-ency. It began reaching out to the upper middle and elite classes and the pro-grammes and policies it adopted benefited these sections tremendously. While the TDP gained acceptance among the urban and pro-reform classes, it lost the support of its traditional base in rural Andhra Pradesh. Further, the TDP, a party that stood for a unified state of Andhra Pradesh, lost sup-port in Telangana when the demand for a separate state gained momentum in 2000 under the leadership of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K Chandrashekar Rao, a formerTDP minister. The Congress in 2004 under Y S Raja-shekar Reddy (he was not the president of the state unit but the most popular leader within the party) managed to move into the vacuum left by theTDP. For the 2004 elections, it aligned itself with theTRS and the Left parties opposed to Chandrababu Naidu’s neoliberal policies. The TDP had an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party. A look at the 2004 figures shows that the Congress gained the most from its alliances. Though the difference in vote share between the Congress and the TDP was less than 1%, its partnership with the TRS, the Communist Party of India, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) put the alliance ahead of the TDP-BJP front by more than 8%.After the elections, Chief Minister Rajashekar Reddy has managed to con-solidate this vote bank with a slew of welfare measures, large irrigation projects, housingschemes, and free electricity, all directed at benefiting the rural masses.
COMMENTARYEconomic & Political Weekly EPW november 29, 200819Evidence for this has been the success of theCongress-led alliance in subsequent elections to local bodies and panchayats, and in by-elections to the assembly and Parliament. Current Situation TheTDP is trying to turn the tables on the Congress in the 2009 elections by forging alliances with the ruling party’s 2004 partners and also the Bahujan Samaj Party. Chandrababu Naidu has reversed the TDP’s stand to that of being amicable to a separate state of Telangana to facilitate an alliance with theTRS. A retreat on the pro-reform, neoliberal front has also moved him closer to the stand of the Left parties. With Chiranjeevi’s political entry imminent, Chandrababu Naidu undertook a tour across the state for 117 days to win back the core constituency of theTDP. He has also roped in NTR’s actor sons and grand-sons to offset Chiranjeevi’s starappeal. Chiranjeevi’s entry is bound to change the political landscape of Andhra Pradesh significantly. There is little doubt that it will strengthen caste polarisation to an extent. Chrianjeevi’s huge fan following across the state, and the support he enjoys among the numerically strong Kapus and the youth will definitely upset the calcula-tions of the Congress and the TDP. Some sections of the “undecided” and those yearning for a “change” from the parties of the last three decades could also move towards him. Further, he is promising to expand the social justice platform by in-cluding castes and communities that are now outside political power structures and providing for caste-based proportion-al representation in the legislature. As the elections approach, Chiranjeevi’s party could also take a pro-Telangana stand, dealing a blow to the TDP. As can be seen from the above, the 2009 elections could see three possible scenari-os. First, Chiranjeevi’s October tour of the coastal districts has attracted huge crowds. If his party can convert this into votes and propagate a mood for “change” across the state, it could win a comfortable majority on its own. Second, caste polarisation for and against Chiranjeevi could damage thechances of the Congress and benefit the TDP. For, sections of the electorate most likely to be attracted to Chiranjeevi will come from the Congress vote bank. Finally, there is an intriguing scenario. If Chiranjeevi significantly eats into both the Congress and theTDP vote share, Andhra Pradesh could witness an end to single-party rule. A hung assembly could produce a coalition government in2009. Targeting Regulation in Indian AgricultureKavitha KurugantiAt the end of its first three years, the Indo-United States Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture is recommending changes in regulation to suitUS commercial interests. This article, based on a reading of the minutes of the KIA board’s meetings, analyses the proposed changes in some important areas like regulation of genetically modified organisms, contract farming, and intellectual property rights in agriculture.The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA, also known asAKI), described by Prime Minister Man-mohan Singh as the harbinger of a second green revolution in India, will be complet-ing its initial three-year phase (work plan) in a few months time. The sixth board meeting of this collaborative effort took place on 15-16, April 2008 in New Delhi and plans extending into 2009 were made during this meeting, indicating that the KIA is keen on moving into the next phase.1 While some amount of joint research work seems to be underway, an analysis of the board meeting minutes so far reveals that a major thrust of theKIA is to change some important regulatory regimes per-taining to agriculture in India.The KIA is expected to lend a focused impetus to changes sought by private agri-business corporations, including many large American multinational corpora-tions (MNCs) like Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland Co. Given that they are on the KIA board, it is impossible that they will not drive as many changes as possible that would suit their business interests. In more than two board meetings, there were express points made on how the private sector could provide more inputs for the regulatory process – this is ironical given that most regulation in any case is meant to regulate such a private sector and to protect the interests of consumers and producers. There is an inherent conflict of interest in these private players determin-ing the shape and systems of regulation! Harmonisation of legislation is men-tioned in different contexts including in the US-India CEO Forum plans.2 Going through the developments on the KIA front, it appears that the following regulatory re-gimes related to Indian farming/food are being sought to be changed through the KIA: (1) regulation of genetically modified organ-isms (GMOs); (2) contract farming; (3) seeds regulation; and (4) intellectual prop-erty rights (IPRs) in agriculture.Regulation of GMOsOne of the biggest battlegrounds in the global controversy surrounding GM crops is India. TheUS, which is the largest culti-vator of GM crops in the world, finds great difficulty in peddling itsGM produce in the world markets and needs to find more acceptance for such produce. It is in this context that it has begun looking at the Indian GM regulation (1989 Rules of the Kavitha Kuruganti (kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com) is with the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad.

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