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Telugu forum in US wants megastar in politics

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York : Amid continuing speculation over Telugu megastar Chiranjeevi’s entry into politics, a forum of his admirers in the US is galvanising public opinion to press him to make his political debut.

The forum called Pro Telugu Org (PTO) has been holding open meetings and has put up an online petition asking Chiranjeevi to form and announce his political party.

According to the forum’s founder and international convener, Ram Tatineni, a Dallas-based engineer originally from Vijayawada, Chiranjeevi is expected to make the announcement sometime in April.

“Chiranjeevi is not reluctant to make the move, but he wants to plan it properly and to do the groundwork before making the announcement,” Tatineni told IANS.

He added that Chiranjeevi was held back by two sad events late last year – the death of his father and the elopement of his daughter Srija.

Tatineni claimed that PTO had not been floated at the behest of Chiranjeevi or anybody close to the film star.

PTO has organised about 20 meetings since mid-December on the theme “Change and Hope with Chiranjeevi” in major US cities. It wants “well-wishers of Chiranjeevi and Andhra Pradesh to attend and discuss the new political party, its need and policies”.

An average 75-100 people have attended each of the meetings in cities such as Edison in New Jersey, Houston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston and Seattle. More meetings are planned in the coming weeks, one in London on March 15.

Claiming that corruption and casteism in Andhra Pradesh had reached unimaginable levels, Tatineni said: “We support Chiranjeevi’s entry into politics because he has a clean image, has shown interest to work for people and has the power to reach millions.”

Over 7,000 people have signed the petition on PTO’s website, according to Tatineni.

“Once we reach our target of 10,000 signatures, we will present the petition personally to Chiranjeevi in Hyderabad around March 20,” he said.

The online petition addressed to Chiranjeevi reads: “To cleanse the system and to serve the society at large, we, the people of Andhra Pradesh, earnestly appeal to you to march into the political arena.

“We firmly believe that your integrity, hard work and selflessness will surely help the people regain their trust in the political field, in general and in government administration, in particular.”

PTO’s website also invites people to suggest names for Chiranjeevi’s proposed political party.

Tatineni said both the Congress, ruling in Andhra Pradesh, and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) fear the entry into politics of Chiranjeevi, the most popular film star after N.T. Rama Rao who went on to found the TDP. Some smaller parties are expected to join him, he added.

According to media reports in India, people close to Chiranjeevi are giving final touches to the party, which will be used to launch the actor who was earlier expected to have announced a career in politics last August.

Chiranjeevi, 52, has had a distinguished career in films spanning 30 years. His most recent hit film was “Shankardada Zindabad”, a remake of the popular Hindi film “Lage Raho Munnabhai”.

Chiranjeevi, born in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, was honoured with a Padma Bhushan in 2006.

An estimated 600,000 Telugus make up an important part of the Indian American community.