Tirupati, Aug 26 (IANS) A new political party took shape in Andhra Pradesh Tuesday as Telugu film superstar Chiranjeevi launched his Praja Rajyam (People's Rule) at a mega rally here attended by nearly one million frenzied fans.
He took the temple town of Tirupati by storm as he announced the launch of his party, and announced that he was dedicating his life to serve people. Chiranjeevi also vowed to usher in change in the state and that social justice would be his party's goal.
'It will be a democratic and secular party. It will be a people's party, born from the hearts of the people. It will be a party for backward classes, farmers, workers, women and youth,' he said amid wild cheering from a mainly male gathering drawn from all over Andhra Pradesh.
'The party will work for development, modernisation and industrial revolution. Its goal will be 'Santosha', 'Chirunavvulu' and 'Ananda' (contentment and happiness) Andhra Pradesh,' he said, speaking in Telugu.
'I know your problems, pains and sufferings and will always stand by you,' he said, while taking the oath in the name of Lord Venkateshwara to dedicate his life to serve people.
The launch was in a true filmi style with the actor alone hogging the limelight for two hours. A sea of humanity had descended on the scenic Avilala Cheruvu ground, surrounded by the Tirumala Hills.
Speaking more like an actor, he dragged the suspense on the name of the party a bit further by asking people to suggest a name. Ending the suspense, the actor declared the name of the party, which was simultaneously flashed on giant LCD screen on the dais amid fireworks.
About 35 people were injured in stampede as the event was marred by utter chaos, especially during the initial stage. The over-enthusiastic fans tried to advance towards the dais, resulting in stampede near the enclosures meant for physically challenged, women and media.
Ignoring the appeals of organisers, the fans climbed on barricades, electric poles and trees to catch a glimpse of the actor. At one stage, Chiru had to stop his speech when some fans climbed on an electric generator.
More than 3,000 people and an equal number of volunteers failed to control the crowds.
So disorganised was the crowd that even Chiranjeevi had a tough time in returning to his car after the meeting. The police had to intervene to escort him to safety.
The event had the touch of glamour as a group of artists entertained the audience before the actor's arrival in a car. A chopper flew over to record the event, beaming it across 70 huge LCD screens deployed around the area.
Broadly outlining the policies of his eagerly awaited party, the 53-year-old actor said that eliminating poverty, ensuring social equality, rooting out corruption, development of villages on par with urban areas, and providing health and education to all would top the agenda.
The development is likely to alter the political equations in the state ahead of elections slated to be held in March next tear. The actor's fans hope his party would break matinee idol N.T. Rama Rao's record.
NTR had created a record of sorts by coming to power nine months after floating Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1982.
If NTR launched TDP on the slogan of Telugu self-pride to end the monopoly of the Congress, Chiranjeevi declared that service would be his motto and promised to bring a change in the lives of people.
During the two-hour mega show, Chiranjeevi said he favoured prohibition but added that his party would take a final decision only after detailed deliberations.
He termed as 'social' the problem of Maoist violence, assured to respect the sentiments for separate statehood to Telangana region and declared that his party would recognise economically backward classes as a separate class.
'If people of Telangana feel that we should separate as brothers and this is the best solution, we will discuss and respect their sentiments,' he said.
Chiru, who declared that he had no rivals in politics, took a swipe at the ruling Congress for selling government land to industries and for acquiring cultivable land for Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
'The government is selling lands. Is it justified? We are selling future of our country,' he said in his first remarks criticising the government.
'Nowhere in the country so many SEZs are coming up as in this state. Acquiring lands of poor and cultivable lands for SEZs is unjustified. We are against it,' he said.
The actor also took potshots at the Congress by referring to corruption in construction of irrigation projects.
'We have no rivals. Problems are our rivals. We have no rivals because we have no fear and greed. We have entered the battlefield but our battle is against problems. Courage and honesty are our two weapons. We have no leader. All are soldiers. I am also one among you,' he said.
He delivered the speech in two parts. The first devoted to his personal life, his birth in a lower middle class family of a police constable, his struggle to come up in life. In the second phase, he highlighted priorities of his political party.
'After spending 30 years in the glamorous field, I could have lived a life for myself. I have all the comforts in life but I decided to be in your midst by responding to your appeal,' said Chiranjeevi, who formally announced his decision to join politics Aug 17.
'I am overwhelmed by your support all these years. Now it is time for me to pay back and be in your midst to share your sufferings,' said Chiru, as he is fondly called, amid thunderous applause.
In a symbolic gesture, he chose a physically challenged to unfurl the party flag - white and green with the sun in the centre. 'The white symbolises clean governance while green stands for prosperity. The sun gives energy to us. It has 24 rays and like the sun rays I will be available for public services,' he said adding that the flag colours represent three major religions, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.
He said he was inspired by Mother Teresa, who dedicated her life to help the needy, and hence launched the party on her birth anniversary.
Chiru, who is a recipient of Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award of the country, said former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's vision also inspired him. 'Abdul Kalam said service-minded people should come into politics,' he said.
Chiru, whose real name is Konidela Siva Shankara Varaprasad, was born in a remote village in West Godavari district in coastal Andhra on Aug 22, 1955. Belonging to Kapu community, he acted in about 150 films.