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Jana Sena turns 8, it sets sight on 2024 AP polls

Jana Sena turns 8, it sets sight on 2024 AP polls

Telugu star Pawan Kalyan's political outfit, the Jana Sena Party (JSP) is all set to celebrate its eighth anniversary on Monday (March 14). Even as the popular film star is currently enjoying the box-office success of his latest release 'Bheemla Nayak', the spotlight for now is firmly on his political plans in Andhra Pradesh which is due for Assembly polls in 2024.

"We firmly believe that we have to make our presence felt for which we have to come up with a very clear road map on how to take the party further. As part of that we did contest in local body elections. Though they were held in a very undemocratic manner, our party won in many places. So we are gearing up for elections at all levels. We began with the local body elections and by the time of Assembly elections we will definitely be strong. We will have strong candidates who will take things forward. With no two doubts in my mind, I can say we are ready for the electoral battle," Nadendla Manohar, chairman, political affairs committee of the JSP, told IANS.

The last eight years have been something of a learning experience for Pawan Kalyan and his JSP. While his humongous fan following ensures box office success, it's been quite a different story in the political arena. The grassroots support base that makes up the political heft of any mainstream political party has proved to be the JSP's proverbial Achilles Heel so far. But things seem to be changing fast if developments over the past few months are any indication.

"It indeed was a lone Ranger battle for Pawan Kalyan when he launched the party in 2014. Since then he's faced many obstacles, innumerable insults in public life. But he very boldly carried on with the journey. So we've evolved over a period of time. Post elections we began strengthening our party from the grassroots level and today we successfully have presidents for all the districts, most of the mandals are covered.

"We have district committees, we hope to complete the process of village committees by April end. So this will give our party a basic structure to reach out across the state in a unified manner whenever we have a program," elaborated Nadendla Manohar, who is a former speaker of undivided Andhra Pradesh.

From an idea that took shape in 2014, around the time that Andhra Pradesh bifurcation became a fait accompli, the JSP has so far been largely on the sidelines of the political spectrum in the state. Although the JSP was part of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, the fledgling party did not contest the polls. Pawan Kalyan played a crucial role in galvanising support for the TDP-led alliance which narrowly pipped the Jaganmohan Reddy-led YSRC Party (YSRCP) in the 2014 Assembly polls. But the party refused a share in the political spoils of the electoral victory in 2014.

"That was a very strategic move by our party president in 2014 because we had just launched the party. We didn't have the kind of support system to prop up candidates to contest from places. We believed that Modiji's leadership was essential for the country and Andhra Pradesh especially after bifurcation. So that tie up was very essential," Nadendla explains.

However, the alliance broke down in the run up to the 2019 Assembly polls. With the three parties choosing to go it alone, it was a clean sweep at the hustings for the YSRCP. Pawan Kalyan even lost from both the Assembly constituencies that he contested from. Briefly, the party maintained a low profile. But soon enough, the party was back in action.

Even as the ruling party and the main opposition party, the TDP were busy settling scores, Pawan Kalyan quietly set about raising issues connected directly to the people. A social media campaign to highlight the miserable condition of the state's roads, support for the campaign opposing privatisation of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, or solidarity with fisherfolk, the JSP has been setting the agenda for Andhra Pradesh.

"We want to emerge as an alternative in a clean way. For which we are willing to take some hard risks in terms of encouraging youth, women because our politics is more of a contemporary new age politics where we're looking at better governance, we're looking at helping people across the state, not one particular region, one particular set of people.

"There is a lot of bonding of youth with PK because of the leadership he has shown. He's willing to take up a fight at a personal level also. That way I think we'll emerge as a political alternative, clean political party compared to the others in the field right now," Nadendla said.

Even as the two regional parties, YSRCP and TDP prepare for battleground 2024, the JSP seems to be preparing for the long and short haul. It has since joined hands again with the BJP.

"Pawan Kalyan believes in building up brick by brick. We are attracting a lot of young leaders. And we tell our leaders, don't come for just an election. Come for a journey. Let's walk together. It could be 10-15 years but we have to walk together.

We have to do something for this generation. Now that doesn't mean we'll not be in governance for 10-15 years. We want to be in seat of power because what we want to achieve is possible only as a government when you deliver. So we're constantly striving for that. We want to definitely be in power to implement our thoughts."

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