Two years and seven months after launching Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) amid much fanfare, the actor-turned-politician Sunday merged it with Andhra Pradesh’s ruling Congress party.
With many top leaders deserting him after the party came a cropper in the 2009 parliamentary and assembly elections, Chiranjeevi was feeling isolated and was under pressure from a section of his legislators to merge with the Congress.
It was on Aug 26, 2008 that Chiru, as he is popularly known among his fans, launched the PRP on the slogan of social justice. The massive crowds at his maiden public meeting at Tirupati sent ripples among the Congress and the TDP and many believed he would prove another N.T. Rama Rao, the legendary Telugu actor who floated the TDP in 1980s to end the Congress’ monopoly in state politics.
The 55-year-old actor, who featured in 149 movies during the last three decades and whose popularity matched that of NTR, took politics by storm with huge crowds at his public meetings.
However, in the 2009 elections, the PRP got only 18 seats in 294-member assembly and drew a blank in the Lok Sabha elections. Chiru himself lost the elections in his native West Godavari district but was elected from Tirupati.
The only saving grace for PRP was 16.12 percent votes polled by it, which badly hit the prospects of the TDP and helped the Congress retain power.
Many leaders who had quit the TDP and the Congress before elections to join PRP began deserting him after the elections.
From a remote village in coastal Andhra to stardom and then to the centre stage of politics, Chiranjeevi came a long way.
Born on Aug 22, 1955 in Mogalturu, a small village in coastal district of West Godavari, his real name was Konidela Siva Shankara Varaprasad and he was the eldest of three sons of Venkat Rao, an employee in the excise department, and Anjana Devi.
After graduation, Varaprasad, who developed a keen interest in cultural activities during student days, moved to Madras (now Chennai) to seek a career in the film industry and joined a film institute in 1977.
“Punaadi Raallu” was his first film in the lead role but it was “Pranam Kareedhu”, which was released first. The year was 1978 and he began establishing himself as an actor.
Chiranjeevi, who comes from Kapu community, once had a dream one night in which Lord Hanuman called him Chiranjeevi. His mother advised him to change his screen name to Chiranjeevi, which in Hindu mythology refers to Lord Hanuman.
He married Surekha, daughter of eminent comedian of yesteryears Allu Ramalingayya, in 1980.
Chiru’s two brothers Nagendra Babu and Pavan Kalyan are actors. His only son Ram Charan Teja is also an actor.
His eldest daughter Susmitha is married to a Chennai businessman while her younger sister Srija eloped with a boy belonging to outside his caste and married him against her father’s wishes.