Chiranjeevi’s mega political show begins amid chaos (Lead)

August 26th, 2008 - 7:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh), Aug 26 (IANS) Close to a million people packed this temple town Tuesday to see Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi launch his political party and announce the name and policies of his new outfit — amid complete chaos and a near stampede. A sea of humanity descended on the sprawling Avilala Cheruvu ground to witness what is expected to be a watershed development in Andhra Pradesh politics, and alter equations in the state.

There was pandemonium as enthusiastic fans of the actor tried to push their way towards the dais by clambering on barricades, electric poles and trees, resulting in a stampede.

There were no reports of any casualties.

Police had to use teargas and cane the boisterous fans, who were seen throwing chairs on each other and trying to enter the enclosure meant for the physically challenged near the dais.

More than 3,000 policemen and an equal number of volunteers failed to control the massive crowds, which had started gathering at the venue this morning.

“We beg you. Please, don’t climb on barricades. They are dangerous. Your leader will be pained if you get hurt,” appealed one of the organisers.

Amid the melee, a group of film artists entertained the crowds by singing and dancing to the tunes of hit numbers from Chiranjeevi’s films.

A documentary on the 30-year-old film career of the actor and his social services was screened on huge LCD screens.

Though the colourful cultural programmes began at 4 p.m., Chiranjeevi, who had reached the town this morning and offered prayers at the Lord Venkateshwara temple, arrived much later.

Thousands of vehicles were still stranded outside the town. All roads seemed to lead to the town with thousands of vehicles as well as special trains and bus services ferrying fans from across the state.

The actor, who announced his entry into politics on Aug 17, was given a rousing reception by his fans at the Renigunta airport near here. Accompanied by wife Surekha and son, actor Ramcharan Teja, Chiranjeevi drove straight to the Lord Venkateshwara temple on Tirumala Hills to seek divine blessings before formally launching his political career.

Slogans of ‘Jai Chiranjeeva’ rent the air as the thousands of fans stepped off at the railway station and bus stops. Hotels, lodges, guesthouses and function halls were booked as well.

The railways operated 18 special trains while state-owned Road Transport Corporation ran 1,500 buses. Thousands of private vehicles also ferried Chiranjeevi’s fans from different parts of the state. The majority of the people are coming from coastal Andhra as the actor hails from the region.

Chiru, as the actor is popularly known, will alone hog the limelight during the massive show of strength planned in true filmi style.

Chiru, who turned 53 last Friday, has bid adieu to his three-decade film career and has decided to dedicate his life “to serve the poor and the needy”. It is in this context that he decided to launch the party on Aug 26, the birth anniversary of Mother Teresa.

Chiru’s party is expected to emerge as a major political force in the state. His fans see him as the next chief minister and feel he would emerge as powerful as matinee idol N.T. Rama Rao, who changed the course of Andhra politics by coming to power within nine months after launching the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1982 from Tirupati.

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