Kannada superstar Upendra has lofty political dreams. His super stardom has created fans who are in awe of his larger-than-life screen persona. The actor Upendra is not much different from Upendra, the politician. His political aspirations seem a bit like the hero he has played so often – the one who conquers all evils. Will his political ambitions translate into votes? Will his transition from acting to politics be smooth?
He says his ‘Uttama Praja Party’ has no place for the self, and is all about the people. He wants the name to reflect the qualities and ideals he will espouse through it.
Upendra is popularly known as Uppi. His fans have already drawn similarities between his moniker and the initials of his party – UPP. “I could have made it Uttama Praja Party of India, so that the initials reflect my name. But that would be unwise and in direct violation of my policies. So, I decided not to pursue it.”
Upendra’s political entry was widely covered, but the initial buzz around it seems to have died down. “It is the time for work, not talk,” he explains.
With the Karnataka Assembly election set for next year, many are sceptical about his entry into politics. Dr Veerappa, a political historian, believes that one should not expect too much from stars. “The actors have some impact on people, but politics is a different arena altogether. We’ve had parties like Congress and the BJP for decades together, and even if they do not keep their promises, the loyalty they command among their vote banks is significant. One cannot just break that.”
In Karnataka, there are examples of actors like Ambareesh, Divya Spandana who have had successful political careers. “But, they attached themselves to the prominent parties in the state. Upendra’s case is vastly different,” Veerappa points out.
Kannada stars have huge fan bases, but that necessarily doesn’t translate into votes. “People have their priorities clear. They have political favourites and film favourites. They do not mix the two. Any sort of collaboration happens only if their favourite actor joins their preferred party. Otherwise, from a strictly political history point of view, stars have largely been ignored by the electorate,” he says.
Satyanarayana Sangita of the Institute For Social and Economic Change is of the same opinion. “When it comes to politics, Upendra is largely an untested commodity. He might have grand plans and make promises, but by and large, he will not be able to influence the people by the time of election. The state will go to polls next year and Upendra has barely begun work on his party. This means that he has, maybe four months time to reach out to the people. This is not possible.”
In Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, the political success of stars like N.T Rama Rao, M. G. Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa have set a precedence of sorts. “In those states, people know that actors can change things. But that is not the case in Karnataka. Late actor Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhana, even Saroja Devi, stayed away from active politics, and with reason. There’s no clear precedence here, and Upendra could be the dark horse,” Veerappa say.
But that prospect was highly unlikely, he cautions.
So far, Upendra has not received a lot of support from the film fraternity. According to him, the support from fans, however, has been overwhelming. “I’ve received over 3,00,000 emails from fans in which they’ve included their suggestions. I will come out with a manifesto soon, and also launch the site for the party. I am working on a film now, and as soon as that is done, I will devote myself fully to the welfare of people,” says the actor.