Amaravati: BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah is learnt to have asked popular actor Junior NTR to take the political plunge, a move that if fructified could alter the political equations both in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
According to senior BJP leaders, Shah categorically asked Jr NTR to take a political plunge and asked the latter to “think it over”.
The national party, which is keen on emerging as a potent force in the two Telugu states, wants to use Jr NTR as its trump card given the actor’s charisma and stardom.
Son of former MP late Nandamuri Harikrishna, Jr NTR is the grandson of Telugu movie legend and Telugu Desam Party founder-president Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao.
He was once active in the TDP but subsequently fell out after the advent of Chandrababu Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh on the political scene.
BJP sources here revealed that the meeting between Shah and NTR Jr was “strategically planned” with politics as the main agenda.
“Jr NTR has immense clout, a massive fan base and appeal. He is very articulate in his public speeches and has a thorough political acumen. He proved this in his short campaign (for the TDP) during the 2009 elections,” a senior BJP leader observed, adding that Jr NTR has an instant connect with the masses.
This was apparently the reason the BJP top leadership zeroed in on him, the leader said.
On Sunday, Shah had dinner with Jr NTR in Hyderabad, along with Union Tourism and Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy, Telangana BJP president Bandi Sanjay Kumar and party’s Telangana in-charge Tarun Chugh.
Shah then had a 20-minute one-on-one meeting with the actor.
It was during these discussions that the Union Home Minister was said to have asked the actor to take the political plunge.
On Monday, Kishan Reddy maintained that Shah and Jr NTR talked only about movies and not politics.
“They talked about film history, movies of legend N T Rama Rao and his political journey. I don’t know about other things…you can ask them,” Kishan Reddy said in Chintapalli in AP.
Senior BJP leaders, however, noted that politics was indeed the topic of discussion, apart from movies.
“The proposal has been made but Shah wanted Jr NTR to think it over. The actor did not immediately respond (about his political ambitions),” the BJP leader, who was in the loop, said.
While the BJP’s idea is to use the film star to bolster its chances in Telangana, it has a completely different game plan for AP.
The BJP leadership’s assessment is that Jr NTR, if he chooses to join the political bandwagon, will erode the TDP base, if not split it.
And, there is also a feeling that Jr NTR could hold more sway on the voters than Pawan Kalyan, whose Jana Sena Party is now the BJP’s ally.
“Importantly, he can be the mighty face against (Chief Minister) Jagan Mohan Reddy in the current scenario,” the BJP leader pointed out.
However, all this may become a reality only if the film star accepts the BJP’s offer.
The TDP and the Jana Sena sought to downplay the Shah-NTR Jr meeting, while the ruling YSR Congress had a different take.
“It had nothing to do with politics and was only related to Jr NTR’s recent movie RRR,” was the opposition TDP’s refrain.
“Anybody can meet anyone. Recently, Chandrababu Naidu also met Prime Minister Modi,” Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan quipped.
YSRC legislator and former minister Kodali Srivenkateswara Rao, however, remarked that Shah would not meet anyone if it did not bring any political gain.
“Their meeting might have happened as part of a political strategy as the BJP has been trying to expand its base,” Rao, who once had a close association with Jr NTR, averred.