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Star line-up in Naidu campaign

Hyderabad, Nov. 23: Chandrababu Naidu has fallen back on the Telugu Desamís traditional propaganda vehicle ó the film industry ó as he embarks on the political gamble of early elections against a strong Congress and resurgent Naxalites.

The Desam politburo, which met last Monday, decided to enlist actors for the pre-campaign poll exercises, which were kicked off in Guntur yesterday. Top stars Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna and Venkatesh, besides .T. Rama Raoís son Balakrishna and grandson, NTR Junior, are expected to address meetings in chosen district towns to build up the tempo for the fast-forwarded polls.

The party has not involved actresses at this stage, but young stars like Kalyani, Aaarti, Roja, Sanghavi, Raasi and Rakshita have been lined up for campaign after the polls are notified.

Naidu had been restricting campaigners from the Telugu tinsel town in the wings in his endeavour to shake off the image of filmi glamour the Desam had accrued from the days of NTR when his fan clubs used to be the backbone of the party propaganda machinery.

The last time Naidu had deployed the full might of the film industry was during the initial days of his pet Janmabhoomi project in 1997. Actors campaigned for him even during the 1999 polls, but in significantly fewer numbers.

This time, Naidu seems to have made a separate appeal to the film industry to extend support in the ďdo or dieĒ fight against not just the Congress, but also the extremists who have vowed to eliminate him. The chief minister escaped a Naxalite bid on his life near Tirupati on October 1.

In the same breath, Naidu is trying to make amends with NTRís family to strengthen his hand.

NTRís son Harikrishna and son-in-law D. Venkateswar Rao, who fought against him between 1996 and 98 during the family feud over claims to NTRís political mantle, are ready to join forces with him. The cause of their misunderstanding, Lakshmi Parvati, has ceased to be a political force, having lost all the legal battles against Naidu.

The links of the film industry with politics in Andhra Pradesh are too strong to be severed by any one person. Despite his indifference to the glamour brigade, Naidu has accommodated several actors in his scheme of things ó comedian Babumohan is a minister, producer-director D. Rama Naidu is the Desamís MP from Baptla and actor Murlimohan, the chairman of AP Films and the Theatre Development Corporation.

The Congress, too, had its share of film personalities, like G. Krishna of Padmalaya and actress Jamuna as MPs in 1989.

In the BJP, Vijayawada MLA Kota Srinivas Rao is a senior actor. The party is trying its best to sway the stars to campaign for it, but has received a blow as superstar Vijayshanti, vice-president of the BJP womenís wing, is gearing up to throw her lot with the Telengana Rashtra Samiti which is fighting for a separate Telengana state.

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