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Why the BJP is pursuing Tollywood stars in election-bound Telangana is because of their “pan-India audience and favourable image.”

Last month, Nadda and Shah both met actor Nithin. A BJP spokeswoman claims that there are still more meetings planned, but a TRS representative disputes that the cancellation of the "Brahmastra" event was motivated by political revenge.

Hyderabad: As the BJP seeks to gain ground in the southern state, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are becoming increasingly competitive. This rivalry is being linked to the last-minute cancellation of a promotional event for the Bollywood film Brahmastra in Hyderabad.

The event was promoted by Tollywood star Junior N. T. Rama Rao, also known as Junior NTR, who met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Hyderabad in August and was scheduled to take place last Friday at Ramoji Film City.

The police refused to provide permission, citing their inability to quickly deploy substantial security due to Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations and law and order difficulties, and the pre-release event was cancelled. Instead, a smaller news conference was organised, and Junior NTR and acclaimed Telugu screenwriter V. Vijayendra Prasad, S. S. Rajamouli’s father, who is a member of the Rajya Sabha, attended.

According to reports, Prasad would write the script for the movie Razakar Files, which the BJP wants to see before the Telangana assembly elections next year. One of the BJP’s candidates for the Rajya Sabha was the scriptwriter, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated him on the nomination.

Shah held a meeting with Ramoji Rao, a powerful member of the Kamma group, in August. Rao is known to be close to Kamma leader and TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu. J. P. Nadda, president of the BJP, met Mithali Raj, a former captain of the Indian women’s cricket team, and actress Nithin in Hyderabad during the same month.

Party insiders claim that this will be a “constant exercise” in which the party’s top leadership expects to see additional celebrities in the upcoming weeks.

Meeting famous individuals or celebrities has long been a popular activity. Even in districts and mandals, we continue to run into familiar faces. The focus is largely on networking. A party benefits when it maintains goodwill with various groups, whether they are supporters or fans, according to Kishore Poreddy, the BJP’s Telangana spokesperson, in a statement to ThePrint.

Despite the fact that Junior NTR and Shah’s meeting was minimised as a “courtesy encounter” because the Union Minister had praised the actor’s performance in the hit film RRR, political observers say the meeting’s political significance cannot be disregarded.

The TDP has always been supported by Junior NTR, the grandson of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP founder N. T. Rama Rao, who has also run for office in the past.

Given the situation, there would likely be a suspicion that the event’s denial was related to the escalating antagonism between KCR and the BJP, the Telangana chief minister. Even while it is difficult to determine if it is the precise cause, the BJP would portray it in that light, political analyst Nageshwar Rao told ThePrint.

“The event was scheduled for a location outside of the city; law and order disturbances at such events have not historically been a problem. Not everyone has access to the location. There must be a formal invitation, he continued.

Rao continued by saying that if Shah was so taken with RRR, he ought to have met the other members of the team as well. It is well known that the purpose of the meeting between Shah and Junior NTR was to deliver a political message to Telangana’s Telugu Desam supporters and Nandamuri (NTR’s family) supporters. The BJP is attempting to promote a favourable image.

Gudur Narayana, a senior member of the BJP, claimed that the cancellation of the Hyderabad event was due to “political vendetta.”

“NTR attended the event when he met Shah and Prasad Rajamouli, a BJP nominee for the Rajya Sabha. The TRS government has recently been unsettled by the BJP’s meetings with Tollywood actors. They recognised that the BJP, led by Modi, is Tollywood’s preferred choice because the industry is dissatisfied with the current administration. The event was thus prevented, he told ThePrint.

A top TRS official denied that political rivalry had anything to do with the postponement of the event, saying, “We’re unaffected with who they’re meeting with or what they’re doing. It was a matter of law and order. We are certain that the state’s citizens will back us.

The BJP has focused on Telangana as part of its “Mission South” strategy in an effort to gain ground there after victories in two assembly by-elections and an outstanding showing in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Elections over the past two years.

The BJP is making every effort to position itself as a formidable opponent to the ruling TRS in the run-up to the elections in 2023, from scheduling numerous visits from its senior officials to the state to cultivating an engaged cadre base.

More than just polite encounters?
In the meantime, sources close to Junior NTR informed ThePrint that despite a flourishing cinema career, he is not interested in entering any political arena.

Speculation regarding Nadda and the BJP, which is attempting to gain ground in the election-bound state, has also been sparked by his meeting with Tollywood movie star Nithin, who is from the Nizamabad district.

“Nithin and Mithali Raj both had excellent things to say about Modi’s leadership and agreed that he should run for office again. A senior BJP politician who attended the meeting and spoke to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity said that Nithin also told Nadda that he would be open to participating in any “social activity” in the state.

“Their following will support us if these folks maintain a good attitude. Not that we force them to cast votes, either. Another significant factor is shaping perceptions. And the party will benefit from this. And this extends beyond the state alone. Hindi dubs of Nithin’s films are broadcast on TV. Additionally, there is a sizable audience on social media, the leader said.

Ramchander Rao, a former member of the BJP Legislative Council, stated to ThePrint that numerous other meetings with “renowned persons” from the corporate sector, entertainment industry, sports, and arts and cultures were scheduled.

‘Baahubali’ star Prabhas was greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in 2015 and thanked for the success of the film.

According to political expert Rao, the BJP is attempting to capitalise on the film industry’s star reputation. “The BJP is attempting to take advantage of the personal brand and fan following that movie stars have. Films like Razakar Files and Kashmir Files have been used in efforts. The BJP benefits from the manner that history is being presented.

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