While growing up in and around Chamarajpet in the city, he chased his dreams and became a versatile filmstar with a career spanning the film industries of the south and Bollywood. Now a newly anointed politician, Prakash Raj, makes no bones about how little he thinks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his popular #JustAsking, leaving you in no doubt about his views. Although he enjoys a friendship with Telangana Chief Minister, K Chandra shekhar Rao, not many expected him to take a plunge into politics himself and were surprised when he announced his decision to contest from the Bengaluru Central parliamentary constituency as an independent these polls. With the whistle as his symbol, the actor, who clearly sees himself as some sort of a whistleblower, has come out with a manifesto that talks about involving people in building a better Bengaluru with focus on protecting its environment, improving its education, healthcare system, transport, empowering women and caring for the old. While disappointed at the Congress fielding a candidate against him, he remains undeterred, claiming Dalits, backward castes and minorities are upset with its neglect of their communities and see in him a more credible alternative. Excerpts from an interview with VINAY MADHAV
Between Prakash Raj, the boy born and brought up around Chamarajpet and the filmstar, which of these avatars is helping you these elections?
Over the last two decades I have grown and people have seen me in varied roles in different languages. But the last few years have also seen me in the role of a columnist who has his own perceptions on various issues like farming, health, education and so on. They see a courageous person, who doesn't live on the myth his roles have created. I am known for what I am more than as an actor as I am ready to be unpopular and show my dissent. They see my courage and a man, who has wide knowledge of literature. The man in the movies is only one aspect of me. This has helped in the meetings I have had with around 300 groups and in reaching out to upto five lakh people. They know that I am someone different, a person with a vision. That should help me.
Are you disappointed with the Congress? After taking Prime Minister Narendra Modi head -on through your #JustAsking, you had requested the party not to field a candidate against you in Ben galuru Central. But it did.
I did not ask them to give me the seat, but they should have. The truth is they are the other face of the same coin. They claim to be secular , but look at the ground realities of the Muslims, Christians and other downtrodden, the housing and water problem. They are merely using them as votebanks. You will be surprised to see how my citizen movement takes away the votebank, they have been sitting on so comfortably for years.
Although you were the first to announce your candidature for Bengaluru Central, most of the media's focus is on the BJP and Congress. Are you upto the challenge?
That's exactly what is happening in the absence of alternatives, but I am not paying this much attention. A movement like mine cannot be gauged. I always believe that election is a festival of the conversation between the contestant and the people, who vote. I realized at my Town Hall meeting that people are going to be surprised at the lakhs in Bengaluru Central, who want an alternative, someone to come and talk to them.
This is your first encounter with electoral politics. How does it feel?
I feel liberated. Every citizen should have basic food, water and a secure job. Having a career should be about participating in the nation building process. But somewhere we have gone off track and everyone is running after power and pushing his or her ideology. There can be differences in ideology, but every political party , leader and government must make sure to provide the people a basic quality of life. (In its absence) We see so much of frustration , dismay and nothingness around. Civic bodies and society need to come together to address these problems. We cannot always be in a denial mode and treat everything as if it belongs to the outpatient wing when there is a need for specialised ICUs.
It's often said that bad politicians are not born, but created by good people , who don't vote.
They are not good people, but lazy people. Look at Bengaluru Central, 45 per cent did not vote (the last time) and this is why the wrong people are elected. The result is growth of slums and poor job security. I have been having long conversations with such people and I hope they will come (to vote), because citizens need to come together to usher in change.
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