That a popular man like film star Chiranjeevi is finding it difficult to win an assembly election in his home district of West Godavari tells volumes about the dim prospects his Praja Rajyam Party is facing in the fertile and rich Godavari belt of coastal Andhra.
Contrary to the general impression all around the state, the PRP has not been able to create any major stir in the twin districts of West and East Godavari, known as Annapoorna or rice-bowl of Andhra Pradesh.
While PRP's game plan completely hinged on the pockets of population of Kapu caste, to which Megastar belongs, not only Kapus were not supporting him en-block, the backward classes were also keeping away due to their inherent differences with the Kapus.
The biggest surprise came in Palacole assembly constituency where Chiranjeevi is in the fray against two strong rivals Dr Satyanarayana Murthy of Telugu Desam Party and Bangaru Usha Rani of the Congress.
Palacole, a prosperous business centre, is only 30 km away from Mogalturu village of Narsapuram where Chiranjeevi was born in a police constable's home.
Apparently the biggest reason for Chiranjeevi to opt for Palacole was that it was his wife Surekha's home town and her uncle Allu Satyanarayana had won the seat four times in the past on TDP tickets. The backward class dominated city -- with a fair share of voters from upper caste -- had also elected in the past another Kapu leader Harirama Jogaiah who left Congress to join the PRP.
There were number of factors going against Praja Rajyam in the region specially Chiranjeevi in Palacole. The elections here are being fought purely on the caste lines and caste considerations were proving to be stronger than even love for Chiranjeevi as Mega Star of Telugu films. The core issue here is that backward classes specially the Setti Balijas and the scheduled castes who constitute 60% of the total 1.47 lakh votes in Palacole have no love lost for Kapus. "We are afraid of Kapu's rise now. There are hoodlums among Chiranjeevi's supporters. You remember how film actor Rajasekhar was chased from Bhimavaram to Hyderabad and attacked by these people just because he had said Chiranjeevi was not suitable for films", said Venkata Ratnam in Yelamanchali.
Even the weaker community like weavers were not ready to support him. "socially speaking Kapus have not been a good neighbour", said Adinarayana at Chinchinada.
However the youth irrespective of caste line are supporting Chiranjeevi in their craze for film glamour and high hopes. "We want change and Chiru is the change", shouted a youth brigade in the heart of Palacole, a town of more than one lakh population.
"But many such youngsters don't even have the voting rights", said another person when asked about this response.
In what looks like a grave miscalculation on the part of Chiranjeevi, Kapus have only 35000 votes in the constituency and there is a threat of TDP candidate Satyanarayana Murthy chipping away five to seven thousand from this bank as he also hails from the same community. the secret of Murthy's popularity is that he is the fourth generation doctor in the family which has been treating the people here free of cost.
Congress' Usha Rani comes from an industrialist family with good political background. She served as the Municipal Chairman. She hails from Vysya community which has opened cash bags to ensure her victory. If Kammas are with the TDP, the other upper castes are standing with Usha Rani.
In another draw back in PRP game plan in Palacole, while TDP and Congress have strong organization at the lower level, the same can not be said about the PRP. While other candidates are going around on door to door campaign Chiranjeevi as the chief of his party has the compulsion of visiting other parts of the state.
But as Venkateshwara Rao, a voter in Daggaluru said, "This is a very close three way fight in which TDP has an edge. But any body could win with a very narrow margin". But such a victory will also not do justice to the status and the hype around Chiranjeevi.
In a reflection of the lack of confidence, Chiranjeevi is also contesting from the temple town of Tirupati, 500 kms from his home district.
As far as the entire Godavari belt is concerned, the PRP is at the most likely to win four assembly seats out of 15 in West and four out of 19 in East Godavari district, a far cry from the "Chiranjeevi wave" the PRP is claiming and people in the other parts of the state are expecting.