Prakash Raj: Just like BJP, Congress also doesn't want secular voices. There is only one vision for India now
Actor Prakash Raj has been camping in Delhi to support to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). He discussed his frustration with BJP, his disappointment with Congress and his hopes of a new political vision.
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Sitting back on a couch with his feet crossed, he held my phone as the conversation had to be recorded.
“No need to keep the phone on the sofa, I will hold it,” said Raj. The Dabangg 2 villain is taking on the political establishment that he holds guilty of neglecting the ordinary citizen for too long. After spending Sunday evening with JNU students, Prakash Raj looked tired but was more than happy to speak about issues which he feels need to reach the common man.
“I told youngsters in JNU that they not only need to look into their careers, but nation building too. When such things happen, during, say, Emergency or independence, some people need to take up this battle and say ‘No, we need to reclaim the nation’. I don’t want armchair politics. After JNU, Kanhaiya wanted to become a lecturer, but somewhere, we realised that we need to get into Parliament, our voice should be heard. We are not politicians and we have no agenda,” he added.
Bengaluru: Gauri killers planned to eliminate actor Prakash Rai, reveals SIT probe https://t.co/a3AEfE5vZK ....Look at the narrative to silence voices.. my VOICE will grow more STRONGER now .. you cowards ...do you think you will get away with such HATE POLITICS #justasking pic.twitter.com/tIZd5xoOvq— Prakash Raj (@prakashraaj) June 27, 2018
The outspoken actor didn’t hesitate to speak out against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP on several public platforms. After activist and journalist Gauri Lankesh was killed in 2017, Raj was seen standing close to her body. I asked him about Gauri Lankesh. His eyes lit up. Yet, he looked sad. “Her death was a major turning point in my life. It may not be the reason why I’m fighting the election now — my election today is on what this government has done to this country. But she made me think that I should come out of my comfort zone. Gauri’s death is a very personal pain for me that I can’t share... It is not that they came and killed Gauri because they wanted to kill just her. Killing Gauri was to make every other voice become silent and threaten them, scare them that we will kill you... I did not want another Gauri,” he said.
No filmi dialogues: Prakash Raj has been addressing crowds as a grounded candidate. (Source: Facebook)
The actor said the whole scenario changed when he asked the people in power why so many were celebrating a person’s death.
“The point is that when I started asking, ‘Why are you celebrating a death?’, I had not even pointed my fingers to who could have done it. Yet, it triggered a storm. People panicked; they thought that the voice had been silenced. My fight started and my campaign against communal violence and non-governance has not stopped; it is a way of life now. I can’t rest now, not even after the elections,” he mused.
'Think Maadi', 'Vote Maadi' (Do think, do vote). That is the slogan printed on the official Facebook page of Prakash Raj. He says that it’s so sad everyone wants to elect a Prime Minister and people don’t care about the local candidate.
“The whole issue is that we are stuck with PM, PM. What about the candidate of that constituency?” he questioned.
He is equally indifferent to both the national parties in the fray, he says, and claims neither of them is ‘secular’. He filed his own nomination for the Bangalore Central Parliamentary constituency, at present represented by KC Mohan of the BJP. The Congress has fielded a youthful Rizwan Arshad, who had lost to Mohan in the 2014 General Elections.
“People in the Congress are a burden to the party itself. I was with a friend and thinking that Congress or BJP are the same goons. It’s actually not the party; they are hand in glove already. If Rahul Gandhi wants to revive his party, he is to do a major revival because there are two brands, Congress or BJP — but the products in the brands are the same, they look after each other, they support one another, they eat into one another. Congress is not giving me a ticket — it’s their own problem because they are not able to do it. Congress itself does not want secular voices. But who is Congress to give me a ticket?" he broke off definatly. "I have never asked Congress for a ticket. I did not want to join any political party. If you think we need to stop the BJP, if you think you are secular, then you should support people like us. This does not mean we will join your party — I already have a problem with your party,” he spoke, then realised he had completely fogotten to have his tea.
In Bangalore Central, where he is contesting as an independent, his style of campaigning is similar to the Aam Aadmi Party. He mingles with people, he establishes a rapport with the crowd, he prefers to address smaller groups and even goes around in an auto. “I basically like what they are doing," Raj said about AAP. "When AAP came into existence, it was such a breath of fresh air. It is an alternative which could deliver — look at them, they are seeking votes on a report card that we have done this and that. They are not seeking votes in the name of religion, not polarisation or hatred. It’s Arvind Kejriwal or people like Manish Sisodia, this is what we need, parties, people who think for the country and work for the country,” he looked at me, as if seeking a yes.
Raj has forged an alliance with AAP, which has instructed its cadre to provide ground support to his political team in Bengaluru.
During his campaign, he has spoken about how important it is for one to know who your voter is. “Don’t vote for corrupt people. AAP has done remarkably well. As a citizen, when I look at them, they give me confidence that they are not corrupt. They are attempting to do something else; they are trying to find solutions. After more than 70 years of independence, a party can think of re-empowering, re-building, re-structuring government schools. It is not just the money which makes buildings — it's the very thought that you invest in a generation. When I come and stand for AAP, I’m sending a message that we need to look at people who think for us,” he quietly keeps the phone on a pillow.
During his campaign in Delhi, he smiles and gives selfies to kids. On being asked what he feels about PM Modi speaking of PM Rajiv Gandhi as ‘Bhrashtachari No.1, he replied, “Which Prime Minister? Oh...Rajiv... who is he? What about him? The problem with Modi is that he actually is outdated. He never talks of today or the future — he goes to the past. I don’t give importance to people who are outdated,” he responded, with a smirk.
Raj, who is well-known in both Hindi movies and the South Indian film industry, says he might not do movies as often as he did earlier. “I have seen a better actor in this country. I have seen Narendra Modi more in the company of Bollywood guys than me. Look at his photographs now, all makeup done, his hairstyle, he has groomed himself well from outside, within, I don’t know. So, if there is someone who is more talented than me, there is no point in fighting that! It’s very interesting to see an actor like that,” he smiled. But the smile vanished as he added, "I have never seen a Prime Minister whose language is so bad, so much of hatred, my ‘sena’. What is this?” he asked.
From movie sets to public meetings: Prakash Raj has taken his questions to power to the people now. (Source: Facebook)
He has been a voluble critic of the BJP — and he is consistent on that. "Modi has silenced his critics, don’t we have more journalists who can take his interview? Why on earth Akshay Kumar? In 2019, such an important election is happening — was I supposed to know how he ate mangoes, how he was poor, how he wears a watch? He does not let anyone ask questions — and there are no answers. There are so many journalists who could have done this interview — but why Akshay Kumar? Come on! This was a PR exercise,” he summed up as he wore his slippers and stepped out to the balcony. "Time for some fresh air," he smiled.
(As told to: Rohit E David)