Rama Krishna Sangem
A frail and the girl next door looking 26 year old Karne Sirisha, but now famous as Barrelakka has become a political celebrity. She turned sleepy Kollapur assembly constituency in old Mahabubnagar district of Telangana a election tourist spot. People from far and wide are coming here to have a glimpse of her, if not to chat or shake a hand or take a selfie with her. She is fighting elections from Kollapur as an Independent candidate. Her election symbol is vigil.
Barrelakka (she prefers to be called that way) became a center of attraction within a short span of two weeks, mainly after withdrawal of nominations on November 15. After remaining in fray, she released an interview on social media – Facebook – saying she has no money to campaign. She claimed to have been fighting the cause of unemployed youth of Telangana. Her previous videos, short reels and posts have made her a celebrity.
Barrelakka is now a symbol of power of social media. Many of media persons from Delhi and other cities are calling their friends in Hyderabad trying to know the details of her. I along with two journalist friends – a senior journalist who runs a YouTube channel and a journalist from Nagar Kurnool district centre – went to Peddakothapally mandal headquarter of Kollapur on November 26, Sunday to see Barrelakka and her campaigning.
Barrelakka’s mother Anuradha runs a small hotel, Silent Fast Food Centre at Peddakothapalli.. That is a small and nondescript eatery but is drawing constant stream of visitors thronging from different areas. A graduate girl from Vijayawada came there to see Barrelakka. A group of writers and social activists including Vommy Ramesh Babu, Geeta, Anand and Anant Chintalapalli landed there from Hyderabad to campaign for her.
Of course, we couldn’t talk to her personally, but had a close up of her style of campaign and the fan following she enjoys along the way. Yes, she looks like sitting MLA, with half a dozen cars in her convoy, four or five bouncers (private) and not less than half a dozen digital media cameras and a hundred plus crowd. She is getting curious visitors from as far as Bidar in Karnataka and Vijayawada in AP.
Whose votes she will cut into?
This is a general question we encounter from friends in Hyderabad. Kollapur is a southern most assembly seat of old Mahabubnagar district and Telangana too. Here sitting BRS MLA Beeram Harshavardhan Reddy is fighting for re-election with Congress’ heavy weight Jupalli Krishna Rao. BJP too fielded a strong candidate Sudhakar Rao People say, the man contest will be between Krishna Rao and Harshavardhan Reddy.
In this context, Sudhakar Rao (he belongs to Krsihna Rao’s community of Velama) is expected to split Congress votes and help the ruling BRS. But Krishna Rao supporters are confident that he will get enough votes to overcome the BJP challenge. Entry of Barrelakka too will further split Krishna Rao’s vote base, as she too is trying to get some anti-BRS votes here.
“Barrelakka is mainly focusing on anti-KCR government votes, so naturally, she will split the anti establishment votes so that indirectly she will help the ruling party,” said an analyst in Hyderabad. That maybe true, but her presence in the fray is irritating the ruling party leaders as she is repeatedly talking about lack of jobs to the youth in KCR rule. This theme of her campaign will definitely hit the ruling party.
How votes she will get?
How many votes she will get? is another question. Some say she may get around 5,000 votes, some say, around 10,000 votes and some say she can even win the election. But, my gut feeling is that she would be too happy, if retains her deposit – that will be around 20,000-25,000 votes. A candidates gets her or his deposit, if only they secure 16 per cent of the total polled votes. Kollapur has around 2.30 lakh votes and the polling can be around 75 per cent.
Even if she fares average, Barrelakka has political future. She is just 26 and has a lot of time to master electoral politics. Being an SC, her courage to contest in a general seat where she is now fighting with three forward caste candidates – two Velama and a Reddy – is not a small thing. Her fan base among youth, students and unemployed is impressive and this can go up. She is a graduate and now getting some election funds too from well wishers.
I am sure, all parties will vie with each other to woo her into their side in coming days. Noted author and Bahujan votary Prof Kancha Ilaiah told me in Hyderabad that: “Though Barrelakka is contesting in Kollapur, her impact is on entire Telangana. She has become a symbol of empowered youth and jobless”. He is right. Going by the interest shown by people across Telangana,
Barrelakka has just begun her political journey, and has a long way to go. She can succeed, if she plans every of her move carefully.