When he talks politics, actor Prakash Raj speaks briskly, clearly and passionately. He’s now an Independent candidate contesting against the BJP and the Congress for the Bangalore Central Lok Sabha seat. It’s going to be a surprise election, he tells Ajay Sukumaran in an interview. Edited excerpts:
For two years you've been vocal as a strident critic of the BJP, but you didn't want to get into politics. What changed?
I was not interested. But I realised that it’s not only about the BJP, but the electoral system itself. There’s no participatory governance. We need an alternative system in this country. It is citizens’ representation, no? The national parties have failed. They have only tried to take control over the country...they are another form of the rulers we didn’t want. This time, there are strong regional players who have realised they don’t have to play second fiddle.
Why Bangalore Central?
Because it’s my constituency. When I walk in these streets, I can see myself as a seven-year-old. I was born at St Martha’s Hospital here, grew up in Shantinagar and Chamarajpet, did a decade of theatre here and entered movies (Gandhinagar, home of ‘Sandalwood’, is in Bangalore Central). This is mini-India. Look around...there are Kannadigas, Tamilians, Telugus, Malayalees.
Why should they vote for Prakash Raj?
Because our voice is not heard in Parliament. Look at your candidate, not the party. Does he have a vision? If you don’t know history, you won’t understand the present and, therefore, you can’t envision a future. This is not to complain. It is time. Make in India...what to make in Bangalore? Does somebody have a vision for it?
What is your short message to voters?
We have to restructure; look at the corruption in BBMP (the civic body). We need to get buses, bring back the green cover. Each assembly segment here has a different issue. Look at the humus of the earth in Mahadevepura (an IT hub). It has been reduced to rubble in the name of development. Rain water doesn’t seep in. We have money, but funds aren’t utilised.
Bangalore has not been very kind to non-politicians.
I’m not just another Independent candidate. Some of the voters in Bangalore Central may not even know who Rizwan Arshad (Congress candidate) or P.C. Mohan (sitting BJP MP) are. But they know Prakash Raj, and I’m not just an actor here. They know how I’ve stood for issues. I have 5,500 people working with me. There’s CPI(M), CPI, AAP and women's organisations supporting me. I feel people are ready for alternative politics. If we don’t try, how will we know? If I win, I will deliver. If I’m not elected, I’ll make the person who wins deliver.