Actor Manchu Vishnu was elected as the new President of Movie Artists Association (MAA), defeating Prakash Raj by a huge margin in a bitterly contested election. The son of veteran actor Mohan Babu, Vishnu defeated his rival by an impressive 106 votes.
Ending day-long suspense, MAA election officer Krishna Mohan announced the poll results on Sunday night. Vishnu polled 380 votes while Prakash Raj, who was branded as non-local by some supporters of the rival panels, could secure 274 votes.
A native of Karnataka, Prakash Raj acts in Telugu and other South Indian films. He had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Bangalore Central as an independent candidate in 2019.
There was mild tension at the polling booth when Vishnu panel members alleged that Prakash Raj panel members were campaigning inside the booth. Siva Balaji tried to stop a member of the Prakash Raj panel who was allegedly giving dummy ballots to voters. There was a heated argument between the two groups and the police had to intervene to pacify them.
Mohan Babu also took exception to the campaign by the Prakash Raj panel inside the booth. He urged voters to leave in five minutes after exercising their franchise. There was also a heated argument between Siva Balaji and Hema.
The Vishnu panel also bagged the key posts of Vice President, General Secretary, and Treasurer. Madhala Ravi was elected Vice President beating Benerjee of the Prakash Raj panel.
Raghu Babu trounced Jeevitha Rajasekhar for the post of General Secretary by 7 votes. Siva Balaji was elected treasurer, defeating Nagineedu by 32 votes. Balaji polled 316 votes while Nagineedu secured 284 votes.
Srikanth from Prakash Raj panel elected
Actor Srikanth from the Prakash Raj panel was elected Executive Vice President. He defeated Babu Mohan of the Vishnu panel.
The acrimonious election was seen as a tussle between families of megastar Chiranjeevi and veteran actor Mohan Babu. Chiranjeevi's family backed Prakash Raj while Mohan Babu actively campaigned for his son Manchu Vishnu.
Soon after the results were declared, Chiranjeevi took to Twitter to congratulate Vishnu and other members of the new body. He hoped that the new body will work for the welfare of all artists. "MAA has always been one family. No matter who wins, it's the victory of our family," he wrote.
Earlier speaking at a film event Chiranjeevi expressed his displeasure over the acrimony created during the MAA elections. He remarked that positions are temporary.
According to the election officials, 68 per cent polling was recorded which was the highest in the history of the MAA. Out of 925 members of the MAA, 883 were eligible to cast their votes and of them, 605 did so to elect a 26-member body comprising the President, two Vice Presidents, Executive Vice President, General Secretary, two Joint Secretaries, Treasurer and 18 Executive Committee members.
The polling which began at 8 a.m. at Jubilee Hills Public School was peaceful barring minor clashes between the two rival groups. The polling, which was to end at 2 p.m., was extended by an hour by election officer Krishna Mohan. The counting of votes began at 4 p.m.
The first result went in favour of the Prakash Raj panel when Shia Reddy was elected as an executive member. This was followed by three more victories for the panel as Anasuya, Kaushik and Suresh Kondeti were also elected as executive members.
From the Vishnu panel, Poojitha, Shashank, Jayavani, U.P. Srinivasulu, Srilakshmi, Manik, Harinath Babu, and Vishnu Boppana were elected as executive members.
Chiranjeevi, leading actors Pawan Kalyan, Balakrishna and Nagarjuna were among the leading personalities of Tollywood who cast their votes.
Murali Mohan, Mohan Babu, Jaya Prada, Rajendra Prasad, Roja, Babu Mohan, Naga Babu and other prominent faces also came to vote.
After a bitter campaign between the rival panels, scenes of camaraderie were witnessed on the polling day. The two actors, battling for the post of MAA President, shook hands and embraced each other to declare that they are all one.
What Chiranjeevi said
Prakash Raj also shook hands with Mohan Babu and took his blessings. Mohan Babu had arrived early at the polling booth to bless his son Vishnu and claimed that the panel enjoyed the support of the majority of voters.
MAA founding President Chiranjeevi said he cast his vote as per his conscience. He said every time MAA elections were being held with the same acrimony and called for putting an end to this trend.
Actor-politician Pawan Kalyan was one of the first to cast his votes. Talking to reporters, the Jana Sena president declined to name the panel he votes for saying this would amount to influencing voters. He said MAA elections would have no bearing on the friendship between his brother Chiranjeevi and Mohan Babu. Pawan said the film industry will not split due to MAA polls.
Chiranjeevi's other brother Naga Babu, however, told reporters that he cast his vote for the Prakash Raj panel.
Leading actor Balakrishna told reporters after casting his vote that Prakash Raj and Vishnu are like brothers. The actor-politician, who had earlier declared his support to Vishnu, said he votes for those who will do better.
Veteran actor Jaya Prada also cast her vote. Mohan Babu said she flew in from Delhi at his request to participate in the voting.
(With inputs from IANS)