Naramalli Sivaprasad dressed as Hitler
Once a stage artiste who also acted in several movies before joining the Telugu Desam Party
(TDP) in 1998, Sivaprasad has showed up in Parliament
dressed as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Krishna, a fisherman, a maulvi, a Christian priest, an astrologer, a street singer, a farmer, a schoolboy, a transgender — and even Hitler.
In 2014, at the height of political protests over the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, Sivaprasad attracted attention by lashing himself with a whip outside Parliament, and then also in front of the Speaker in the House to protest against the division of the state. When he landed at Tirupati airport
from Delhi after this whip-lashing episode, a massive rally welcomed him.
The protest, he felt, had had an impact. Then on he started wearing makeup and appearing in different avatars on every single day when Parliament
was in session. "I wanted to use my artistic talent to make the protests more appealing to people," says the 67-year-old. He is well aware that while his protests send a political signal to people back in Andhra Pradesh, they don’t necessarily effect a concrete change.
If initially he had misgivings about how his style of protest would be received, those were laid to rest when one day Bharatiya Janata Party leader Venkaiah Naidu
walked up to him to find out what message he had brought to the House that day. Others who took note of his protest were leaders such as Sonia Gandhi
and Arun Jaitley.
This random side-show of his, which was initially viewed as a distraction by his party colleagues, has now become a parallel track of protest by the TDP, particularly after the party broke away from the National Democratic Alliance during the last Budget session of Parliament.
Today, senior MPs from the party also want to be seen by his side. Sivaprasad’s over-the-top style of protest has become a unique tool to generate attention at the national level.
An entertainer at heart, Sivaprasad never appears as the same character twice. The only time he did so was when he came dressed as Krishna. "So far, I have appeared in 46 get-ups,” says the doctor-turned-politician. To make a case against the split of Andhra Pradesh, he appeared as Krishna when he visits the Kauravas to persuade them for a peaceful settlement with the Pandavas so that the impending war can be avoided.
He also appeared dressed as B R Ambedkar, with a message for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “This was Ambedkar advising the Prime Minister to bring a Constitutional amendment that would grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh,” he says.
While Sivaprasad’s son-in-law, Prasad, arranges the costumes and wigs, his wife Vijayalakshmi helps him with the makeup. He starts getting ready at 9.30 am and is all set by 10 am. Then for about 10 minutes he rehearses his lines for the day. And by 10.25 am, he is standing in front of the Gandhi statue at Parliament
house, ready with sound bites for the media.
Before he was elected to Parliament
in 2009 and then again in 2014, Sivaprasad was minister of information and public relations and culture in N Chandrababu Naidu’s government for two years. He and Naidu studied together from classes IV to X. As children, they also acted in a play, Paruvukosam (self-pride), with Naidu in the lead role and he playing a comedian. Today, had it not been for his protests, Sivaprasad says he wouldn’t have been half as famous.