A slight, unpretentious, 30-year old Yanadi woman gave a very effective speech at a political convention near Hyderabad last week and made an enormous impression. She will probably be nominated to be a candidate in upcoming state elections from the new political party that organized the meeting.

Tupakula Munemma, a wage laborer from the village of Pambali, in the Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh, impressed a convention focusing on the empowerment of women, which was organized by the superstar Telugu actor from the state, Chiranjeevi. He has recently become a politician, organized the Praja Rajyam Party in the state, and has plans to challenge the other established parties.

A mother of four and an ardent campaigner against alcohol, Munemma admits she forced her husband to stop drinking. Her words apparently electrified the crowd. “Some people here are talking about women’s empowerment but this can’t be achieved by men clad in safari suits and women wearing jewels. Chiranjeevi … wants to become the chief minister [of the state] but this is not enough. We have to go to every village, create awareness and tell people that we will solve their problems,” Munemma told the audience.

The actor was so impressed by her speech that he praised her boldness to the crowd and said he wanted her to be a delegate to the state assembly. “We need real life leaders in politics, too. Everyone should take inspiration from her courage and self confidence,” he said.

A question was raised as to where the new party had been born, but Munemma challenged the facile reply, “among the people.” She asserted, instead, that the party had been founded in Hyderabad. “The party is not born among people. We have to take it to people. … It is yet to reach the villages where the majority live,” she said.

She urged women to preserve their self respect by rejecting the free gifts that politicians give out to curry favor. “It is not the Chief Minister who should be held responsible for the failure of the State Government but the local leader who prompted people to vote.”

She praised the founder and the party, but focused her comments on self help. “Chiranjeevi will not ask everyone to vote for the party. We have to do the job,” she said. She has traveled widely in her district, even though her husband and children object to her efforts and ridicule her. But she refuses to look back, and urges other women to join her in her grassroots campaign. “Those coming in cars cannot get votes,” she said. Women activists should visit every village and convince people they should vote for Chiranjeevi.

The actor/politician told the convention that the Praja Rajyam Party will emphasize the importance of increasing the numbers of women representatives in the state legislature.