Union Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj V Kishore Chandra Deo, a five-term Lok Sabha MP and once in the Rajya Sabha, is recontesting from Arakku (ST) in Andhra Pradesh. Excerpts from an interview during his campaign:
Bifurcation seems to have damaged the Congress seriously. Is there anything your party could have done better?
I fully agree that if the situation had been deftly and better handled, the Congress would have had a much better chance in these elections, but unfortunately things didn’t happen this way. One after another, events kept overtaking the time we had before us. To add to that were the local body elections which had to be conducted due to the direction of the Supreme Court. I think ultimately that what was created (is) this confusion and it’s very very difficult. In my political career, I have not witnessed a more confused election than the one we are having here right here in Andhra Pradesh.
Will this confusion result in a broken mandate or a decisive one?
I would not be surprised if there were some kind of a decisive mandate. The tradition of Andhra has been to give a decisive mandate, but this time the situation is different from all earlier elections. So I think only when the counting takes place will we really know what has really happened.
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What is your assessment of the TDP campaign?
Basically, whatever package TDP may offer has been there in 2004, 2009, and with more resources than the Congress, they could not win. But in this confused atmosphere and situation, TDP may gain by default, in the absence of a credible alternative by other parties.
Do the prospects of Jaganmohan Reddy’s victory worry the Congress more than the TDP’s, as he is taking away the Congress’s base voters and issues?
To be very frank, I have not been worried about the Jagan factor at all. It’s more of an electronic wave. I agree that sometimes electronic waves can give you electronic shocks also. So it’s left to be seen how things will emerge. YSR Congress influence may be (present) in Raylseema, but in Krishna, Guntur and northwards from there, his presence is being felt only because of the opulence of the campaign.
Nationally, there seems to be just one coalition keen to form a government. The Congress appears anxious to turn into an opposition party.
I don’t agree. Now (Narendra) Modi has also been a creation of the media to a great extent, backed by corporate houses. He has already been acting and talking like a PM. So I feel his prime ministerial term will end on May 16. I don’t see him as a threat whatever may be the projection. I have always felt the BJP won’t cross 160, and I still stand by that. And there are very few people who will go with him. Realistically, the Congress appears to be losing seats in my state through its own doing… Eventually when the count is made, things will even out and though the Congress will lose some seats and the BJP may gain, when it comes to the crunch of forming the government, I don’t think they will be able to make it. Ultimately, the non-BJP-NDA and non-Congress parties will play a major role in government formation. In any case the Congress will definitely get 130-plus and I think the Congress will have to play an active role to ensure that secular forces take charge.
So there is no romance in sitting in opposition?
No. Not as far as I am concerned.