Updated: April 10, 2019 7:03:14 am
The united Andhra Pradesh gave the Congress 33 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 and 29 in 2004. The party, however, was decimated in the elections held after the bifurcation in 2014 — when it drew a blank both in the Assembly and Lok Sabha — and has not been able to recover since then. Most of the Congress leaders have either joined the TDP or YSRCP, among them three-time MP Kotla Jayasurya Prakash Reddy, son of former Chief Minister and Congress stalwart Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy. Reddy is trying his luck again from Kurnool, but this time on a TDP ticket.
You have been in the Congress all your life. Now you are the TDP candidate. How do you frame this election?
I am worried about farmers in Kurnool. I am a Congressman, but because of the small mistakes the Congress made, the party has disappeared. I tried to revive the party for four and a half years. There is no chance… I thought of retiring from politics. I also distanced myself from the Congress. But my people told me not to retire. Meanwhile, the TDP, YSRCP and the BJP contacted me. Then I thought I should meet the Chief Minister (N Chandrababu Naidu). I can place the demands of farmers before him and if he accepts, I can join. Naidu immediately agreed to construct irrigation and water projects. And I joined.
You said the Congress’s revival seems impossible in Andhra. Why couldn’t you all revive the Congress instead of moving out?
The division of Andhra was not done properly. The way it was done in Parliament — the chaos, locking up the doors — stayed in people’s minds. They still believe Congress did injustice to Andhra. If you go to rural areas, they are openly saying ‘no Congress’. And they still think Prakash Reddy means hastam (hand)… I am worried about that. We are educating them… that I have changed the party. The policy of the Congress is not correct. Mentally… they think why should we work, we will wait for 10 years and people will come back.
Won’t moving to a new party affect your credibility?
Of course. What to do? But the public is intelligent. They know Prakash Reddy joined the TDP because (otherwise) farmers will not survive. Eighty five per cent of the people in Kurnool depend on agriculture. I took the decision after discussing with my workers, leaders… They said there is no alternative, Congress will not survive. Follow more election news here.
Did you meet Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi in the last four and a half years and discuss your concerns?
I invited Rahul Gandhi to address a public rally in Kurnool in September 2018. It was a huge rally. But there are other things…. Leader is good, (the) family is very good, they want to improve the party. But local sentiment… they can’t help it. You go to any place and the public says ‘no Congress’. It will take at least 15 years. They think that the Congress unnecessarily spoilt Andhra Pradesh. The public of Rayalaseema go to Hyderabad every day, we have families there, businesses, houses… suddenly they divided it. We don’t have much connect with Vijayawada. Rayalaseema people don’t know Vijayawada.
Chandrababu Naidu joined hands with the BJP in 2014, then parted ways a year earlier, and is now attacking Narendra Modi.
According to the bifurcation Act, the Centre had to give a lot of funds to Andhra Pradesh… He (Naidu) waited for four years… (but) they kept the special status pending… He (Naidu) acted according to the situation of the state.
If the BJP falls short of a majority and seeks the TDP’s support promising a special package for Andhra, will the TDP be open to doing business with the BJP again?
It is too early to say. A decision can be taken only after results… Wait for another month. If you talk politically, anything may happen.
How different is the TDP from the Congress.
There is a lot of difference between the Congress and TDP. The Congress has a lot of freedom… Here, and for that matter any regional party… the leader is the whole and sole…
Unlike in the Congress where you could freely air your opinion?
Of course. There is a lot of difference… I do accept.
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