THIS WEEK, MEET Y.S. JAGAN MOHAN REDDY

Naidu has been trying to stop special category status

Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, politician

38-jagan-mohan-reddy Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy | Bhanu Prakash Chandra

YSR Congress Party supremo Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has been on a padyatra for the past four months raising different issues, especially the promised special category status for Andhra Pradesh. Asked about the competition between him and Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on this issue, he says, “Even now, where is his sincerity? He will not support my no-confidence motion and he will not let his MPs resign.”

Edited excerpts:

Fifteen hundred kilometres and four months. Like your father [Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy], you have undertaken this padyatra. And here we are talking in a little hut on the side of the road in Guntur. Why this padyatra?

This padyatra is about giving hope to the people who today stand betrayed. The false promises made by Chandrababu Naidu are the reason. He said he will waive the entire farming loans of Rs 87,612 crore knowing very well that it is not possible to do so. His disbursement was not even Rs 3,500 crore per annum. This does not even cover their interest cost. In the last four years, farmers were deprived of minimum rates assured for crops.

So, for you, the farmer distress is the single largest issue.

Not just agrarian distress. MNREGA is totally a failure where the scheme is being used to loot money. Students, thanks to Hyderabad being removed from Andhra Pradesh, don’t have jobs. Added to this, Naidu gives the wrong impression that Rs 20 lakh crore of investment and 40 lakh jobs have come.

Andhra Pradesh opposition leader Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy is the founder of YSR Congress Party. He formed the party in 2011, accusing ill-treatment by the Congress, after the demise of his father and former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Before entering politics in 2004, he had been an entrepreneur in power, cement and media sectors.

Are you saying these numbers are a lie?

It is totally a lie. In cinema a villain would be better than what Naidu is doing.

You are calling the chief minister a villain and a liar?

Absolutely. Look at his GSDP figures; 12 per cent growth rate is what he shows. The country’s growth rate is 6.5-7 per cent. America probably at 3 per cent. Europe is growing at probably 2.5-3 per cent. He claims 12 per cent!

You have made special status for Andhra Pradesh a key issue. Now, Naidu is competing politically; he has pulled out his ministers from the [Union] government.

See, before the elections, they promised special status in Parliament—the ruling party as well as the opposition. The BJP went one step ahead and said special category status for ten years. Narendra Modiji himself in Tirupati promised special status. After the elections, Naidu was supposed to pursue this.

What should he have done?

On March 2, 2014, the cabinet approved special category status. And, they had given orders to the Planning Commission to implement it. So what was Naidu doing when the Planning Commission was alive till December 31, 2014? Was Naidu sleeping? The matter does not stop there. Arun Jaitleyji on September 8, 2016 declared special assistance to Andhra Pradesh in lieu of special category status.

He made the argument that the 14th finance commission compels them to give special assistance, not special status.

When Arun Jaitley said those words, what was Naidu doing? Could he have not opened up his mouth and said: “Why do you speak about the 14th finance commission when the matter is not connected to the 14th finance commission?”

So you are saying Naidu should have spoken a lot earlier?

Yes. And, the 14th finance commission did not even say what Arun Jaitleyji has spoken. In fact, here’s this letter written by the 14th finance commission member Abhijeet Sen, making this clear. Moreover, the 14th finance commission does not have the prerogative to get into this area. The decision was already made by the 13th finance commission.

What is your objection to special assistance in place of special status?

Before that, let me just complete. Naidu has been trying to stop special category status. Even now, where is his sincerity? He says he has withdrawn his ministers from the cabinet; yet he continues with NDA. Yet, he says, he will not support my no-confidence motion and he will not let his MPs resign.

Naidu was initially willing to accept this special assistance instead of special category status. What is the difference between the two?

Only special category states have special industrial incentives. These special industrial incentives are 100 per cent income tax exemption, 100 per cent GST exemption, 100 per cent power rebate. These (incentives) are given only to special category states.

Could Jagan Reddy tie up with the National Democratic Alliance? You supported the BJP nominees for president and vice president. So, it is not as if you have also not shown some support for the Modi government.

Our support to Modi government has always been selective. We did not support Modi government on land acquisition act.

But, can a pre-poll tie up be ruled out?

In our state, none of the national parties play a role. We don’t need the BJP or the Congress. We need them for only one reason—special category status. So, you give the special category status today, we will support you.

Are you actually going to make your MPs resign on April 6?

Absolutely.

You met with Modi twice. How would you describe your relationship with him?

He was chivalrous. He sounded very proactive. We spoke about special category status; he never said anything negative about it.

There is talk of a post-poll alliance between the BJP and Jagan Reddy.

My stand is clear. You sign special category status and then we think. Let’s not trust anybody. Let all 25 MPs come together. As far as this no-confidence motion is concerned, we are requesting Naidu, “you become a part of it.”

So if he moves it, you will support?

I will support.

Because one of the statements he made is, “I’m not going to support a no-confidence motion because Jagan Mohan Reddy is an economic offender”.

See, he himself is an economic offender, caught audiotaped and videotaped, red-handed, distributing black money.

Can you prove that in terms of the cases and formal complaints and formal charges?

If it was any government employee you would have sacked him. Yet, this man goes scot-free. Isn’t it because he is in the ruling coalition with the BJP? Had it been an opposition minister that man would’ve been disqualified and sent to prison.

And how do you respond to the cases against you?

When were they filed? Not when my father was alive or when I was in the Congress. Only after I left the party did the Congress and the TDP come together and file these cases against me. It is nothing but political vendetta.

Do you feel betrayed by the Gandhis?

Well, nobody would actually do this kind of thing to somebody who served them loyally for so many years till his death. I think you would not even do this to your enemy. Yet, the Congress stooped down to a level that no one should. I leave it to God to judge what they should not have done.

Who is a bigger enemy for you? Is it the Congress, given your personal betrayal or the BJP? Have you met with Sonia or Rahul [Gandhi] after the death of your father?

No contact.

Has the BJP tried to reach out?

Why would either of them reach out to me; I’m not that big a leader. Now BJP is in power. Our sincere request to Narendra Modiji is, please honour the commitment made in Parliament. You say that Parliament is a temple of modern democracy. If words given in that temple are not honoured, people will lose hope in democracy.