Chandrababu Naidu interview: Tried my best to connect Telangana and AP

Interview/ N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister

N. Chandrababu Naidu N. Chandrababu Naidu

At 68, Nara Chandrababu Naidu displays what he is made of. Despite temperatures touching 40°C in some regions, the president of the Telugu Desam Party campaigns for 12 hours straight across the state. Though far younger leaders are fainting because of dehydration and cancelling programmes to avoid the heat, Naidu has only upped his game with his aggressive speeches. "I do not have much choice, do I? I am a very positive person and mentally strong, too," he said. "I feel like a responsible village elder who has to protect and provide shelter to his entire village."

On the day of this interview, Naidu had cancelled his morning programmes and staged a sit-in protest for an hour in Amaravati, alleging that the Centre was targetting TDP leaders with income tax raids. He then flew to Kurnool to address back-to-back public meetings. On the flight from Kurnool to Visakhapatnam that evening, he spoke to THE WEEK about his party’s prospects, allegations against him and the future of the Mahagathbandhan.

How do you rate your party's chances this time?

We are definitely winning the elections. I have been in politics for 37 years and I have seen many elections. When you perform well, people will have a positive feeling. Despite many hurdles in the last four and a half years, we could perform well. Whatever was due was not given to us and we used our resources to the maximum. We have introduced welfare programmes like old-age pensions, which is better than what is being offered in Telangana. Wherever there was an issue, I addressed it because of which the delivery of services is very simple. There is no corruption anywhere and a feel-good factor is prevailing in the state.

You say Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao is insulting the people of Andhra Pradesh. Are you suddenly discussing Andhra pride because the elections are around the corner?

I waited patiently all these years. Who developed Hyderabad? It was my brainchild. I did it for all the people living in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. I took a risk and achieved everything one by one. I created a goldmine. The present government in Telangana has not added anything. Infrastructure has deteriorated. I want to ask, what is KCR's work? To abuse me? To raise sentiments? People in Telangana are getting carried away. Fine, it does not matter. But he is halting the progress of this state (AP). What is the need for him to interfere in the Polavaram project? He made sure AP did not get its quota. Just because we were in Hyderabad, he blackmailed us. Why should I surrender to him?

Because my party is in Telangana, we contested the elections, but he exploited it. I am not interfering in Telangana affairs. At the same time, I have a responsibility to tell people in AP about the affidavits he filed. All this while, I tried my best to connect the two states. He did not cooperate.... KCR and [YSR Congress president] Jagan Mohan Reddy got together and are playing politics in this state. If they want to fight, let's fight.

Leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal and Farooq Abdullah have campaigned for you in Andhra Pradesh. Do you think it will influence the voters?

We are united at the national level. We wanted to have a pre-poll alliance, but for some reason it did not materialise. We even wanted a common minimum programme. The only way forward now is a post-poll alliance. Wherever they want me to go, I will go. Ultimately, we are united. How to move forward or form a government, we will decide that after the elections.

Some regional parties do not seem to be happy with the Congress. What are you doing about the differences within the Mahagathbandhan?

I am trying my best to get these parties together. Other senior leaders are also working on it. The efforts will continue.

In case the BJP comes to power at the Centre and your party wins in AP, will you work with them for special category status?

We will not compromise and we will fight till we achieve it. There is no chance that the BJP will come to power.

What about the financial condition of the state? Will Amaravati and numerous sops become a burden for the state treasury?

We got only 46 per cent revenue at the time of bifurcation for 58.3 per cent population. In welfare and development, we have done better than Telangana. Our growth rate is high and we rank high in ease of doing business. Our rural infrastructure is very good. I am confident we will generate income and at the same time we will also focus on welfare schemes.

Opposition parties say you have secret pacts with the Congress, actor Pawan Kalyan and others.

Why will I have secret agreements when I can openly go for alliances? They are fighting in this election and so are we. The parties you have mentioned have taken (poached) my candidates also. The opposition parties are looking for excuses as they are going to lose.

What about the phone-tapping charges against your government?

Where is the proof? Who told them that we are tapping their phones? These are unnecessary allegations.

Do you think only Rahul Gandhi can become prime minister or are there eligible seniors from regional parties in the Mahagathbandhan?

We will sit together, arrive at a consensus and take a decision after the elections.