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VIJAYAWADA: Nara Lokesh has dropped enough hints to indicate that his party is willing to strike strategic alliances with Prof M Kodandaram’s Telangana Jana Sena (TJS), and importantly, the Congress, in the neighbouring Telangana. Though he didn’t say so in as many words, he made it amply clear that his party will do whatever it takes to keep the BJP and its “comrade-in-arms” the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) out of power.
“My personal view is that BJP should not win and clearly, TRS and BJP are going together. It is match-fixing. If you look at the last three months, the sequence of events in Telangana is leading towards it. Telangnana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said not one word against the BJP or Modiji. He claimed their gotras are different. Gotra may be necessary for a marriage, not for illicit relationship!” he quipped.
In an exclusive interview to TNIE at his chambers in the State Assembly, the 35-year-old, at the end of a tiring day, was confident and combative without being complacent. Munching on papaya pieces, the son of Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu reasoned that aligning with Congress, the party which divided the State, would not backfire on the TDP.
“They are willing to give special status to Andhra Pradesh. When a person from Odisha asked how could you give special status to Andhra, Rahul Gandhi said at the CWC clearly that it was a commitment made by Parliament. Finally, our politburo will decide but we will work with whoever does justice to Andhra Pradesh. Definitely, we want to defeat the BJP at the national level,” he said. Asked if the TDP is also looking at joining hands with Prof Kodandaram, the architect of the Telangana movement who spewed venom on the yellow party, Lokesh, while pointing out that the Professor sidelined by the TRS, had attacked everyone from Andhra at the height of the movement, claimed “they now realise they got the State but did not get any real freedom.”
To a pointed query on whether the TDP has initiated talks with the Congress, TJS and the Left in Telangana, he replied in the negative. “We have not initiated talks with other parties. Discussions will take place tomorrow with our party cadre when Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu visits Hyderabad. They will take it forward,” he clarified. “Wait and watch. Tomorrow we will tell you. Tomorrow we will give clarity after talking to our cadre and leaders,” he said.
The TDP’s strategy seems to be to rope in Kodandaram, a credible face in Telangana, before striking an alliance with the Congress. It serves two purposes. One, it will help in neutralising the TRS accusations of an “opportunistic alliance” between the TDP and the Congress and two, it will blunt the TRS charge of TDP being an Andhra party. TDP sources indicated the professor was also in favour of joining hands with the TDP. It is also obvious that the TDP has decided to adopt a similar political strategy in both Andhra and Telangana, which is to make the BJP enemy number 1 and show how the TRS in Telangana and YSRC in Andhra are in cohorts with it. Lending credence to this, Lokesh cited several instances of the TRS-BJP bonhomie.
“Our CM sought time to meet the PM but he didn’t get it whereas KCR and even KTR were given appointments. If you look at the zonal system or for that matter, anything in Telangana, everything is okayed by the Centre in a jiffy. But when AP asks its rightful dues, nothing is cleared. Niti Aayog advised the Centre to grant an additional Rs 666 crore for Amaravati, but the PMO has not endorsed it. And, look at the speed at which KCR’s resignation was accepted and Assembly dissolved. I was shocked. Even more shockingly, KCR gave out the election schedule even before the Election Commission! I wonder who is the election commissioner. What does all this mean?” he questioned and alleged the TRS has not announced candidates wherever there are sitting BJP MLAs.
Also questioning the TRS achievements, he sought to know what has it done in the last four years. “KCR brands TDP as an Andhra party. He became CM that way. But he did not deliver. Telangana development came about because of TDP. Cyber Towers, ORR, airport, widening of Hyderabad roads, flyovers everything materalised because of TDP. Have they built even one flyover? Even now in rural Telangana, be it cement roads or water schemes, it was all done by TDP,” he asserted.
Lokesh, nonetheless, sounded pragmatic when he admitted that this message of the party will have to be taken to the people by the cadre in Telangana. “Yes, leaders have left the party but our cadre is strong. If CM Naidu calls for a meeting in Hyderabad, 5,000 people come. What does it indicate? We have a number of youngsters. We can build a young leadership,” he asserted and sounded upbeat about the party’s prospects, pointing out that TDP had garnered the second highest vote share in the GHMC polls.
But he felt it was unfortunate that the first elected government in Telangana did not last its full term and wondered why KCR had resorted to it. He also lashed out at the TRS recalling that the party leaders, including KCR’s daughter Kavitha, had at one time supported special status to Andhra but later walked out of the Lok Sabha when it came up for discussion. “It is now convenient for them to blame Andhras, is it?” he questioned and accused the TRS of failing to deliver on big promises.
“They delivered on routine things like pension, ration etc. However, where are the double bedrooms for the poor? KCR had famously said he would not seek votes if he failed to give tap connections to every household. When asked about it, he now says it doesn’t matter if those who did not get it don’t vote for him. It is all pomp and show. They are great orators but that is where it starts and ends for them,” he added and mocked at the 21 per cent growth rate claimed by the Telangana Chief Minister, exclaiming, “I don’t know what to say!”