Accusing both the Centre and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu of lying, YSRC chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy rules out pre-poll alliances and says he would support any party which grants special status to Andhra Pradesh. In conversation with The New Sunday Express, Reddy shares his thoughts on special status for the state, farmers’ issues and a no-confidence motion against the NDA Government.
How is your padayatra going and what is the major issue you have identified?
Good. In normal circumstances, nobody enquires about people’s problems like this. This is an experience that invokes humanism in you. No section in the society is happy. Farmers are aggrieved, reason being in the last four years, there is no remunerative price for any crop. Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s promises proved to be lies. He promised to waive off crop loans. Thanks to him, these people stopped paying their part of the commitment to the banks.
Out of the Rs 87,612 crore required for the loan waiver, his entire contribution is some Rs 11,000 crore, meaning on an average less than Rs 3,000 per annum per farmer, which is not sufficient to bridge interest payments. Till he came into power, the previous governments were paying interest component to the banks so that farmers and self-help groups get interest-free loans. He stopped it. That is the worst thing because of which no farmer is getting interest-free loans. The farming community is reeling under pressure so much so that people have committed suicide.
In 2014, you did not promise loan waiver. Would you this time around?
We did not say that even now. What we said is we will give Rythu Bharosa (Support for farmers). If somebody has one acre land, at least 80 per cent of their production cost would be covered. Naidu still goes on cheating people. He claims he waived off crop loans, `20 lakh crore has come in and 40 lakh jobs have come. He says GSDP is growing at 12 per cent! If GSDP is at 12 per cent, we are number one in the world! All this put together is translating into a huge anti-incumbency wave.
Do you think the State can get special status?
Special status is our right. It was assured on the floor of Parliament while breaking the State... it was a precondition agreed to by all. Naidu was very much party to it. In spite of that, he intentionally ensured that special status did not come through. The then UPA Cabinet met on March 2, 2014 and approved special status. It sent orders to the Planning Commission. This man became CM on June 2, 2014. The Commission was in existence till December 31, 2014. All he had to do was just ask. What was he doing those seven months? On September 8, 2016, Arun Jaitleyji announced a special package in lieu of special status. This man should have immediately protested. Instead, in the middle of the night, he thanked Arun Jaitley. All these four years we were protesting for special status. When the PM was coming to AP, I was on a hunger strike. It was the eighth day. He could have told the PM the Opposition leader was on a hunger strike and mounted pressure. Instead, he sent cops at 3 am and lifted me from the tent. Every protest we called for was throttled.
Why do you think the Centre reneged on its promise?
I don’t think so. Rather, Naidu stopped persuading. He wanted cash. He said in lieu of this, I want to implement Polavaram irrigation project. He took Polavaram, brought in sub-contractors on nomination basis at inflated rates. It was the Centre’s responsibility. He should have let them do it. In fact, he stated in the Assembly that he wanted Polavaram so he gave up special status. The Centre is also to be blamed, whatever the reason for it going back on its word. If you look at Naidu, his philosophy is simple: he has failed all four years, he knows there is a huge anti-incumbency wave, so he wants to put the blame on somebody. The Central government happens to be the scapegoat.
You said your MPs will resign on the last day of the Budget session of Parliament. What purpose will resignations serve?
So far, Naidu was on the other side of the platform against special status. Now he has come to this side. The entire state is on one platform, the entire state moved a no-confidence motion, that is why it has become a national debate. If all MPs resign, definitely it becomes a national debate again. Then it may mount pressure on the Centre to give special status. If this is not done today, when will it be done? Six months later, everybody will be in election mode.
The TDP has been accusing you of having a tacit understanding with the BJP?
If somebody has a tacit understanding with the BJP, why would anyone move a no-confidence motion on that very party? Why is it that we are the people resigning? First of all, Naidu would not have moved no-confidence motion had it not been for us. On March 16th morning, he announced that his party will serve notice for a no-confidence motion.
Just the previous day, he had said he would support a no-confidence motion moved by anyone provided they have the numbers. The statement shows he did not speak to anybody to garner support. When this man knew that without his support also no-confidence motion would be put up, he took a U-turn, moved out of NDA, and claimed all these parties support it only because he moved the motion. The special status issue came into a different limelight only after I started the padayatra and declared that on the last day of Parliament session, my MPs will resign, and in the course of events, I went one step ahead and said on so and so date, we will move a no-confidence motion.
Will you have pre-poll alliance with anyone?
No. My slogan to people of AP is give me all 25 MPs. I will mount pressure. Support for anyone only after they sign special status.
Actor and Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan has severed ties with the TDP. How do you see this affecting the electoral math?
Naidu’s vote share or his alliance vote share was 45.5 per cent in 2014. Our vote share, contesting independently, was 44.5 or something. The difference was one per cent. Pawan’s support, BJP support, his own lies that people believed to be truth, his so-called experience, all these factors gave him that one per cent advantage. Everybody who liked the actor voted for TDP the last time. If he contests separately now, at best he would only take those votes that had gone to the TDP as his vote share. If he continues with the TDP, it will only be a repetition of 2014, but thanks to Naidu anti-incumbency, with less number of votes.
There is a perception that you are ambitious and you don’t listen to anybody. What is your take on it?
You travelled with me for at least two hours, did you ever travel with any politician who stops so many times to listen to so many people en route? And am answering every nitty-gritty of your questioning with utmost patience.