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INTERVIEW | Pawan Kalyan, Jaganmohan Reddy fighting it out for Opposition leader’s space: Nara Lokesh

Nara Lokesh faces a tough challenge in Mangalagiri where the TDP hasn’t won since 1985. In an interview with Kalyan Tholeti, he says it is an opportunity for him to turn around the party’s fortunes th

Published: 08th April 2019 07:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th April 2019 07:41 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Nara Lokesh faces a tough challenge in Mangalagiri where the TDP hasn’t won since 1985. In an interview with Kalyan Tholeti, he says it is an opportunity for him to turn around the party’s fortunes there. On Pawan, he asks how could the TDP tie-up with him when the actor attacked him

Why did you choose Mangalagiri because after 1985 TDP hasn’t won from here and even last time, TDP lost by 12 votes?

Where there is a crisis, there is an opportunity. Everyone typically goes to the stronghold of their party but I wanted to take a constituency and make it a stronghold. That’s why I chose Mangalagiri. Now that am here, I want to turn this around and make it a stronghold of TDP.

But this is your electoral debut? Is this a time for you to take on a challenge like this?

Challenge is an opportunity. People support you when you know that you are going to deliver good results. You have seen today the kind of overwhelming support I have received. They believe Lokesh will make a difference.

The YSRC appears to be targeting Mangalagiri deploying its star campaigners too

Everyone seems to be targeting Mangalagiri. They all come, they criticise me and go but they haven’t set any agenda for Mangalagiri. What are they going to do for Mangalagiri? I have a bold vision. I have given a direction of what I, as an MLA, will do for Mangalagiri. It is all that matters. We sort of looked through the larger party manifesto and what fits into Mangalagiri. We have given a manifesto and are taking that agenda to the people

Mangalagiri being the home to weavers, how do you propose to help them?

Handloom sector has been in trouble for various reasons. The government has done a lot of work on input subsidy but a lot more needs to be done. I am looking at, you know, why should they make the same old sarees as they have limitations in terms of sales, and price. We can actually work with them and make more high value products and take them to the international market. That will have a major impact. We are also looking at the entire maggam, as we call it in Telugu, the instruments they use and to centralise it to a certain extent, get inputs from modern retailers on what they need and how to reduce the role of middlemen.

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Why didn’t you do all of this in the last five years?

We have done three things in particular. We have done a waiver of ` 511 crore. We have given pensions and we have also worked with them on power supply. Technically, 100 units power is free now. Earlier, nothing was free. We have done a bit but now that I am here, I can take the Mangalagiri brand to the international level.

Reports say a lot of money is going to be pumped in Mangalagiri by TDP and YSRC?

People are not talking about Kuppam and Pulivendula anymore. The hot topic seems to be Mangalagiri. The Opposition wants me to lose for obvious reasons. Look at me, am going door to door, trying to meet as many voters as I can, clicking 2,000-2,500 selfies a day. It is generating a tremendous amount of goodwill on the field. If YSRC is spending money, it is their prerogative. I am sure the returning officer will not allow that. We are here with a clean conscience.

YSRC says TDP-Jana Sena are acting in tandem. What do you make of the Pawan Kalyan factor?

My humble view is Pawan Kalyan garu and Jagan Mohan Reddy are fighting for the Opposition leader’s space. Pawan Kalyan has hit out at me personally. I challenged him to prove the allegations. When he personally attacked me, how is it possible that we can have anything to do with him?

If there is a hung Assembly, will you be open to an alliance with Pawan?

I strongly believe Andhra will never go to hung. It has never done it. It will never do it. TDP will get a clear, decisive mandate.

Why does the TDP say time and again that I-T raids are politically motivated?

If you look at all over India, central agencies are being used for political gains. TDP leaders are being harassed again and again. I know leaders who have been raided twice in a month. It is very sad that such strong institutions are falling prey to this kind of political manoeuvring. I have never seen that. Irony is they found nothing at the end of it. If this is the case, the Finance Minister of India should apologise. Because every politically important person is raided with the knowledge of the FM. These raids happened even in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and other States. They don’t touch parties which are aligned with the BJP. YSRC is fine because Prashant Kishor is there. He seems to be carrying information here and there. People of Andhra are watching.

Is there any evidence to back up your allegations of an understanding between the YSRC and TRS?

Absolutely. I will give you two examples. The Praja Rathas that have come here are of TRS. They came with pink seat covers. YSRC forgot to change the seat colours. Quite a few of our MLAs have received calls from KTR himself not to contest or else, that their properties in Hyderabad would be attached. They were asked to withdraw or join YSRC. KCR himself said he has no problem working with Jagan. Jagan also said the same.

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