Whoever becomes CM, Congress motto is to serve people: Bhatti
All of them are expressing the same kind of anguish, unhappiness, a feeling that they have been let down by the present dispensation.
Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka who has been on a padayatra – People’s March – with the slogan ‘KCR Mukt Telangana’, crossed the 1,000-km milestone on Saturday in Nalgonda district. On the occasion, TNIE’s B Kartheek spoke to him about the response he is getting and how it is helping him understand the aspirations of the people. The CLP leader exuded confidence that the Congress would come to power but dismissed as baseless the perception that he was taking out the padayatra with eyes on becoming the Chief Minister.
Excerpts from the interview
How is your padayatra going on? How is the response from the people?
It is going very well. The response I am getting is making me happy. At the same time, I feel bad as thousands of people are pouring out their problems in the absence of a responsive government.
The separate Telangana movement was built on employment, water, irrigation, and the distribution of wealth among the people. But, after the creation of Telangana State, the objectives of the movement were lost sight of. That is the reason why thousands of unemployed youths, Dalits, and marginalised sections are meeting me. All of them are expressing the same kind of anguish, unhappiness, a feeling that they have been let down by the present dispensation.
The Telangana government is celebrating Dashabdi Utsavalu. How do you see it?
There is nothing wrong with celebrating the anniversary of the Telangana statehood. But, the celebrations have to come from the heart of the people. You cannot force the celebrations on people who are forgotten and neglected by the government. If the people are really happy they will celebrate the occasion on their own. The government need not spend Rs 200 crore. The other day, a sarpanch was telling me that the government had given Rs 20,000 to him to organise the festivities. It was never like this. Had Telangana achieved the purpose for which people had fought, they would have celebrated the occasion on their own.
Your padayatra’s slogan is ‘KCR Mukt Telangana’. Would you be able to do that?
KCR has become the stumbling block for achieving the aims and aspirations of the people like irrigation, employment, self-respect, wealth creation and distribution, and land distribution. We had thought that if a separate state became a reality, they would automatically become available. But it has not happened. Who is responsible for this? It is KCR. He and his family are in the way of the development of the State.
How is KCR blocking development?
Water was the main objective of the Telangana movement. Particularly, Krishna and Godavari river water. We had hoped to tap the water and provide it to the parched fields in Telangana. Now it is almost a decade since Telangana state was created. What did KCR do in respect of Krishna River water? The projects conceived on the river are still pending like the SLBC tunnel. 90% of the work was completed, but in the 10 years, KCR could not get time or resources to complete the remaining 10% of the work and provided water to Nalgonda district. The same is the case with Palamuru Rangareddy LIS. In the decade gone by, Telangana could not access even a single drop of water from the Krishna River. Regarding Kaleshwaram, KCR claims it is the biggest project in Asia. I have been to the project sites at Medigadda, Annaram, and Sundilla. They are not barrages in the strict sense of the term. They just check dams, maybe a little bigger. There are no canals for these barrages. After completion of the project, only 115 tmcft of water was lifted from the Sripada Yellampalli project, which means that whatever water was lifted was lesser than the water released downstream. That shows even Kaleshwaram had not given a single drop of water to Telangana.
In your 1,000 km padayatra, what have you learnt?
People are going through an ordeal. They need a roof over their head, a piece of land to live on, a job to survive, water, and most importantly, freedom of expression.
KCR has turned into a dictator over time, and if anyone questions him, the police will be after them. Field-level officers like CI and DSPs are reporting to MLAs, not to their superiors anymore. KCR has totally politicised the police department. He has been using the force as a private army of the BRS.
You talked about housing, drinking, and irrigation waters. But, aren’t these issues covered under the 2BHK housing scheme, Mission Bhagiratha and Mission Kakatiya?
Missing Bhagiratha is a totally different scheme. It is meant for providing drinking water. Even this Mission Bhagiratha had miserably failed. There is a major scam behind it. I have walked from Boath constituency in Adilabad district to Nalgonda till now. In a majority of the villages, there was no piped water supply.
Do you think your slogan -- KCR Mukt Telangana -- will have any traction with the people since there is a narrative that has been assiduously built that KCR is Telangana pita (father of Telangana)?
KCR has created that perception. But it is not because of him that Telangana has become a reality. It was because Congress decided to divide the state. KCR has been winning elections, promising the moon to the people. In the last nine years, he has damaged the economic fabric of the state. He has looted its resources, its land. Today, people have realised that they had fought for Telangana to better their lives and not to be looted by someone else. Unfortunately, KCR and his family began looting the wealth of the State which should have gone to the people.Also, as Singareni Collieries Company Ltd is the biggest state-level public sector undertaking, it should have been the starting point for providing employment to the youth of Telangana. Instead, he is trying to give away coal blocks to private operators, by which he is denying employment to local people. Singareni has created lakhs of jobs. At one point of time, it used to have around 1.2 lakh employees. Now, the number has come down to 42,000. If he gave coal blocks to private players, the number of employees would come down further to 10,000. I think this is the biggest of all crimes he has committed.
You are promising several things to the people during your padayatra. What gives you the confidence that you would come to power in the state?
The people who are thronging my meetings. I get unmistakable signs that we are winning the election this time. When we come to power we will provide Rs 5 lakh to the eligible beneficiary for the construction of Indiramma houses. We have distributed nearly 24 lakh acres of land; we will do it again. In contrast, the State government is taking away their lands. When we come to power, we will protect the government lands.
Don’t youth think the lack of unity among Congress leaders might turn the people away from you?
It is not true. We are all united and we are working together in the interest of the state and the people.
Has TPCC chief Revanth Reddy joined your Padayatra?
He took part in my padayatra as it was passing Mancherial and Jadcherla. In fact, all other leaders took part in it. Our priority is to bring Indiramma Rajyam which is a welfare state. Also, we are equally committed to upgrading the infrastructure in the state. The motto of the Congress is to serve people, not ourselves. We are not bothered about who would become the CM at this point.
You have started Padayatra before the Karnataka election, and are continuing after the results also. How did the dynamics change?
Our party’s victory in Karnataka has an impact on people here. There is a jubilant mood among the people.
The equations in Telangana and Karnataka are entirely different. You had BJP to fight there, but you BRS to fight, outgrowing your other political rival BJP?
We don’t see BJP as a force to reckon with. We are fighting against the BRS government which is feudalistic in nature. Telangana people do not tolerate feudalism and I am sure they would throw the BRS by the wayside in the next elections.
There is a growing perception that the Congress high command is encouraging you to be the party’s Chief Minister’s candidate to get Dalits on your side. How do you see it?
That you have to ask the high command. I have been given the responsibility of taking out a padayatra and I am doing it.
What have you learnt from your padayatra?
I would answer that question after the completion of my padayatra. But, I feel concerned for Telangana people after padayatra. As a legislator, I may not have seen some of their problems. But, now I’m learning about the seriousness of their problems. If the State decides to help the people, it can really change their life overnight. But the current government is not bothered about the people and their travels.