Congress will get sweeping mandate, BRS a zero: Uttam Reddy

He says it is clear that a group of police officers tapped phones of many politicians
Irrigation Minister Uttam Kumar Reddy gestures while speaking during an interview with a TNIE team in Hyderabad.
Irrigation Minister Uttam Kumar Reddy gestures while speaking during an interview with a TNIE team in Hyderabad. (Photo | Sri Loganathan Velmurugan)

The Congress CEC [Central Election Committee] meetings have been going on for some time to choose candidates for the three pending constituencies. What is the reason for the delay?

In segments where the competition is more intense, the Congress high command is deliberating with various leaders.

Any surprise from Khammam in the offing?

I don’t think so.

A lot of tickets have been given to leaders who have just come from other parties. It’s one thing to welcome them but to also reward them with tickets… How is it being taken by long-time party workers and leaders?

Winning elections is very important for any political party in this country now. With winnability and social justice as the two criteria, the Congress is allocating tickets. I personally think that it’s a good decision to give the tickets to some of the new entrants. They are better than whatever aspirants we had in-house. So this is a process now being followed by all political parties in all elections throughout the country, and there is nothing wrong with it. Whoever has more chances of winning, any political party will opt for such a candidate.

There is belief in the political circles that the Congress did not field strong candidates in a few segments. What is your response?

I think the 14 candidates who have been picked by the Congress so far are the best in those constituencies. I am quite sure that we will get a sweeping mandate in Telangana.

After your term as PCC president, you have not got a post in AICC?

I’m quite comfortable and satisfied with the position that I’m in now. Whatever role has been assigned to me, I am performing that role. I have two departments that are fairly large [Irrigation and Food & Civil Supplies] and deeply linked with the lives of the entire Telangana public. In the party, whatever role has been assigned to me, I’m doing it to the best of my ability. It’s also a matter of greater prestige that I am part of the 15-member CEC of the AICC. As of now I’m satisfied and content with what I have and where I am.

It seems the Congress is trailing in at least nine segments. Why do you think it is happening? Especially when your party has just won around 100 days ago.

I think your information is not correct. The Congress is targeting 15 seats in Telangana.

Do you second the statement of the CM that this election is a referendum on your 100-days rule?

It is a Congress vs BJP election. Since we have formed the government, our performance will also be judged. We have done remarkably well in the short time that we have been in power.

BRS and its chief K Chandrasekhar Rao are alleging that though there is a chance to lift Godavari water from Yellampally project, the Congress government is portraying Medigadda as useless.

Now, 100% of the Telangana public know and believe that KCR perpetrated a huge fraud on the people of the state with massive corruption in the Kaleshwaram project. Every single Telangana citizen knows that Medigadda barrage collapsed when KCR was the chief minister, not when we were in government. For 45 days, he did not open his mouth. What he says at times is ridiculous. That phase is over. That 10 years of dictatorial, undemocratic, corrupt regime of KCR is over. People have genuinely said: “Bye, bye KCR” — for good. There is no possibility of KCR making a comeback in Telangana. Ever.

Of course, we have been lifting water from Yelampally. With respect to the three barrages — Medigadda, Annaram, Sundilla … we will go according to the NDSA report. I have requested them to give an interim report quickly because the monsoons will come and the Godavari will flood again. This drought is KCR’s doing. If Medigadda, Annaram, Sundilla barrages didn’t have a problem, at least we would have had some tmcft water from Godavari into Yellampally and then to northern Telangana. No proper soil tests were conducted, no proper geological studies done. KCR and his team have blundered and they have plundered. And on Krishna waters, we have proved in the Assembly with figures that during his time, much more water has been diverted illegally to Andhra from separate Telangana than ever before in combined Andhra Pradesh. Thus, KCR and the BRS are entirely responsible for the water scarcity and drought situation in Telangana.

The CM has been repeatedly alleging that the BRS and BJP are colluding in Telangana and trying to topple the government. Why this insecurity in such a short period?

The CM is saying what is the general discussion outside. The BJP has this habit of toppling governments. They have done this in around 10 states in the last three to four years. The BRS is desperate to get to power somehow. They have been conspiring. But I think our government has stabilised now and I don’t see any problem for the next five years. This government has been performing far better than the erstwhile BRS regime. One simple reason for this — you have 11 members of the Cabinet working as a solid team. In the BRS, can ministers come and talk about their department? They all have to take KCR’s clearance and they would never get the appointment. Only he or his family members could speak.

In the Lok Sabha elections, who is your main rival?

The BRS has been reduced to a zero in Telangana. They will not get a single seat. In about 10 seats, we don’t have competition and we are sure to win. In one seat, MIM is our opponent and in the remaining six, its BJP.

The opposition has been alleging that there are irregularities in paddy procurement.

Normally, paddy procurement begins on April 1, it is a GoI programme. In Telangana, with special permission from GoI, we started on March 25. Till day before yesterday [April 13], we have procured 2.7 lakh tonnes. Last year on the same day, the paddy procurement was zero. We have opened 6,900 paddy procurement centres as of April 13. On the same date last year, they had opened 191 paddy procurement centres. Every single grain, we will purchase at MSP or more.

There is talk that to tackle the drought-like situation in the state, you made a proposal to the chief minister to construct a cofferdam near Medigadda barrage and divert water for irrigation purposes. But the CM is said to have rejected your proposal.

This is a lie. We work as a team. Every single decision is taken by us together. The NDSA said no water should be stored, otherwise the barrage would be in danger.

You are alleging that the Kaleshwaram is the biggest scam. But why are you not handing over it to the CBI to investigate ?

As soon as we came to power, we ordered a Vigilance inquiry. Unfortunately, the DG Vigilance suffered a sudden heart attack and died. Otherwise, the final report was to come. We have already taken action based on the interim report. We have ordered a judicial probe by a retired Supreme Court judge who was the first Lokpal of India. What bigger inquiry can you have? The Centre was free to order a CBI inquiry for 10 years. Why didn’t they do it?

On phone-tapping, you have mentioned that your phone was also tapped. What is really happening with the phone-tapping case.

I don’t know what is happening with the phone-tapping case now. But it is clear that a group of police officers were tapping the phones of several political leaders from both the opposition and ruling party. Phone tapping, hacking, all kinds of snooping devices were being used. They were also using it on film personalities. Apart from political sabotage, they were also using it for extortion and blackmail. Whoever is found guilty will face the music.

KTR is repeatedly saying that some leaders from Nalgonda and Khammam are eyeing the CM’s post. Who are they?

You have to ask KTR that. Maybe KTR is speculating to try and create a rift.

How are the Centre-state relations? What challenges or problems have you faced in your 100 days in power?

We are trying to maintain a good relationship with the GoI, irrespective of which party is in power. The state should benefit. There is no need to convert non-issues into issues. We are going to the Central government as per our eligibility norms to ask for assistance under specific Central schemes.

What is your approach towards Section 3 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act?

Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II has been formed with new terms of reference. We are going to very competently defend our case and ask for a larger share of Krishna waters.

How much?

We have put in a claim for 700+ tmcft.

The Congress has promised in its manifesto to strengthen the anti-defection law. Now your party is engineering defections from the BRS.

The BRS MLAs who are joining us are doing so willingly and gladly because they see that this government is going to do good for the people of Telangana and their constituencies.

Recently you spoke about CAA at an iftar meeting. Will it be implemented in Telangana or not?

I was an MP when the CAA Bill was introduced. We have opposed the CAA in Parliament and also outside Parliament. All opposition parties such as the TMC, DMK, AAP have opposed the CAA. I am confident that the INDIA bloc will come to power in Delhi. So the alliance may not be in favour of implementing CAA. We will have to see after elections.

Why is the Congress reacting differently to the arrests of BRS MLC K Kavitha and Delhi CM Kejriwal in the liquor scam?

Kejriwal and this issue, I don’t know enough for me to comment. But KCR’s daughter is very clearly involved in the liquor scam. Through media reports and remand reports that are being published or the court hearings, it appears that there is an element of guilt. I am reacting today as a leader of the Telangana Congress.

In reference to joinings from the BRS, the CM said that he lifted only one gate. When will you open the remaining gates?

The gates are open for anyone to join the Congress.

There are no ration cards to many people to avail the benefits of six guarantees? When will the government commence issuing the new cards?

Our Cabinet has taken a decision. We will issue ration cards immediately after the Model Code of Conduct is over.

Will the Congress government give things apart from ration rice?

We’re looking at different options. The government is seriously considering it.

What is the status of installing solar panels on irrigation projects? You have planned solar power projects on irrigation schemes in a big way. Can the providers supply enough panels?

The matter is being studied by the irrigation and energy departments. We are interested in promoting solar power in the state. How and in what way will be determined in the due course.

The BJP is coming up with the Hindutva and Ram Mandir agenda. How will the Congress counter it? Will it influence the election in Telangana?

Sri Rama is everyone’s God. I’m also a devout Hindu. I also go to Ramalayam every week. I don’t believe that it will have any impact in Telangana. We’re asking the BJP what they have done for the last 10 years in Telangana, from 2014 to 2024. Tell us one thing they did.

The land allocated during BRS rule to Sai Sindu Foundation, which belongs to BRS MP Bandi Parthasarathi Reddy and Hetero group, was cancelled by your government after coming to power. Then why did your government re-allot the land to the same foundation?

The Cabinet has taken a decision to increase the rent by two-and-a-half times and re-allot it.

TNIE team: Prasanna RS, VV Balakrishna, Ireddy Srinivas Reddy, S Bachan Jeet Singh, B Kartheek, Manda Ravinder Reddy, Swethavimala M and Ajay Tomar

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