“People will teach Congress a bitter lesson”
YSR Congress President Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy is his confident self, invoking the name of his father and God’s grace, as he braces himself to lead the party in the 2014 General Elections. In an hour- long conversation at his Lotus Pond home in Hyderabad, Jagan, 41, as he is popularly known, spoke to Senior Editor AMARNATH K. MENON on his YSR Congress party, poll plans and political rivals. Excerpts:
Q. What are the challenges you face as president of the YSR Congress after spending 16 months in jail?
A. We pledged to provide a better life to people as enshrined in the policies and programmes that were initiated in the days of my father Dr Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Our party is working towards it. The opportunity to serve better will come soon. We are waiting for the 2014 elections.
Q. Q. How How do do you you propose propose to to step step up up the the Samaikyandhra Samaikyandhra campaign? campaign?
A. A. We have been at the forefront of the campaign against division of Andhra Pradesh. CPI( CPI( M) M) and the All India Majlise- Ittehadul Muslimeen ( AIMIM) AIMIM) are the other parties that have consistently opposed division. We are mounting pressure on other parties that matter in the Seemandhra region. If there are more parties on our side, our chances of stalling the plan to divide the state improve. We have announced a detailed programme for October. We will do everything we can.
Q. What can this ultimately achieve for your party?
A. We were always ahead of all other parties in Seemandhra and that has been confirmed by internal and independent surveys. Our stand is based on our conscience. We believe division of the state will bring with it issues related to sharing of resources and possibly lead to bitter inter- state conflicts. Politics has propelled parties to favour bifurcation.
Q. Will you continue with the populist and subsidy schemes initiated by your father?
A. Yes. We will continue with everything and do it even better.
Q. In what time frame will you put a party structure in place?
A. It is already there. Did not N. T. Rama Rao launch the party some seven months before the 1983 ( Assembly) elections? Structure is a byproduct of people’s mood and people’s support. Once that is there to be tapped, all that you need is an election symbol they can identify with. When compared to those days, the YSR Congress is better placed as we are able to sense the sentiments in each constituency. We have spent the last three- and- a- half years tracking it and bringing the party where it is now.
Q. Will you welcome migrants from the Congress and TDP?
A. I am against inducting anybody and everybody. I will pick and choose somebody I think is going to add value to my party. For me, any fresh face is always better because these aspirants do not come with any baggage. They have a desire to outperform others. But, at times, we will have to field ex-
perienced persons. We have already picked a few candidates. We are continuously tracking constituencies to identify popular and potential winners who will work and deliver. We are and will continue to be choosy.
Q. With whom will you have a prepoll alliance?
A. ( Smiles) None. By God’s grace, we do not have to depend on anybody. We may accommodate like- minded parties like CPI( M) and AIMIM at some stage.
Q. Will you keep options of a post- poll alliance open after the elec-
tion results are known?
A. I am secular. I will keep my options open. Why should I commit myself now?
Q. So, you are ruling out Narendra Modi, BJP and NDA?
A. Modi is to be appreciated for his administrative and governance skills. He needs to come on to the secular platform. That is the kind of politics my generation and the next generation knows and likes. My dream is to see that every political party is secular. We are a maturing democracy. Religion is a personal persuasion, be it for a Muslim, a Christian, a Sikh, a Hindu or a follower of any other religion. We have to wipe out the feeling of insecurity because of religion.
Q. Will you, if necessary, join hands with the Congress after the elections?
A. Why don’t you ask the communists the same question? Why do we have to get into an arena that means nothing today?
I HAD NO BAD INTENT WHEN I LEFT THE CONGRESS. I HAD NO OTHER OPTION BUTTO LEAVE. I STOPPED HOLDING ANYONE RESPONSIBLE OR BLAMING ANYONE.
Q. Do you still nurse a grouse against the Congress for the way the party treated you after your father’s death?
A. Yes. The Congress party did not treat me well. Every day when I say the Lord’s prayer, I am reminded that seeking vengeance is not ours.
Q. Do you hold anyone in that party responsible for it?
A. I stopped holding anyone responsible or blaming anyone. I had no bad intent when I left the Congress. I had no other option but to leave. I will not even say that I was not offered power. Where we differed was when they failed to comprehend and appreciate why I was going out to meet bereaved families in different districts. It was an emotional decision that I took soon after visiting the crash site 20 days after my father’s death. But it led to misunderstanding and friction. I was at a crossroads. I discussed it with my family and, unmindful of repercussions, decided to break out.
Q. What would you do if TDP pursues its plan to get your bail cancelled?
A. It is a politically inspired move. A Congress MLA who was later made a minister files a PIL in the Andhra Pradesh High Court just one month after I left the party. Then, TDP joins in and files a petition. It is a case where they are striking at a dead man and his son who was not even in politics then.
Q. How will you counter allegations of corruption when they become shrill during electioneering?
A. There is no case. Both the Congress and TDP have come together to do this. Their credibility is so low that people will teach them a bitter lesson.
Q. What is it that you promise the people of the state ahead of the elections?
A. People want politics with sincerity, politics with credibility. Our credibility is not tarnished even though we were in difficulty. We always showcased credible leadership. We will do what we say. This is what people appreciate in me. Believe me, my dream is to have a photograph of my father adorn every home.