KT Rama Rao sees end to one-party in­ter­lude in 2019

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with NewSun­dayEx­press, K T Rama Rao, pre­sumed heir ap­par­ent of the TRS, says re­gional par­ties will be back in the reck­on­ing at the Cen­tre in 2019

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - G S VASU @ Hy­der­abad

The (Union) gov­ern­ment doesn’t seem to un­der­stand what it takes to man­u­fac­ture a world class prod­uct like the iPhone

The Congress gives me a sense that it is not rooted in re­al­ity

The Hon’ble Prime Min­is­ter is rid­ing a tide of good luck

KT Rama Rao, Te­lan­gana IT and In­dus­try min­is­ter

PUTTING to rest spec­u­la­tion of a po­ten­tial al­liance with the BJP, Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samiti (TRS) heir ap­par­ent KT Rama Rao has said the 2019 elec­tion will end the in­ter­lude of one-party rule at the Cen­tre and re­store the coali­tion era.

“I do be­lieve coali­tion gov­ern­ments are bet­ter for us, and I do be­lieve a coali­tion regime will be back in 2019. And that is great for the coun­try. We are not a two-party sys­tem,” said Rama Rao in a wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with The New Sun­day Ex­press.

“Hav­ing said that, I do not see the scope for the TRS and BJP to work to­gether. More im­por­tantly, I don’t see the need for it,” he added.

Rama Rao’s clear dis­missal of an al­liance pos­si­bil­ity sets up the TRS against the BJP’s south­ward push in the runup to the 2019 elec­tion. The saf­fron party needs to gain num­bers in the south to off­set any losses in the north due to the anti-in­cum­bency fac­tor, and Te­lan­gana would be a ma­jor el­e­ment in its play­book.

But Rama Rao, the most in­flu­en­tial min­is­ter in the gov­ern­ment headed by his fa­ther K Chan­drasekhar Rao, han­dling port­fo­lios such as IT, ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and in­dus­try, said his party sees no real threat from either the BJP or the Congress. The Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment at the Cen­tre has no real achieve­ments to claim in the last three years, he said, and pointed out de­mon­eti­sa­tion and the GST roll­out as ma­jor hand­i­caps for the BJP.

“Un­for­tu­nately, most schemes have re­mained as good slo­gans. Make in In­dia is a great slo­gan. But the fact is we are do­ing as­sem­bling in In­dia, not man­u­fac­tur­ing. As a min­is­ter for IT and in­dus­try, the truth is we still do not have a chip fab­ri­ca­tion hub. So what are we talk­ing about?” he said.

Crit­i­cal of the Union gov­ern­ment’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the Delhi-Mum­bai in­dus­trial cor­ri­dor, Rama Rao said there has been “not-so-favourable de­ci­sion-mak­ing” to­wards South In­dia. “They al­ways talk of a Delhi-Mum­bai in­dus­trial cor­ri­dor. The South has three vi­brant met­ros — Chen­nai, Ban­ga­lore and Hy­der­abad. You can’t be obliv­i­ous to this and over­look South In­dia.

“I think it’s a prob­lem if you un­der­stand only Gu­jarat and not the rest of the coun­try,” he added.

I think it’s a prob­lem if you un­der­stand only Gu­jarat and not the rest of the coun­try. K T Rama Rao, IT and in­dus­tries min­is­ter of Te­lan­gana

While the BJP may be bet­ting on the South to main­tain or in­crease its num­bers in the 2019 elec­tion, the prog­no­sis for the party south of the Vind­hyas is not so rosy, says K T Rama Rao, the pre­sumed heir ap­par­ent of the Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samiti (TRS) and the IT and in­dus­tries min­is­ter of Te­lan­gana.

Scotch­ing fre­quent spec­u­la­tion that the TRS is a po­ten­tial ally of the saf­fron party, the suave US-ed­u­cated leader says his party con­sid­ers the BJP as much an ad­ver­sary as the Congress, and dis­misses any pos­si­bil­ity of the TRS and BJP work­ing to­gether. “More im­por­tantly, I don’t see the need for it,” he says. In a wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with

New In­dian Ex­press, K T Rama Rao says the Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment has no great achieve­ments to speak of in the last three years but sev­eral fail­ures such as de­mon­eti­sa­tion to deal with. As for the Congress, “it is a tried and tested and dusted” party, he says.

Ex­cerpts from the in­ter­view:

It is now more than three years since the Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samiti (TRS) came to power in the new state. How do you rate your per­for­mance at this junc­ture?

Hon­estly, we are one of the most pro­gres­sive states in the coun­try. This is not a boast. When we started off, we were a power-deficit state. To­day we are power-sur­plus. When we be­gan, there were doubts about our po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and about our abil­ity to at­tract in­vest­ment. The other ques­tion was how the state would sta­bilise it­self given the past ex­pe­ri­ence with new states like Ch­hat­tis­garh and Jhark­hand. It is not just the gov­ern­ment of In­dia or pri­vate rat­ing agen­cies who are giv­ing us the tag of a pro­gres­sive state. Even the peo­ple of Te­lan­gana have ac­knowl­edged it go­ing by the re­sound­ing suc­cess we have had in elec­tions since 2014 such as the Greater Hy­der­abad Cor­po­ra­tion elec­tions in which we and our friendly par­ties won 143 out of the 150 divi­sions.

But is the mood chang­ing now? There is a stri­dency in the Op­po­si­tion’s at­tack on your gov­ern­ment.

I don’t see any ev­i­dence of it on the ground. Take the re­cent elec­tion to the Sin­gareni Col­lieries Union. De­spite the Op­po­si­tion clos­ing ranks, we emerged suc­cess­ful. So was the case with ev­ery by­poll since 2014. The peo­ple of Te­lan­gana have ex­pe­ri­enced Congress rule for 50 years and have seen through it. They are tired of the party, fed up and, if I may say so, rather dis­gusted.

Am I to in­fer that in 2019 you do not see the pos­si­bil­ity of any Op­po­si­tion party — Congress or BJP— putting up a tough fight against you?

There is al­ways a run­ner-up. I would pre­sume it would be the Congress though by a huge gap. In a democ­racy, we need an Op­po­si­tion, we need di­verse views. There­fore, to say we have no ri­val is not right. As for the BJP, I don’t see the pos­si­bil­ity of it mak­ing any im­pact in 2019 be­cause the party has no base here. In fact, I don’t think BJP will be able to re­tain the five seats it cur­rently has in the Assem­bly. The BJP has noth­ing to high­light as good work done by it for the peo­ple of Te­lan­gana. Or for that mat­ter for the peo­ple of this coun­try.

Are you say­ing that in the last three years and more the BJP did noth­ing?

The NDA gov­ern­ment has not done any­thing that can be touted as a mas­sive peo­ple-ori­ented pro­gramme. Un­for­tu­nately, the Op­po­si­tion is re­ally weak. The Congress is pos­si­bly in its worst shape ever. That is what is help­ing the BJP just as the Congress ben­e­fit­ted from the TINA fac­tor in the past. There­fore, the Hon’ble Prime Min­is­ter is rid­ing a tide of good luck. Other than that, I don’t think they have any­thing to talk about. See, they talked about black money and de­mon­eti­sa­tion. The stated pur­pose of de­mon­eti­sa­tion changed ev­ery day. First it was about black money and then ter­ror­ism. The nar­ra­tive keeps chang­ing even as speak. It is ac­tu­ally funny.

So would you rule out a TRSBJP al­liance in 2019?

We were never ever close to the BJP. Or Congress, for that mat­ter. It has worked for us and we have no rea­son to change our stance.

Why then does this spec­u­la­tion keep com­ing up that you in­tend to join the NDA gov­ern­ment?

I’ll tell you why. Naren­dra Modi is the Prime Min­is­ter of the coun­try and he is a BJP leader. As a party rul-

First the pur­pose of de­mon­eti­sa­tion was about black money and then ter­ror­ism. The nar­ra­tive keeps chang­ing even as speak. It is ac­tu­ally funny. K T Rama Rao

ing a newly cre­ated state, we met the PM and other min­is­ters on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to de­mand what is our right to seek. Be­yond that pol­i­tics was never dis­cussed. On spe­cific is­sues such as GST – which is sup­posed to be based on the prin­ci­ple of one na­tion, one tax – we sup­ported the Cen­tre, just as other par­ties did cut­ting across po­lit­i­cal lines. Sim­i­lar was our stance on the orig­i­nal nar­ra­tive of de­mon­eti­sa­tion, which all of us be­lieved would do good for the coun­try. In hind­sight, it has not. It is the com­mon man who has suf­fered hard­ships. Wis­dom lies in ac­cept­ing that fact. Whether we like it or not, that is the truth about de­mon­eti­sa­tion. It has not worked.

Hav­ing said that, I do not see the scope for the TRS and BJP to work to­gether. More im­por­tantly, I don’t see the need for it.

Where do you think the NDA gov­ern­ment has failed given the high ex­pec­ta­tions that were raised back in 2014?

I think the con­nect with the peo­ple is miss­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, most schemes have re­mained as good slo­gans. Make in In­dia. A great slo­gan. The fact is we are do­ing as­sem­bling in In­dia, not man­u­fac­tur­ing. As a min­is­ter for IT and In­dus­try, the truth is we still do not have a fab (chip fab­ri­ca­tion hub). So what are we talk­ing about? The very in­gre­di­ent that goes into the man­u­fac­ture of a mo­bile phone or a chip is miss­ing. Slo­gans are good but what In­dia needs is deep-rooted, ground-based good poli­cies. When Ap­ple wants to man­u­fac­ture in In­dia and seeks cer­tain con­ces­sions, GOI is un­will­ing to look into it. The gov­ern­ment doesn’t seem to un­der­stand what it takes to man­u­fac­ture a world class prod­uct like the I phone.

Slo­gans or good ideas are not enough. They have to be backed by poli­cies based on prag­ma­tism. I do not in­tend to sin­gu­larly blame the PM or his min­is­ters. What is needed is cre­at­ing space for col­lec­tive wis­dom to make things work. It in­volves build­ing con­sen­sus. In re­gard to GST, we made a huge fuss be­cause ini­tially we were told it would be one na­tion, one tax. It was only later that we re­al­ized that state-spe­cific is­sues were not taken care of by GOI. In Te­lan­gana, we have lakhs of peo­ple de­pen­dent on beedi mak­ing. We fought for re­moval or re­duc­tion of tax. GOI was not keen.

We have seen one-party gov­ern­ments at the Cen­tre and also coali­tion regimes. What dif­fer­ence do you see and which do you think works bet­ter?

In a di­verse coun­try like In­dia, you need a par­tic­i­pa­tory di­a­logue hap­pen­ing all the time. You have to keep that go­ing, no mat­ter how big or small the voices are. If you re­ally want In­dia to be the United States of In­dia or a Fed­eral Repub­lic as we call it, we need all voices to be heard.

Take South In­dia, where the BJP has a pres­ence in just one state. In the rest, it is prac­ti­cally non-ex­is­tent. The en­tire coun­try is run by the BJP but they don’t have any voice in the South. I wouldn’t call it anti-South, but there’s a not-so-favourable de­ci­sion-mak­ing to­wards South In­dia. They al­ways talk of a Delhi-Mum­bai in­dus­trial cor­ri­dor. Why can’t we con­ceive a Golden Quadri­lat­eral like what Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee did. The South has three vi­brant met­ros – Chen­nai, Ban­ga­lore and Hy­der­abad. You can’t be obliv­i­ous to this and over­look South In­dia which has con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the growth of this coun­try.

Now we are talk­ing of a bul­let train. Again, be­tween Mum­bai and Ahmed­abad. Why can’t it be be­tween Delhi and Chen­nai con­nect­ing Ban­ga­lore and Hy­der­abad as well? We have had MPs and par­ties from the South play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role in the past at the na­tional level. That is not the case now. I do be­lieve coali­tion gover nments are bet­ter suited for us, though some might ar­gue oth­er­wise. And, I do be­lieve that a coali­tion regime will be back in 2019.

Are you sug­gest­ing that the BJP can­not win enough seats on its own in the next elec­tion?

I strongly feel so. Like I said, there is not much for the BJP to talk about in terms of achieve­ments.

Crit­ics say the same thing about the TRS as well. That you have frit­tered away the faith re­posed by the peo­ple in a party that fought for a sep­a­rate state.

We can show­case a lot. Ours is the only state that has promised potable wa­ter to ev­ery house­hold. Our chief min­is­ter had the guts to say that if we don’t do this, we will not seek votes. We have al­most achieved it. We are a role model for oth­ers. We are not the ones say­ing it. Niti Aayog is say­ing this. Power sup­ply has im­proved. The rea­son why we say we are rooted in ba­sics is be­cause of our fo­cus on the farm sec­tor. We have waived loans worth Rs 17000 crore. We have also taken this rev­o­lu­tion­ary step of pro­vid­ing farm in­puts that would cost us Rs 4,000 per acre for two crops in a year. We have in­creased agri godown space man­i­fold. We are launch­ing In­dia’s largest tex­tile park. We are the first gov­ern­ment to of­fer 50 per cent dis­count on yarn and chem­i­cals to hand­loom weavers. We are the only state to spend Rs 46,000 crore on wel­fare schemes per year. I can give you a 350-page re­port on what all we have achieved. No one can take away all this from this.

The nar­ra­tive ap­pears to be chang­ing at the na­tional level. Do you seek scope for a re­vival of the Congress?

Don’t think so. For Con­gress­men to hope that peo­ple will vote for them just be­cause they are there gives me a sense they are not rooted in re­al­ity. It is a party that has been tried, tested and dusted.

If as you say sup­port for the BJP is wan­ing and there is no hope for the Congress, how do you fore­see the po­lit­i­cal map of 2019?

I be­lieve re­gional par­ties will do well and that is great for the coun­try. We are not a two-party sys­tem. I think it’s a prob­lem if you un­der­stand only Gu­jarat and not the rest of the coun­try.

R SATISH BABU

Te­lan­gana IT and In­dus­try min­is­ter KT Rama Rao |

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