Daggubati Purandeswari is the only Union minister to have joined the BJP this election.
'Everybody knows Dr Manmohan Singh is a man of great integrity and I consider it an honour to have worked with him,' Purandeswari, the BJP candidate from Rajampeta, Andhra Pradesh, tells A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
Daggubati Purandeswari is the daughter of the legendary N T Rama Rao, the Telugu movie superstar who launched the Telugu Desam Party in 1983 and went on to become chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.
A minister of state in Dr Manmohan Singh's government, Purandeswari resigned from the Congress party over the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and is the only minister to have joined the Bharatiya Janata Party this election.
The BJP, which has an election alliance with the TDP -- which is headed by her brother-in-law Nara Chandrababu Naidu -- has fielded her in the Rajampeta Lok Sabha constituency.
Purandeswari, who has been busy campaigning in her constituency which goes to the polls on May 7, spoke to A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
You were a minister in UPA I and II. What was your experience like working with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?
Everybody knows that Dr Manmohan Singh is a respected economist. The whole world knows and acknowledges it. Working with him was very comfortable.
Everybody knows he is a man of great integrity and I consider it an honour to have worked with him.
What was the difference in working in UPA I and UPA II?
I was minister of state in the ministry of human resource development in UPA I and UPA II. I was first in the HRD ministry and then shifted to trade and commerce.
Both are very important ministries. One deals with developing the skills and literacy of the youth, which is the foundation of the economy, and the other is the centre of the economy. They were challenging ministries and both gave me wide reaching experience.
There were so many scams in the UPA -- you must have been aware of what was going on. How come your name never figured in any of them?
That shows my integrity. I may be a little flamboyant in saying that, but it is a fact.
My intention of being in politics is not because of any vested interest. I am here to reach out to the people and that is what I did. So probably my focus was very different.
Nobody tried to bribe you or make deals with you?
It depends on you, whether you give into such deals and temptations. I did not.
Why did you quit the party?
It was the manner in which the division of my state was done. I immediately sent in my resignation to the ministry.
I resigned from the party when the bill (Telangana statehood bill) was passed in the Lok Sabha.
I strongly feel it did not do justice to the SeemaAndhra region. The Polavaram project was declared a national project because we demanded it. But only 134 villages which were going to be submerged were given to us.
We do not have the land to rehabilitate the tribes dislocated by the project. Besides, the special package was not enough.
The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha but the project was not announced. The honourable prime minister did not mention it. It was announced in the Rajya Sabha, but we would have been very happy if it had happened in the Lok Sabha.
Only after the BJP put pressure on the prime minister was the announcement made. It clearly indicated that there was no strong commitment. That is when I sent my resignation.
You have been a minister and an MP. How much time do you give your ministry and how much time do you give your constituency?
About 80 per cent of my time was in Delhi, but almost every week I would spend two days in my constituency, met the people and addressed the challenges there.
You should have been heading the TDP that your father founded, but you are not. Now you have an alliance with the TDP. Are the TDP workers cooperating with you?
We have an alliance with them and so they are working with us. They are cooperating with me because of two reasons: One, because of the alliance with the BJP and the other is because of my father.
Do you have a problem sharing the dias with Chandrababu Naidu?
I am a disciplined party worker and will do what the party asks me to do. I did share the dias with him when Narendra Modi, our PM candidate, held a rally in my constituency.
In the Madinapalli assembly constituency (which is part of the Rajampeta Lok Sabha constituency), the TDP has vowed to defeat the BJP candidate?
We have talked to Naidu and he has spoken to his partymen. I hope they will behave responsibly.
Why do you change constituencies in every Lok Sabha election (She has changed constituencies in the last three elections)?
I contested from Bapatla in 2004, in the reorganisation of constituencies it became a reserved constituency, therefore I shifted to Vishakapatnam in 2009.
Now I am a BJP candidate. The BJP has an alliance with the TDP and they have a seat sharing agreement.
After seat sharing, my party told me to contest in Rajampeta and that is why I am contesting from there.
Rajampeta has 22 percent Muslim voters. As a BJP candidate, are you at a disadvantage?
In 1977, Atal Bihari Vajpayee started the first news service in Urdu. It was the NDA that opened Haj houses across the country. Earlier it was only in Mumbai.
Now poor Muslims from every region in the country can go to the nearest Haj house to avail of government subsidy.
Our manifesto 2014 mentions that finance will be provided to modernise madrassas. Furthermore, it is how the voter sees every individual candidate. I am sure they will accept me and vote for me.
Image: Former Union minister Daggubati Purandeswari, the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from the Rajampeta Lok Sabha constituency in Andhra Pradesh. Photograph: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com