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'Today everyone thinks Telugus are corrupt'

Last updated on: June 12, 2012 09:31 IST

'Because of one man's greed, everyone is suffering'

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During his stint as Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Nara Chandrababu Naidu loved it when fawning industrialists called him the Chief Executive Officer of the state. Many believe that was the reason the Telugu Desam Party chief was logged out of power in 2004.

Eight years later, Naidu finds his path to power obstructed by a hurdle called Jaganmohan Reddy, chief of the newly formed YSR Congress. As 18 assembly constituencies and one Lok Sabha seat go to polls in crucial by-elections on June 12, Chandrababu Naidu tells T S Sudhir that Jagan should have been sent to jail a long time ago. 

Judging by the election campaign of various parties, it would seem that the only issue this time is Jaganmohan Reddy. No one is talking about anything else.

Yes, corruption is an important issue. Because of one man's greed, everyone is suffering. Jaganmohan Reddy violated so many laws. Never has any politician acquired so much illegal wealth.

Finally, a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe had to be ordered by the court.

As far as the TDP is concerned, it is not as if we are talking about it only now. We had even brought out a book called YSR: The Raja of Corruption and distributed its copies in Delhi, but the Congress did not take any action.

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Image: Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu (right)
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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'Political parties are buying votes for Rs 1,000'

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Do you think Brand Andhra Pradesh has suffered as a result?

Certainly. Today, you have IAS officers going to prison. Industrialists are tense and are spending sleepless nights, scared that they will be next. The value of their stock is dropping. What has taken place in the last eight years has pushed Andhra Pradesh back by 20 years. We have to reconstruct it now, rebuild our image.

Earlier, the construction of Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai airports were all done by Telugu entrepreneurs. Today everyone looks at people from Andhra Pradesh with suspicion, thinking they must be corrupt, and ask hundreds of questions before doing business with them.

Talking specifically about the forthcoming by-poll, most analysts expect YSR Congress to win a majority of the seats.  What is your own assessment?

Never have I spoken about the seats that we will win. We have done our duty and now the public will respond. Today, there are political parties that are buying votes for Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000. 

You sound defensive.

No. In Tamil Nadu, (chief minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief) Jayalalithaa did not contest six by-elections. I asked her why. She told me she did not have the money. She told me the DMK (the then ruling party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) spent Rs 5,000 to buy a vote, how could she match that? My situation is the same. I do not have money, I am suffering and I am totally depending on my candidates. But how can they spend so much?

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Photographs: Reuters

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'Jagan should have been arrested a long time ago'

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How do you plan to resolve this problem?

We cannot have frequent by-elections, except in cases where the sitting MP (member of Parliament) or MLA (member of Legislative Assembly) dies. Instances of the representative resigning to contest again have to stop. We have to discuss, debate and amend the Constitution.

Jagan accuses your party and the Congress of match-fixing to keep him out because both of you are scared of him.

Jaganmohan Reddy should have been arrested a long time ago. When he was in the Congress and his father came to power through the Congress, everything was all right. Now, when you are having differences with the Congress, you want to blame me.

The TDP has always fought against the Congress. You have come (to the forefront) recently and you want sympathy, so you are talking rubbish. Even in your party name -- YSR Congress -- you are unable to remove the Congress's name. In fact, you are negotiating with them to let you off in the corruption cases.

Why should I bother? Your father ordered 25 inquires against me, harassed me but could not find anything against me because I did not commit any mistakes.

Do you expect a lot of changes after June 15 (counting day)? Do you expect a number of Congress MLAs to cross over to Jagan's party?

I don't know. What the Congress does is their internal issue. We are fighting both against a corrupt Jagan and the Congress.

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Image: Jagan Mohan Reddy

Tags: Congress , Jagan , OJagan , TDP , MLA

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'TDP's cadre and credibility are strong in Telangana'

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Jagan has said you will never let the Congress government fall because you are scared of facing mid-term polls yourself.

Why should I say what I will do? When I moved the no-confidence motion against the government in December, Jagan boasted that he has the support of 50 Congress MLAs, but he could not muster the numbers. These are all political gimmicks. Who is he to advise me? I know what to do. He is more corrupt than the Congress.

It is not just Jagan. In Telangana, the TDP has become very weak as a political force.

The TDP's cadre and credibility are still strong in Telangana. It is a temporary problem. I am confident that the people of both Seemandhra and Telangana are with me. People have seen my past track record and my honesty.

So you remain hopeful?

Yes. The state and the people are, in fact, suffering more than TDP workers. I have to communicate with the people all the time and announce more people-friendly policies.

You referred to Jayalalithaa earlier, how she skipped the by-polls. But last year, she won the assembly elections by a huge majority. Are you hoping to do the same?

Jayalalithaa swept the assembly polls despite not contesting the by-elections.

We are confident that the people are wise. In my life, I have seen many crises -- the August 1984 crisis, then I fought with my father-in-law, then dealing with YSR, Telangana. Today all systems have been destroyed. As a senior politician, it is my duty to bring awareness to the people.

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Image: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa


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