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February 7, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/ G Atmacharan Reddy

'As long as Kesri and Vijayabhaskara Reddy are in the Congress, it has no future'

US-based non-resident Indian G Atmacharan Reddy returned to India in 1996, when the country was about to face the Lok Sabha election.

Promising to bring non-resident Indian investments into India, Reddy seems to have impressed then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao -- the difficult task was apparently accomplished because of his proximity to Rao's US-based daughter.

And the NRI, who is said to specialise in selling pacemakers in the US, was instantly fielded from Nizamabad, where he was born and brought up. His father was a well-known social worker in the district, who was murdered in 1976.

Completing his B Sc (agriculture) from Nagpur, Atmacharan Reddy moved to the United States and established his own business.

Asked why he had taken the political plunge, Reddy said, ''My family has a tradition of working for the people. So when I returned home in 1996, it was only right that I entered politics.''

With the enthusiastic support of the local Congress, Reddy sailed past his Telugu Desam Party rival M Venkateshwara Rao with a margin of 43,590 votes.

Despite that impressive victory, the Congress refused to renominate him for the 1998 Lok Sabha election, forcing Reddy to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. He now faces his erstwhile Congress colleague, former state minister K Kesava Rao, an 'outsider' who was fielded from the Maharajgunj constituency in Hyderabad in 1994 in similar circumstances.

Then Maharajgunj Congress MLA M Mukesh, who contested as an Independent after being denied a ticket in that election, split the vote, paving the way for the BJP candidate's victory.

Reddy spoke to Ch Sushil Rao during his hectic campaign.

How do you rate the Congress chances in this election?

As long as (party president) Sitaram Kesri and (Congress Working Committee member) Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy are in the party, there is no future for the Congress. Even Sonia Gandhi will not be able to revive it.

Contesting from a Congress bastion, do you think you stand a chance?

I am confident of winning. The fact that the Congress has fielded a non-local -- just because he is a Vijayabhaskara Reddy loyalist -- has made my task easy.

Vijayabhaskara Reddy has fielded his own men, irrespective of their winning chances, wherever possible. He ignored my legitimate claim for a ticket to field Kesava Rao who has no winning chances whatsoever.

I will win with a huge majority once again.

In the 1994 assembly election, the ruling TDP bagged six out of the seven seats in the Nizamabad Lok Sabha constituency. However, in the 1996 Lok Sabha, you won by a handsome margin. What is the guarantee that the voters will not go back to the Telugu Desam now?

Basically, people all over the country want to elect honest people with a clean image. They have seen how earnestly I worked for them -- like getting a railway track for the district and improving the telecom facilities.

My constituency was the worst as far as telecom facilities were concerned. But I made it the best in the state. In another six months, it will be the best in the country.

Another achievement is that the local television has been made more powerful.

But do the people see these achievements?

When I went to file my nomination papers on January 28, there was a crowd of not less than 65,000 people. When Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu addressed a meeting here, only 11,000 people attended it.

If crowds are a criteria to judge a person's popularity, what does he have to say about the tremendous response to Sonia Gandhi's public meeting in the state?

People came to see the lady who was in seclusion all these years. They are just curious to see how she looks.

Why did a join the BJP?

The BJP is the only the party which can provide a stable government. Only the BJP has leaders with stature. The nation needs a person like Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister.

The Rediff Election Interviews

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