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March 5, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/K Vijayabhaskara Reddy

'Naidu is interested only in making money'

Congress Working Committee member Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy has had two spells as Andhra Pradesh chief minister. On both occasions -- 1983 and 1994 -- the Congress suffered a drubbing at the hustings.

Reddy may not have been fully responsible for the disasters -- frequent change of Congress chief ministers had inspired the Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao wave in 1983; he inherited a lacklustre Congress track record in the 1990s at the height of the anti-liquor agitation which saw the Telugu Desam Party founder back in power again.

In this election, too, sceptics felt the Congress would suffer the same fate as Kotla was virtually at the helm in the state again -- he is the only CWC member from the south. But Reddy proved his critics wrong, with his party winning 22 out of the 42 seats despite the Bharatiya Janata Party's growing popularity in the state.

Praised for his 'sincere' and 'bold' approach, Reddy is now one of the contenders for the prime minister's post. But his ambitions seem to have forced him to eat his words on the Nara Chandrababu Naidu government, as this interview with J S Sai at the height of the campaign, shows.

Relaxing in a rocking chair at his Kurnool home, Reddy breathed fire against Naidu, virtually threatening to throw him out if the Congress came to power at the Centre. Now he is singing a different tune -- Naidu should reciprocate as the Congress had supported the United Front all these days. Read on to find out more such startling turnarounds.

Why do you think the Congress will sweep the poll in the state?

People are furious with Chandrababu Naidu's false promises. There is no development activity in the state. Prohibition has been lifted, and the new liquor policy has been formulated so as as to benefit the ruling TDP MLAs.

Besides, nearly 200 cotton growers have committed suicide in the state. Such a thing has never happened anywhere in the whole world.

What action does the Congress contemplate against Naidu if it comes to power at the Centre?

How can any government close its eyes when so many people are dying? Something has to be done. Naidu should resign, taking normal responsibility. But he's not interested in any of these democratic norms. He's interested in only making money.

The TDP government says prohibition has not been successful in the state...

They have cheated the people. People have realised this now. Prohibition was not successful as the government was not interested.

How far did Sonia Gandhi's campaign help the Congress?

There is great euphoria. People in the South have great regard for the family. Her presence has improved our chances vastly.

Was it fair to deny a ticket to former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, blaming him for the Babri mosque demolition?

That is a CWC decision.

But your CWC colleague Pranab Mukherjee said the highest Congress decision-making body was not even informed of the decision.

I was not in Delhi when the decision was taken.

What do you think of the decision?

Changesheets were filed against some Congress leaders before the 1996 Lok Sabha election, and they were denied tickets. The same yardstick might have been used against him now.

But he was denied a ticket because of the Babri mosque demolition.

Not that. Only chargesheets. Only chargesheets.

Kesri had clearly stated, while releasing the party's manifesto, that Rao would not get a ticket because of his failure to protest the mosque.

I don't know what Kesri said.

What will be Kesri's fate after the election?

He will be the Congress president.

Even after the election?

As of now he's the Congress chief.

Former Nizamabad MP Gaddam Atma Charan Reddy, who joined the BJP after the Congress denied him a ticket, said the Congress would not make any progress as long as you and Kesri are at the helm.

(Gets furious) Why do ask me about such communal people? Do people like him deserve an answer from me?

What will be the fate of the United Front after the election?

There won't be a UF after the election.

The Rediff Election Interviews

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