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March 30, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/S Jaipal Reddy

'Naidu was a master in the art of deception'

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If prizes were to be given for the best spokesperson of a political party, the United Front's S Jaipal Reddy would be a front-runner for the top slot. Reddy's wit, humour and uncanny perception of political developments, coupled with his inimitable, deliberate style, have made him a reporter's delight.

Thus, it was surprising to find an irate Reddy at the UF core group meeting on Thursday, a Reddy who did not mind letting fly at at the Telugu Desam Party's somersaults on the political arena. His suppressed anger at former UF convener Chandrababu Naidu, whose TDP came out in the open and voted with the Vajpayee government on Saturday, bursts out in this brief interview Reddy gave Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi. An excerpt:

What will the UF do about Chandrababu Naidu who has not only triggered off its imminent disintegration by pulling out to back the BJP, but also prodding Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference to go along with him?

We are not in the habit of crying over split milk, no matter even if it is serious. Naidu did what he did and all I want to say that he succeeded in being a master in the art of deception.

All the UF leaders, including I K Gujral, H D Deve Gowda and Ram Vilas Paswan have refused to utter a word against the Naidu-Dr Abdullah affair, leaving you to fend queries from the press. How do you feel about it?

How I feel is immaterial. After all, I am the UF spokesman (laughs). But all the same, I think Naidu tried to be too clever by half. And he only succeeded in inviting all-round contempt. I think he has exposed himself by his ill-conceived political gameplan. I think he has to do a lot of answering to the people.

What is the UF's reaction to the charge that it had been nursing a viper at the very top slot?

I would say a scorpion (laughs). I am just joking. But Naidu has taken us for granted and insulted the UF's intelligence. I think it was a pathetic try because having crossed over to the BJP's side, he has only succeeded in making a fool of himself. I think that in his heart, Naidu knows that he has done grievous wrong and that it will take him a lifetime to expiate his sin. He will have to face his conscience.

Naidu reportedly went over to the BJP to fight the assembly election in Andhra Pradesh against his chief foe, the Congress. How do you view his alliance with the BJP and the fact that he would fighting 80 per cent of the seats, giving the remaining 20 per cent to the BJP?

At this juncture I cannot comment because we are constantly reviewing the political situation. But I can tell you one thing, whatever has happened has happened and the UF is strong enough to tide over any crisis.

Dr Abdullah has given sufficient hints that he has his own compulsions to support the BJP-led ruling combine. So what does the UF intend to do now?

That is not what he told us. But I think that the Centre and the states have to have relations which cannot be avoided. All states have to face this and the problem is not only peculiar to Dr Abdullah.

Will the UF re-admit Naidu if he chooses to return to your fold?

I will not answer hypothetical questions.

The Rediff Election Interviews

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