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February 8, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/ Nara Chandrababu Naidu

'I have left politics behind in the last millennium'

Chandrababu Naidu Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu is one person that his counterparts from other states in the country would want to emulate. The reasons for such unprecedented admiration and respect are many. For one, Naidu is high-tech savvy, hard-working, spews business buzzwords and reform jargon, mixes poverty with computers and manages politics with a rare acumen. For many chief ministers, Naidu is a model modern politician, who has created a larger-than life image since he assumed power for the first time way back in 1995.

The busiest manager of southern India's largest state sleeps for less than three hours every day. He wakes up sharp at 0330 hours and the next 90 minutes are spent on Yoga, treadmill and the sauna. Then he scans the newspapers, jots down items that need to be taken up with fellow politicians and officials. By 0600, Naidu is there in the ground floor office at his Jubilee Hills home.

The first thing he does as he enters his office is to switch on the computer and check the water level in the major reservoirs and power generation. Soon secretaries and officials troop in to brief him of the law and order and the power and water situation. At 0630, all the district collectors in Andhra Pradesh have to be ready for a one-and-a- half-hour long tele-conference with the chief minister. By 0800, Naidu -- having dissected the state's administration -- is at the table for a light breakfast of fresh fruit and juice.

The Telugu Desam Party chief lives and breathes big dreams. He wants to make Hyderabad a transit hub between China and Europe. He wants to make the city the financial corridor and the cultural and film capital. But his biggest dream is to make Hyderabad the country's top infotech destination in the next five years. But will his dreams come true?

Truly, Naidu's five-year rule has ushered in considerable progress in infotech. Global computer giants like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle have invested in the state. Naidu has nearly computerised most government departments and district headquarters. But look at the state's villages. Where people die of brain fever due to lack of any healthcare, where drinking water is a scarcity, where the computer buzzwords have not eradicated illiteracy and unemployment.

Will his 21th century vision change things on the ground? "I am confident it will because I will continue to act fast. The maxim that the big eat the small has changed. It is now the fast eating the slow," says Naidu as he settled down for an exclusive interview Associate Editor George Iype.

You have survived a bitter political battle to become the most successful chief minister in the country. What is the secret of your success?

Chandrababu Naidu I have left politics behind in the last millennium, on the campaign trail. Now as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, I do not want to talk politics. It is time for me to act and work for the development of the state, which I sincerely believe I am doing these days.

My political agenda now is economic -- empowerment of the poor and women. My political agenda now is to make Andhra Pradesh an economic powerhouse.

Do you believe that information technology can alleviate poverty?

I am confident that information technology can bring accountability, transparency and quick disposal of cases and redressal of grievances in all the villages. I believe it can alleviate poverty. I see three areas where information technology can be an effective tool: job generation, poverty eradication and wealth generation.

If I am following the infotech path these days, it is because I am convinced that is what is bringing in a revolution in my state's villages and changing the common man's life. I have launched the AP State Wide Area Network which connects Hyderabad with all 23 district headquarters. I have launched various other computerisation programmes -- like, if a person wants to obtain a birth certificate, it will be made available in five minutes. Computerisation leads to job generation. Computer schools are being set up in all the villages and internet connections are given in all the villages.

You are going ahead with the Vision 2020 programme. How is it progressing?

My Vision 2020 programmes embodies a Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive and Transparent government. I call it the SMART government. As per my programme, everybody -- politicians, bureaucrats and the people -- have to prepare short and long-term plans and then they have to work in that direction. My focus is now not on politics, but on development, the second generation of administrative and economic reforms, information technology and infrastructure projects.

Do you think the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government should also embark on a similar programme?

Certainly. I want the Vajpayee government to launch a Vision 2020 programme for India. I am happy that all the states are now talking about what I am doing here. Look at Karnataka. The Congress party always criticised me for obtaining World Bank loans. Last week, Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna himself took the initiative to get huge World Bank loans for various water and infrastructure projects.

All these years, politicians used to deal only in gossip. Making tall promises during elections and forgetting everything about it after the polls. Now there is a good, healthy competition between the states for development. But ultimately, only those who perform and do good work will survive.

Do you like to be called the CEO of Andhra Pradesh?

Chandrababu Naidu Why not? There is absolutely nothing wrong in a chief minister being called the CEO of a state. Like a CEO -- who have short and long-term visions for their companies -- I too have similar plans for my state. I am creating wealth for the people of the state. The 7.5 crore people of Andhra Pradesh are my shareholders. My immediate task is to generate 20 million jobs and reduce population growth from 1.4 per cent to 0.83 per cent. I want to achieve a seven to eight-fold increase in per capita income.

You have made Hyderabad an IT destination. Do you want also to make it a business nerve-centre, an alternative to Bombay?

I want to make Hyderabad an economic and business powerhouse. I want to make Hyderabad a knowledge hub and Andhra Pradesh a knowledge state. When all my projects on tourism, health care, finance and employment are successfully executed, Bombay or any other city or the state will be nowhere near Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh.

'The Vajpayee government have to do much better'

Andhra Pradesh in the time of Naidu

The Rediff Interviews

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