Life has come a full circle for Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu.
The man, who played the role of a kingmaker in Delhi during the United Front regime and put Hyderabad on the global map as an IT destination, has now fallen off the national radar thanks to the bifurcation of erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh.
Naidu is struggling to rebuild the truncated state and get back into the limelight by creating a new capital of international standards.
In an exclusive interview after completing two years in office, Naidu told Hindustan Times about the challenges he has faced in handling the affairs of the new state, his relationship with the Centre as well as his counterpart in Telangana.
Here are the excerpts:
Q: Not long ago, you were one of the most popular political figures in national politics, calling shots in Delhi during the United Front government and later during the Vajpayee regime. Where is all the glory now? You are not heard and seen in Delhi now, and you hardly make it to the national news these days…
A: Brother, it is history. I was the chief minister of combined Andhra Pradesh for nine years and Leader of Opposition for 10 years. No other chief minister of this state had got that opportunity. But if you go into history, the TDP has been in the national news since my father-in-law NT Rama Rao decimated the Congress party in the state for the first time and established the National Front.
After I became the chief minister, I played a key role in the establishment of United Front and making of two Prime Ministers and a President. Even during Vajpayee government, the TDP had its major supporter with 35 MPs. Everywhere, people used to talk about Andhra Pradesh, as I brought global players like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bill Gates and Wolfensohn to Hyderabad. Naturally, I was in the national focus.
Now, I am the chief minister of a smaller state with just 13 districts. That is the difference.
Q: Are you missing all that glory now?
A: It’s okay; no regrets. My focus at present is only on developing my state, which is deprived of all its resources after the bifurcation and make it a model state. But, the day will come when people all over the world will talk about Amaravati, our new capital, which is 400 times bigger than Singapore in terms of area and 10 times in population.
Already, it has generated interest in China, Japan, Singapore, Gulf and Malaysia. It is only a matter of time that we shall get back our past glory.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you had to face after taking over as the chief minister of residuary Andhra Pradesh state two years ago?
A: The biggest challenge for me in the last two years was to create infrastructure for the new capital and bring administration from Hyderabad to Amaravati amidst severe financial crisis and scarcity of human resources. We have started right from the scratch with a negative balance sheet. I have started functioning from a bus; then moved to a temporary camp office and now, we are building state secretariat complex. We are now focussing on capital infrastructure.
We have been requesting the Centre to come to our rescue whether it is by way of granting special category status or special financial package. The Centre has given some assistance, but it is not enough. We never wanted a separate state; it was the creation of the Centre. So, it is the responsibility of the Centre to provide all resources either by revising its policies or granting additional resources to AP till it gets the level-playing field with other states.
Q: But, the NDA government is ignoring your demand for special category status or granting special financial package on the lines of Bihar. Are you comfortable with the NDA?
A: I never had any problems with anybody, nor did I create any problems for the NDA leadership, since the days of Vajpayee. I don’t have any ego problem. I can adjust with anybody for that matter. I am pursuing all the issues with the Centre with a lot of patience since AP is a two-year-old baby and I have to handle the relations carefully to get maximum benefits to the state.
Q: Of late, the relations between the TDP and BJP seem to have strained a lot. Do you think the alliance between the two parties will continue till 2019?
A: I don’t think there are any serious differences between the two parties. All that we have been asking the BJP leaders is to lend a helping hand to the state by securing adequate funds and resources. In fact, as a goodwill gesture, we have given one Rajya Sabha seat to the BJP from Andhra Pradesh and I hope Suresh Prabhu, being the railway minister, will be of great help to the state. Let us see.
Q: You have taken up construction of Amaravati, the new capital as a mission. How much time will it take to complete the capital?
A: It has started and we are confident of completing it well within the schedule. The land acquisition is completed and we are now constructing buildings for offices. I want to develop Amaravati on par with the top 10 developed cities in the world.
Q: How is your equation with the Telangana government?
A: There are certain contentious issues but we want to sort them out amicably. Since the Centre is responsible for bifurcation, it should play the role of a gentleman to resolve them, instead of creating problems between the two states. We want to adopt a give and take an approach with Telangana. The Centre should compensate the losses caused to AP due to the bifurcation.
Q: Why are you encouraging defections from YSR Congress party, though the TDP has enough mandate from the people in the last elections?
A: I never forced anybody to join my party. People who are disgusted with his (YS Jaganmohan Reddy) style of functioning, are coming to us on their own. Otherwise, I am running a stable government.