Democratic compulsion for Opposition to come together, says Chandrababu Naidu
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has been at the forefront of bringing together opposition parties to prevent the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from returning to power at the Centre in next year’s Lok Sabha polls. He spoke to Srinivasa Rao Apparasu about the proposed political front against his former ally, the BJP, and other regional issues. Edited excerpts:
What made you take such an aggressive anti-BJP posture?
I have no other option but to fight against the Centre, which has been unjust to the state (Andhra Pradesh). The people are hurt because the BJP has done more damage to the state by not fulfilling the promises made in the bifurcation act and denying it the special category status . ... the Modi government has done injustice to the nation as well. It has ruined the country’s economy. Intolerance towards the minorities and Dalits is growing everywhere. There has been witch-hunting of political rivals. Democratic institutions have become crippled. Hence, I had to take up an aggressive fight.
How do you justify your ideological shift of allying with the Congress?
It is not a question of an ideological shift, but a democratic compulsion for me. In India, politics was always guided by ideological and political compulsions. Parties, which fought with one another on political compulsions, had come together due to ideological compulsions. For example, in West Bengal and Kerala, Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) fought against each other, but they came together to fight the BJP at the national level. Today, there is a democratic compulsion for all the like-minded opposition parties to come together, because the Modi government has completely ruined democratic institutions and has been misusing all Constitutional entities like the CBI, ED, RBI and even the institution of governors. If there is no democracy, where will the nation head to?
Has not the TDP given up its core principle of anti-Congressism by joining hands with the Congress?
There is no ideological conflict between the Congress and the TDP. Both are secular parties. Such a conflict was there during the pre-reforms era. Now what matters is the performance orientation. People are not thinking in terms of ideologies, but the performance of the leader... who is doing better and who can deliver more efficiently. In fact, what is the difference between Congress and BJP, except that BJP is pro-Hindutva and Congress is secular? People voted for Modi, forgetting his past, with a hope that he would provide better governance and they believed his promises of replicating the Gujarat model of development, Make In India, Skill India etc. But he has failed to deliver. People are totally frustrated.
How different is Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from Modi?
Attitude-wise, I found Rahul good, while Modi is arrogant. In terms of administration, Modi has disappointed the people. For the first time in Independent India, a non-Congress party came to power with absolute majority under his leadership. He could not create confidence among the people... On the contrary, Rahul is yet to prove his worth as an administrator as he has not got that opportunity. But he looked sincere and honest.
Will Rahul Gandhi be a consensus prime ministerial candidate if the antiBJP alliance forms a government?
We will decide about the candidate after the polls. We don’t want to talk about it now.
When is the opposition alliance likely to take shape?
We have made a beginning in that direction. We are meeting in New Delhi on December 10 to discuss the future course of action. It is not a one person’s initiative but all of us are discussing together on how to go about it. We are coordinating together. I am doing my bit, (West Bengal chief minister) Mamata (Banerjee) is doing her’s and others are also coming forward. We shall discuss various issues including the common minimum programme.
Can this proposed grand alliance sustain?
It is not difficult if we have the people’s interest in mind. If you look at the country’s political history, there were stable governments in the pre-reforms era but the economic growth was just 2-3%. After the reforms, there have been only minority or coalition governments, but all of them performed well in sustaining the economy and taking up the welfare and development agenda. Now, we saw a stable Modi government. He has miserably failed. Ultimately, people’s welfare is paramount.
Are you happy with the way Maha Kootami (grand alliance) worked out in pollbound Telangana?
The Maha Kootami is doing its best. There might be one or two problems here and there, but overall, it has worked out well. In a platform like this, every alliance partner should understand its limitations and work with a positive attitude. Overall, the benefit of Telangana is more important.
How do you see Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR)’s statement saying the TDP has no business in Telangana as it is working against the state’s interest?
How can he say that? Without TDP, where is KCR? He has come to this stage only because of the TDP and he should not forget his origins. The TDP was founded for the benefit of Telugu people.
Nobody can deny the fact that the TDP has its footprints in every stage of Telangana’s development. Bifurcation is a reality, but Telugus are same in both the states. We have to complement each other and have mutual respect.
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