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Lok Sabha elections 2019: ‘ Our goal is to keep BJP away from power, strengthen secular forces’, says Congress’ Oommen Chandy

Oommen Chandy has an uphill battle to make the Andhra Pradesh Congress unit battle ready as it faces both, Lok Sabha and assembly polls on April 11.

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 24, 2019 07:24 IST
Venkatesha Babu
Venkatesha Babu
Hindustan Times
Oommen Chandy,BJP,Lok Sabha elections 2019
Oommen Chandy, 76, is a veteran Congress leader from Kerala.(Vivek Nair/HT File Photo)

Oommen Chandy, 76, is a veteran Congress leader from Kerala. Not only has he been chief minister twice (between 2004-2006 and full term from 2011) he has also been elected from the same constituency, Puthuppally, 11 times consecutively, since 1970. He was made All India Congress Committee incharge of Andhra Pradesh in May 2018.

Chandy has an uphill battle to make the Andhra Pradesh Congress unit battle ready as it faces both, Lok Sabha and assembly polls on April 11. In an interview with Venkatesha Babu, he says Congress is facing a very serious situation after the bifurcation of the state but is confident of growing vote share. Edited excerpts:

What is the ground situation in Andhra for Congress as you seem to be struggling to even get candidates for the 175 assembly and 25 Lok Sabha constituencies?

AP Congress is facing a very serious situation after 2014 because of the bifurcation of the state. People of AP unfortunately feel that the Congress was responsible for the division of the state. What they forget is that we introduced a law in parliament on providing Special Category Status which had so many plus points for the state. Unfortunately the BJP [which came to power in 2014] denied SCS. They had supported it [before the polls] but when they came to power, they forgot their promise. Congress still has deep roots in Andhra. Over 1,300 people applied to be our candidates for the total 200 seats (parliamentary and assembly).

What was behind your decision to not continue with the Maha Kootami with TDP, which had fought the Telangana assembly polls last December?

When I took charge, I convened a meeting of all senior party leaders in the state. All of them collectively took a decision not to have any alliance with any party in the state. Our alliance is only with the people. Our decision to go alone in Andhra was taken months before (the Telangana assembly election).

There is a perception that Chandrababu (Naidu) used Congress in Telangana and discarded it.

I don’t agree. In politics, both success and setback will be there. (Telangana results) were of course a setback. I don’t believe that anybody played politics... when setbacks happen, such comments are natural.

How are your prospects now in AP specially after Rahul Gandhi promised implementation of SCS if UPA returns to power?

Rahul ji did two mega rallies in the state. Both rallies saw active participation by people. We will increase our vote share in Andhra in a considerable way this time. After this poll, I can confidently say we will have Congress representatives in Lok Sabha and the state assembly from AP.

If there is a hung assembly, will Congress go with YSR Congress Party or with TDP?

Our goal is to keep BJP away from power and strengthen secular, democratic forces not just in Andhra Pradesh, but across the country.

First Published: Mar 24, 2019 07:24 IST