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Home / Lok Sabha Elections / Lok Sabha elections 2019: ‘Today, BJP is the greatest threat to our democracy,’ says Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu

Lok Sabha elections 2019: ‘Today, BJP is the greatest threat to our democracy,’ says Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu

Naidu spoke to Venkatesha Babu about the prospects of forming a grand alliance of opposition parties, his falling-out with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and key election issues. Edited excerpts:

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 07, 2019 07:49 IST
Venkatesha Babu
Venkatesha Babu
Hindustan Times
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu talks to media during a protest march demanding special status for his state from Andhra Pradesh Bhavan to Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, February 12, 2019.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu talks to media during a protest march demanding special status for his state from Andhra Pradesh Bhavan to Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, February 12, 2019. (Raj K Raj/HT FILE PHOTO)

Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who will turn 69 in two weeks, keeps a punishing campaign schedule even in 40 degrees Celsius heat. He addresses at least five rallies a day, criss-crossing Andhra Pradesh, ahead of the simultaneous assembly and parliamentary elections in the state on April 11.

Naidu spoke to Hindustan Times about the prospects of forming a grand alliance of opposition parties, his falling-out with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and key election issues. Edited excerpts:

You were an ally of the BJP for four years before parting ways. In your rallies, you seem to attack Modi more than YSR Congress Party chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (the main opposition party in the state). Why did the relationship sour so much?

Who started it first? When he comes here and calls me (U-turn Babu), talks of ‘son rise’ (a reference to Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh) and how Polavaram (multi-purpose irrigation project) is an ATM, when he makes attacks on my family, should I keep quiet? My Andhra people want me to respond in the same language he uses. Modi is uncouth. If he wants respect to be given, he also should learn to give respect to others. He spoke the same disrespectful language to Akhilesh {Yadav, chief of the Samajwadi Party}, Mayawati {chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party}, Mamata {Banerjee, West Bengal CM} everywhere… It is Modi who is failing to uphold the dignity of the office of PM… I won my first election in 1978 and have seen PMs right from the time of Indira Gandhi... nobody behaved in this irresponsible manner. With others we might have had ideological differences but it never got personal till Modi started this. If I keep quiet, people will believe his lies. This megalomaniac needs to be paid back in the same coin.

Earlier also, I had differed with him in 2002 (during the Gujarat riots) and requested then PM (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee to ensure raj dharma and have him step down. In 2013-14 when Congress divided our state, we joined hands with NDA (National Democratic Alliance) only to ensure justice for the people of Andhra. When the state was bifurcated against our wishes, both the major parties on the floor of Parliament agreed to give us special category status. All we are demanding is implementation of the bifurcation bill. As a new state needing central assistance, I tried to be on the right side of the Centre and waited for four years. There is a limit to one’s patience. When we realized they had no intention of giving us our due, we decided to part ways.

Modi is insecure, egoistic and jealous. He is worried (that) if special status is given, we will grow very fast and TDP rule will be praised nationally. BJP wants to grow everywhere, even when they have partners... That is not coalition dharma. Anybody who opposes him, he unleashes the Income Tax department, Enforcement Directorate and other central agencies (against them). This is not just us; he is doing (this) to all opposition parties. Is this fair?

You have been in politics for four decades. What do you expect on 23rd May, the day the results will be declared?

The BJP will be voted out of office. We will have a secular, democratic non-BJP government at the Centre.

PM keeps pointing out that TDP was started on an anti-Congress platform and you have betrayed that by joining hands with it.

Circumstances have changed since the founding of TDP. Today the greatest threat to our democracy is BJP. Today there is no Congress in several parts of the country. In 1996, didn’t the United Front take support from Congress? Both Congress and BJP are non-players in Andhra. So among political, secular and democratic compulsions, we have to take Congress along. Modi is talking according to his convenience.

Also read | Amit Shah says doors of NDA forever shut for Chandrababu Naidu

In the last assembly and parliamentary polls, you had the support of BJP and Pawan Kalyan and even then the margin of difference between you and YSRCP was just about 1.5% in terms of votes. This time both BJP and Pawan are fighting independently. Are you confident of coming back to power?

Last time we fought for united Andhra and we had a party in both states (AP and Telangana). I fought neutrally. This time I am fighting against the combination of Jagan, BJP and KCR (K.Chandrashekhar Rao, Telangana CM). I have done amazing work in the last five years. We have given good governance. Jagan is in collusion with KCR and BJP. Andhra people are bitterly against KCR and BJP... TDP will go ahead with Mission 150 plus (seats in the assembly). We will achieve it.

Two of your signature projects — building the Andhra capital, Amaravati, and the Polavaram irrigation project — have been delayed. Would this have an impact on the elections?

People realise that nowhere in the world are such massive projects built overnight, specially as the Centre denies us our rightful funds. Even then 70% of the work in Polavaram is done. Only land acquisition work of 30% is left. I am going for linking of rivers. People are convinced. Everyday 4000-5000 people visit the project site from across the state and realise the progress we have made in spite of the odds. Even in Amaravati, a lot of progress has been made... What I have done, we are very happy with. I will create a better city than Hyderabad, which I built.

Also read | ‘Chowkidar of criminals’: Chandrababu Naidu continues attack on PM Modi

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