Ever since he assumed power in November 2010, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has been on the edge. Stalking him are internal party squabbles, the Jagan factor, scam charges against cabinet members, the Telangana issue and a constant refrain that his gaddi might be stolen. The CM, however, laughs off all the turbulence as a natural part of politics. Touring Krishna district as part of his pet programme Indiramma Baata, Kiran Reddy tells Madhavi Tata in an interview that he will lead the party to victory in 2014. His confidence is coated with a philosophical tone.
There are persistent rumours that you will be replaced as CM. Does that affect you?
See, you are calling them rumours. I don’t believe in rumours. I am a dedicated Congressman. I realise that nothing is permanent in life. So whatever post I am in, be it chief whip, speaker or chief minister, I try to do justice to my role.
You have been sounding very philosophical of late.
When life itself is not permanent, to think that a post is permanent is foolish. I am just being realistic. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy was one of our biggest leaders. Then, he was gone in a chopper crash. Did we expect that? That is reality.
Five of your ministers are facing CBI probes. How’re you dealing with this?
The law will of course take its own course. We are assisting the CBI in every way.
What are the chances of the Congress in the 2014 polls? Do you fear the anti-incumbency factor?
Yes, we have been in power for 7-8 years but will turn any anti-incumbency into a positive wave with our new schemes.
You don’t see a sweep for Jagan’s ysr Congress in Seemandhra?
None at all. Sympathy for Jagan cannot last for long. Rajasekhara Reddy was a tall leader and Jagan kept this affection alive in the bypolls, but it won’t last.
And Chandrababu Naidu?
He has lost his credibility. He keeps changing his stance on everything.
Who will be the star campaigner of the Congress? Are you going to be the chief ministerial candidate in 2014?
The Congress does not decide the CM candidate before the polls. Yes, as the sitting CM, I will lead on behalf of the party. We’ll get as many seats in the assembly and Lok Sabha as now, if not more.
What direction is the Telangana issue taking?
People of Seemandhra and Telangana are expressing their opinions. It is for the Centre to analyse and take a decision. Such things have happened—in 1969 during the Telangana movement, then during the 1971 Jai Andhra movement. The Centre had spelt out its stand.
What about the trs offering its merger with the Congress as a carrot?
I don’t want to go into that.
The burden on the common man in AP has increased by Rs 22,000 crore since 2009 through vat, fuel surcharge, registration fee hike....
We have to raise money for our welfare schemes through areas where people are able to bear the costs.
There is a perception that you don’t listen to other party leaders.
(Smiles) I am a good listener. I listen to all opinions and then take a decision.
Is the Indiramma Baata scheme a sort of a poll campaign in advance?
No. The main aim of Indiramma Baata is to travel to all parts of the state and ensure if people are benefiting from the Rs 27,000 crore being spent on welfare.
The opposition has been saying that all you do is play cricket with students or ride tractors in Indiramma Baata.
I stay in a school, eat with SC/ST students, or play cricket with them. I tell them this government is for them and to take benefit of our schemes.
You are touring three days a week as part of Indiramma Baata. Do you think your presence in Hyderabad is being missed?
Governance is for the people. One cannot sit in Hyderabad and do that. I have to understand ground reality. Look at the happiness on those faces (Pointing at two women waving at him). Decisions can be taken from any place, not just Hyderabad.
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