Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy is a happy man as he prepares for his second term as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. The Congress under his leadership not only won 156 of the 294 assembly seats to form the government on its own in the state, but also contributed 33 out of 42 MPs to the UPA kitty, which proved vital for the formation of the government at the Centre. Excerpts from an interview with Venugopal Pillai:
What does this victory mean to you?
The people's mandate was clearly in our favour. Unlike 2004, when we had tied up with the TRS and the Left, this time we contested on our own while the opposition parties joined lock, stock and barrel with the TDP to defeat us.
Why do you think the TDP's 'grand alliance' failed?
Its sole intention was to defeat the Congress. In any alliance, there should be a sense of purpose, people's interest must be paramount. They lacked it, the people rejected them.
What's your stand on a separate Telangana?
The Congress stand remains the same. We are not opposed to Telangana. My only contention is that while carving out a separate state, issues concerning other regions (Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra) should also be taken into account, including sharing of river waters. A committee under senior Congress leader K. Rosaiah is on the job, studying the pros and cons. One must not forget that the people of Telangana have rewarded us for our emphasis on development. The Congress won 50 out of 119 assembly seats in the region, and 12 Lok Sabha seats.
The TDP-led alliance had levelled a series of allegations against you and your government....
(Smiles) It has become a fashion for opposition parties, particularly the TDP, to make allegations. But the people displayed a sense of maturity—it has shown the opposition its place in the election. I hope they learn a lesson from the defeat and behave more responsibly.
Who do you hold responsible for the Satyam scam?
Chandrababu Naidu. He patronised Ramalinga Raju, former chairman of the company. We must not forget that Raju, the prime accused in the scam, had the privilege of sharing the dais with former US president Bill Clinton at Naidu's behest.
The state CID has been accused of trying to hush up the scam.
I had recommended the case be handed over to the CBI. All these allegations on the Satyam scam are baseless.
You're being credited for crushing Naxalism in AP.
It's incorrect to say that I've crushed the movement. But the youth in Naxal-infested areas have given up guns. I remember that about eight months into my last tenure, Maoist recruitments had come down drastically. The youth began to realise the changes we were bringing into the lives of farmers with free power supply and irrigation projects.
What will be your priorities for the next five years?
We have not promised the sky. First we would ensure that the pending projects—be it welfare measures, irrigation projects or infrastructure—are completed in time. Efforts will be made to meet the fresh promise of free power for nine hours a day to farmers and rice at Rs 2 per kg to the poor.
Did it bother you that you never had a film star of the stature of Chiranjeevi or NTR junior to campaign for you?
A huge number of fans may turn up to see their favourite stars. But that does not necessarily translate into votes.
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