Amaravati: Leader of Opposition in Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly and YSR Congress party president, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, said that the party is willing to lend its support at the Centre to any party or front, which commits itself to special category status to Andhra Pradesh in writing,for the upcoming assembly and Lok Sabha elections. In an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times on completion of 200 days of his mass contact initiative, Praja Sankalpa Yatra, YS Jagan categorically stated that the YSRCP was fully capable of fighting it on its own steam and added that it was ready for the elections–“the sooner the better for the party and state”. The interview was published prominently in the Thursday edition of the newspaper.
Read some of the highlights of the interview as it appeared in the Hindustan Times:
HT: You have completed 200 days of padayatra, covering more than 2,400 km. What have been your observations during this period?
YS Jagan: Every day is a new experience for me. I have been learning a lot from my experience every day.Faces may change, but the plight of the people remains the same everywhere with a degree of difference. Farmers are in distress with no remunerative prices for the last four years, their debts have been mounting, unemployment has been on the rise and economy has collapsed.
There is no democracy at the village level. What we see is only usurping of powers of the local government by the Janma Bhoomi committees, which are constituted with the Telugu Desam Party nominees. Whether it is pensions, ration cards or even a toilet, they go only to the TDP members through these committees. The elected sarpanches have been reduced to figureheads with no powers. Corruption at grassroots level has gone up tremendously. NREGP funds have been looted.
Sand mafia is ruling the roost and sand is being looted right in front of the officials, even in places like Amaravati. Only TDP benamis are getting free sand. Collectors are partners to this loot. CM Chandrababu Naidu’s son and his Heritage Company are partner to this loot. They are not even sparing the mud. There are scams everywhere–in coal supply, power purchase, liquor dealings. They have not spared even temples and temple lands.
What are the major problems that you have noticed during your padayatra?
Several problems and all of them are man-made, thanks to the lack of governance by Naidu. He promised to waive all crop loans of farmers to the extent of Rs 87,612 crore, but all that he has waived in the last four years was just an average of Rs 3,000 crore per year.
He came to power riding on the slogan of providing jobs to every unemployed (person). He neither provided jobs nor did he give the promised unemployment dole. The only way youth could get jobs was by securing special category status to AP, which would have brought a number of industries with incentives like zero income tax and GST exemption. But it did not happen.
Naidu claimed to have brought in investments worth Rs 20 lakh crore with 40 lakh jobs, but as per the Union commerce ministry reports, not even Rs 20,000 crore worth investments have come to AP in last four years.
What is going to be your major issue in the next elections? Special category status, revival of YSR era or Naidu?
It is going to be all these issues put together. Last time, we missed power narrowly with a margin of 1.5% votes, thanks to Naidu’s false promises, his claims of being an experienced leader, the Pawan Kalyan factor and the Modi wave.
Today the situation is different. People have realised that Naidu is a liar . And the two wheels – the BJP and Pawan Kalyan – are off his cycle. We are showcasing our nine promises – Nava Ratnas — to tell people what we can do. At the same time, we are giving a promise to bring back the golden era of YSR.
With regard to special category status, it is definitely going to be a major issue. YSRCP has been the only party which has been consistently fighting for it, while the TDP has changed its stand only now.
There is talk that there could be an early election. How well are you prepared?
I have not given any thought about it, as right now, I am concentrating on my padayatra. But I feel the sooner the elections are, the better for us and the state. There is no need for any additional preparation for the polls.
It appears to be a multi-cornered contest in Andhra this time as popular actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party has also thrown its hat in the ring. Do you think it will affect your chances due to split in the anti-establishment vote?
I don’t think a multi-cornered contest will have any impact on our party’s prospects. In 2014, people who supported Pawan Kalyan and the BJP voted for the TDP because they fought together. Now, the two parties will split the TDP votes and not that of YSR Congress.
Your ex-MP from Tirupati claimed that Pawan Kalyan would actually support your party.
I have not got any such proposal. We are capable of contesting the elections without anybody’s support. In any case, I don’t see any need to think about support and alliances at this stage.
Chandrababu Naidu has been alleging that the BJP is firing at him from the shoulders of the YSRCP and Jana Sena to pull down his government…
This is nothing but senseless and stupid talking. It was the TDP which had sailed with the BJP for four years.
In the event of your party getting maximum number of MP seats from Andhra, say 20 out of 25, whom do you support at the Centre in 2019?
I have already made it clear that my party will support whichever party or coalition at the Centre that gives it in writing that it will grant special category status to Andhra. We don’t want to get carried away by just promises
Will YSR Congress be part of a federal front, if it is invited, in the event of such a front forming the government at the Centre? What is going to be your role in national politics?
I am not interested in joining any fronts or coalitions at the national level. I don’t want any role in national politics.