Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Want to see Andhra Pradesh top on happiness index: Chandrababu Naidu

By Udumula Sudhakar Reddy

He has completed two years in office, but AP Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu still walks a thin line, managing mega projects like Amaravati with a cash-strapped treasury, keeping a vitriolic Opposition at bay... all for seeing AP on top of the happiness index by 2029, he tells U Sudhakar Reddy.

With works on the AP capital still in the initial stage, can you showcase Amaravati as your government’s achievement in the 2019 elections? How long will it take to build the capital?
A: We started from a minus stage. Before bifurcation of the state, did the idea of Amaravati exist? The state was divided and we needed a new capital. There was a lot of discussion about where the capital should come up. The Sivaramakrishna Committee had made a fuss. Then I decided that the capital should come up between Vijayawada and Guntur. We named it Amaravati.

Three hospitals and three universities have come forward to set up their units here. When infrastructure comes, it will take off one by one. Once the momentum picks up, the capital will take shape. I want to build one of the best capitals in the world. I can construct the administrative capital by the 2019 elections.

What about the criticism that you have ignored local talent and instead opted for Singapore for the capital’s plan, design and construction?
A: You want me to build huts? Singapore has huge expertise and with prefab technology, buildings can be constructed within months. Scientific construction is important. China is also building quickly with prefab. Singapore is well-plann-ed and the most livable city.

At the recent Mahanadu, it was hinted that the two flagship projects, Polavaram and Amaravati, were likely to be delayed due to obstructions and lack of proper funding… Will Polavaram be a reality in two years? What are the technical problems involved?
A.  There are no technical hurdles. All are cleared. We need funds. Only thing is, we need money. I am monitoring Polavaram’s progr-ess every 15 days. We have not got the money from the Centre yet. They said they would get us money through NABARD. But it is yet to be finalised. The state has spent Rs 1,600 crore despite financial crisis. Amaravati and Polavaram are flagship projects for us and we are determined to complete them.

What will happen to the buildings allotted to AP in Hyderabad once the staff shifts in June? What will be the fate of the assets supposed to fall in AP’s share?
A: The Supreme Court judgment regarding Higher Education Council assets shall be followed. Assets and debts have to shared based on population. It is not correct that assets will be taken based on their location. We are supposed to sort out the issue in two months. If not, the Centre has to interfere. We have to follow the SC judgment. If Telangana wants those buil-dings, we have to be compensated and we will use it for Amaravati.

TS Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has extended an olive branch on irrigation projects and wants one-to-one talks to solve the issue. What is your take on it?
A: The Apex Council and also river water boards have been formed for dealing with the water issue. Recently in the Nagarjuna Sagar issue, AP’s share of drinking water was not released initially despite the CWC direction. It was delayed. It is not going to be that we both just sit and talk. We have to be part of the established structure. At Nagarjuna Sagar, police of the two states were about to fight. I felt bad about it and I phoned (KCR) and said it would bring shame to us.

We sat with the Governor and decided the matter. Why should this happen? We will sit with the apex council to solve the water issues. Any talks should be in the purview of the apex council. The CWC is the competent controlling authority. It would be better if they were part of the talk.

How is the state government’s relationship with the Centre and the Telugu Desam’s with the BJP?
A: AP’s relation with the Centre is like any state to Centre relation and TD’s with BJP is party to party. We have given them one Rajya Sabha MP’s seat as BJP president Amit Shah asked for it. We have accommodated them.

Did you ask for the Governor’s posts in reciprocation?
A: Regarding political posts, give and take is important. Prior to that, we want to get whatever we are supposed to get as per the Reorganis-ation Act, whatever was promised in Parliament, whatever the Centre is duty-bound to give the state. All states should be brought on a level playing field. Injust-ice has been done to us. The Congress behaved in a most atrocious manner for which they were punished by the people. If BJP does the same, it won’t be correct.

You have been saying that you are maintaining restraint in your relationship with the Centre or the BJP as it is needed for the development of the state. But the BJP is criticizing your government aggressively very often…
A: Today you have witnessed how the opposition leader made vulgar comments against me (referring to Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy’s comments against him). In the history of AP, an MLA or opposition leader has never made such abusive comments against a CM. It is their culture. I am in public life, so I have to bear all this.

When YSR was CM, when Paritala Ravi was killed, I was angry and anguished over the murder. But I didn’t lose my temper in the legislative assembly. Morals and ethics have come down drastically in politics. Criminals and economic terrorists are entering politics. They lack basic ethics and culture.

In a section of the vernacular media it was reported that you had met PM Modi and shared your feelings with him with an ‘open heart’ regarding differences with him during the Godhra riots. Did that really happen?
A: I have met Mr Modi before and after elections. I told him that I had differed with him on that reason. But I told him ‘the nation needs you’. I told him we will work together. I told him I was ready to work with him. I had met him one-on-one before elections too. What is wrong in it?

The special status has turned out to be a big sentiment. YSRC and Congress have been criticising that you have no clarity on the issue and are speaking with a dual tone…
A: Reality is different from sentiment. If special status is given to the state, we get 90 per cent central grant for various schemes and we have to bear 10 per cent. In EAP projects too they give 90 per cent grant. If they give special status and they don’t give EAP projects, what would you achieve? Why are Northeastern sta-tes, which have been given special status, still at the bottom of the growth list? Why did Congress not do it during bifurcation?

Congress, YSRC and TRS conspired together and worked against us. KCR, who was agitating for Telangana, told the Congress he would merge the party if Telangana was formed. It is on record. The Congress then humiliated and insulted Andhra people. Their strategy was that in frustration people of AP would vote for YSRC. They brought Jagan out of jail and promoted him. But their strategy went wrong. If the state gets special status, people will be happy, I will be happy. But if the state is given Rs 10,000 crore extra funds I can use it for development. The state is a two-year-old baby. We have to nurture it like an infant. I am putting all my pressure and using all good relations.

Regarding special status you have been criticising the Congress. But the NDA has amended the Act more than twice for adding mandals, for council seats… Why can’t you demand that the NDA make an amendment in the Act for special status?
A: Why do we need an amendment for this? If they want to do it, who will stop them? They should give it.

Employees of AP secretariat and HoDs met at Hyderabad and expressed their reluctance to shift to AP immediately.
A: They should stop telling these stories. No demands and no conditions will be accepted. All of them have to come here to Amaravati. They have to work from here. No more arguments will be allowed. One or two exceptional cases can be considered. I will take it very seriously. There will be no further discussions on it. I will not even allow anybody to mention it. I am clear. For nine years, all the employees worked without making a noise. They are here to work for the people. More than employees, people have problems.

People have no income. They are suffering. Our government has to work for them. I don’t want to hear this again from any quarters. Even if the Chief Secretary brings up this issue, I will not listen to him. They should stop this mad thinking. Nobody can dictate terms to my government. Only people can dictate terms. It is the people who elected me and the government.

Are you suspecting some politician’s hand behind this move of the employees?
A: There may be one or two politicians behind it. But I am not going to tolerate it.

It appears that there is unrest among party activists and leaders over not filling nominated posts though you promised to do justice to party activists?
A: My party activists and leaders have bagged all posts in village, mandal and district levels. I have filled the market committees. I have given MLCs and appointed the corporation chairman. It is not possible for everyone to become an MLC. Only the deserving will get it. Which party gives Rs 2 lakh insurance to party workers? We are giving free education too. Public wants clean governance. There are 54 lakh party members, we can’t give positions to all.

Due to defections of YSRC MLAs and leaders there is discontent brewing among TD cadres in Prakasam and Kurnool districts… How are you going to address it?
A: An MLA candidate lost four times. If someone who won the elections joins the party why should he oppose it? Public should believe in them and follow them. They should provide such leadership. There are some good leaders who will be accommodated as MLCs and in corporations.

TS is forming new districts. In AP too, there is a demand for new districts. Anantapur was the largest district in united AP and Kurnool second. All Rayalaseema districts are big. Is there any move on reorganising the districts and forming new ones?
A: Why do we need these diversions at this point of time? We have enough issues to deal with. First we have to overcome the financial crisis.

KCR’s team has Harish Rao and KTR who are working for better performance of the government. In AP, there is no specific minister like them… Why is there so much delay in inducting Lokesh despite demands from party leaders and cadres? When is the Cabinet expansion expected?
A: It will be done at an appropriate time. What is there to object if I induct Lokesh into the Cabinet? Lokesh is already the party’s general secretary. He played a key role during the last elections. We will see. I will keep this in mind.

During your present tenure, it appears that you have been focusing on caste combinations and reservations. Is this a strategy to stay in power for long, with 80 per cent consolidation of voters?
A: I am not focing on caste angle. Every caste has to get justice. My caste is ‘poor’ caste. Wherever there are poor, they have to be uplifted. Among upper castes too, there are poor people. That’s why we are working on reservations for the poor in upper castes. Even for Kapus. Injustice and backwardness have to be wiped out. I am giving priority to all castes. We are working with a humanitarian appro-ach. Pulse survey is being taken up. We will geo tag the families and find their fina-ncial condition and ways to improve their income.

Your party leaders like MLA R. Krishanaiah, a BC leader, have been opposing the reservations to Kapus and said they would protest on the streets…
A: No need for them to take to the streets. TD has been working for BCs since its inception. The Congress has done nothing. The TD is committed to the BCs.

Due to campaigns by YSRC and the book published on corruption of your party, particularly regarding Amaravati, has your image taken a beating? Are you feeling a threat to your ‘clean image’?
A: I am not worried if someone damages my image. They can’t do it. I don’t commit mistakes, technically and morally too. If they say whatever they want to, people won’t believe. YS Rajasekhar Reddy had filed more than 25 cases against me. Nothing happened. I came out clean. Till today I sleep on a hard surface. No mattress or bedding. I eat simple food. I use chartered flights for time management. So many states have planes and helicopters.

The opposition is making this an issue too. An accused number 1 in 11 cases makes these allegations… Can people trust him? Regarding Amaravati, so far plots are yet to be returned to farmers, then where is the question of corruption? If corrupt people believe that if they sling mud on me they can come out clean, then it is their ignorance.

What’s your take on a minister in the NDA government giving appointments to opposition leader Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy during which he complained against you?
A: It is not an issue. For example, when I visited Delhi as opposition leader, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh didn’t give me an appointment.

At 67, do you feel that you work with the same energy like you did during your previous stint?
A: When we have committee men we don’t have any issues. I have set a goal and when I achieve it I get inner happiness. Good work makes you happy. There is no physical hard work now. It is all brainwork and technology driven. I have come to know that within three days of this month, 64 per cent people have availed pensions. Because of real-time data I can know these things. We live in inspiring times. So the satisfaction level of the common man is important. By 2029, I want to make AP top on happiness index.”

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