Why did you quit TRS in the middle of elections?
There are many reasons and its been brewing for some time now. I was requested to join the party and stand as an MP. My background is in research, engineering and entrepreneurship. Joining politics was not an aspirational thing. The aspirational aspect for me was to achieve Telangana, which used to one of the wealthiest state in the whole country. To realise a separate Telangana which will provide jobs, solve irrigation issues and water problems. Telangana was suffereing when it with with Andhra Pradesh. So before joining politics, I joined the agitation. I was part of the agitation, then KCR and KTR requested me to join politics. Primarily, you can achieve a political goal through a political process and a political party. So, after a year of being coaxed, I joined TRS. It represented the aspirations of a separate Telangana.
In 2014, before the elections, it was widely thought that TRS will hardly win 30 seats out of the 190 assembly seats and Congress would be major winner. It was mostly because it was the Congress and Sonia Gandhi who actually had the courage to carve a separate Telangana and pass the bill in the parliament.
Also one should remember that TRS members, including KCR and KTR, went to Sonia Gandhi, not only to thank them but also to have alliance with Congress. It didn’t materialise. In the end, TRS fought the elections alone. There was a sudden surge for TRS just before the 2014 elections and the party won and I also became an MP.
But what went wrong later on?
KCR tried to transform a party focused on agitations into a political party. But, in the process of this transformation something went wrong. During this process, we became quite different from the ideals we stood for. We also became distant from the people.
Once you become distant from the people you are bound to take decisions which are not in interests of people. Or at least you are bound to take decisions without understanding the needs of the people. I can give you plenty of examples; the greatest need of people was a job in the family. It was just not the aspiration of the youth. Employment options were not generated and even promises such as irrigation projects were not kept. This started happening in 2016, we started drifting from original ideas and then some of us did tried to raise our voice.
What happened when you tried to raise your voice in the party?
Being a regional party, there is hardly any scope for debate or discussion or even a deliberation. Voices were also being stifled; it didn’t matter if we wanted to say something positive or critical. There was only one voice and all ears. Many of us started feeling this. Beyond a point, it is not tolerable. I have been planning to leave for the last four months. I have been discussing with various senior leaders whether to leave the party and join some other party or whether to leave politics at all.
I didn’t join politics to build a political career. I have many interests, I am a entrepreneur. I could do social service by providing jobs and running NGOs. I do have other interests. So, I decided that I would not stay in a party which has not delivered its promises and has become distant from the people.
What made you to join Congress Party? What are the pull and push factors?
There are many reasons. But, ultimately it boils down to under whose leadership will the country prosper. And under whose government will the country prosper. Of late, I have clearly seen that the Congress is much more democratic in its functioning. Even with regards to the economy, when did the economy really flourish? I recall that PV Narsimha Rao inherited a government in economic doldrums. Subsequently, when Manmohan Singh was appointed, the country achieved unprecedented growth rate touching 10%. Many international economists could not even imagine growth rates touching 9-10%. So, the Congress is democratic in its functioning, they have achieved economic development, are sensitive social issues and they are inclusive.
These were the some of the reasons because of which I joined the Congress if I have to continue in politics.
There is a lot of complain about KCR’s style of function? What’s exactly wrong with him?
It’s a classical example of how power can change people and I thought he was a great people’s representative. But after coming to power, he was in a hurry to bring about change. Or probably as I said earlier, in the process of transformation from an agitation-based party to a political party, something went wrong. It can because their focus shifted from the people of the state to the family. He became distant from the people. He forgot to focus on relevant issues, primarily jobs. It was one of the main reasons people fought for a separate state and he neglected that. He started to behave in an autocratic manner and was unreachable to people. He is the probably the only chief minister in history, who will go down as the person who did not enter the state secretariat for the last three years.
Could you detail a little more about KCR’s autocratic behaviour?
I think I should first say that he is an extremely knowledgeable and intelligent person. He knows many of the issues of the state. In many instances, I realised that his knowledge of irrigation is probably more than what the engineers know. But nevertheless when you take a decision on a particular project, on a irrigation project, you have involve all the engineers. You have to involve the ministers concerned and then take the decision. You can’t design a large project all by yourself. This is how autocratic people work. The project then has a chance to be a disaster or an economic liability.
Similarly on the power issue, despite being very knowledgeable, but you have to take opinion of the ministers and the experts and take the decision on the power policy of the state. In projects such as Mission Bhagiratha, he is directly involved. As a chief minister, he should take policy decisions and allow the minister and the experts to decide.
Of late, we have seen two instances where he bullies somebody who questions him and he asks them to keep quiet. He has started to become the sole decision maker. This is how he has transformed.
Do you want to say that he behaves in the same manner in press meet, as he behaves in party review meeting or bureaucratic meeting
In a party review meeting, I think everyone is silent when he speaks. No one has courage to speak in most party review meetings. In press meets, someone stands up to ask questions. In a party review, things go on very smoothly, because no one questions him, everyone understands him. No one wants to face his wrath or his intolerance.
As you said, people are used to his attitude nowadays because he is repeatedly doing the same things
He is promoting his son KTR and daughter Kavitha, when it comes to power and party. In the government as well as party, there are many charges about the KCR’s family. Is it true, what do you say?
It is true, but that is the nature of most regional parties in the country. But, in this case, five members of his family are public representatives. I don’t any other political party in the the country where you have the chief minister’s post; IT, municipal administration, industry, mining are all under his son KT Rama Rao. Then irrigation under Harish Rao garu, then Kavitha is a Lok Sabha MP and Santhosh, his nephew, is a Rajya Sabha MP.
There is one more distant relative of his who is a MLA. That I think is not desirable for any democracy.
Coming back to the state elections, there is a wave in favour of the Grand alliance. What is your opinion?
Absolutely, I can see the wave building up. In fact, it is not only me who has seen it building up, even KCR has realised it. There is a leaning towards the Congress and that is the primary reason for the early elections. He wanted to stop the rot in the party before it went beyond his control. This led him to dissolve the Assembly eight months earlier. By advancing the elections, he effectively consolidated the opposition against him. It was truly a miscalculation of someone who is otherwise known to be politically savvy.
The opposition came together and formed the grand alliance, praja front or PrajaKutami. He did not expect CPI, TJS, TDP and Congress party to come together with a common agenda of focussing on the development of Telangana. Focussing on all wrongs of TRS. But, not only did these four parties come together, even the famous balladeer Gaddar garu, who was at the forefront of the Telangana agitation, joined the Kutami. One of the good SC leaders, Mandakrishna Mariga joined this Kutami. R Krishanaya, an OBC leader also joined this Kutami. So, it’s a perfect formula for a wave to build up and that is making TRS very nervous.
Even six months ago, it was inconceivable that the TRS will lose the elections or even get less than 70-80 seats. From that position, they have literally arrived at a do or die situation. In fact, during the 2014 elections also, the wave in favour of TRS built up in the last few days. Now, a similar wave is building up in favour of the Kutami. If you look at social media, TRS has already lost the elections. In 2014, we didn’t have media on our side, power or even sufficient MLAs with us. But, social media was working on opur favour. Now, TRS has all of the others, except of social media support. I believe social media opinions are an indication of the educated youth. Now with whatsapp, it also representative of the rural masses.
Who propelled the TRS party? it was the youth, students and personalities such as Gadar and Prof Kodandaram, These are the core groups which supported the TRS and they were the voters of the TRS . There is a total erosion of this vote base. This entire voter base of the TRS party has migrated. They not only migrated, they are working to make sure that TRS loses. So, the TRS party has to find a new set of voters right now. They have a serious problem at hand.
Would you like to join the state government if MahaKutami comes to power in Telangana
I have aspirations for a becoming a MLA or MLC, but I am quite satisfied in the role of a parliamentarian. I feel I have been effective in the four-and-a-half years as a parliamentarian. Despite the fact that for the last four years my party wanted me to be absent on several occasions. But, I enjoy being a parliamentarian and I believe I am doing something meaningful as one.
What is your personal political goal?
I want to represent Chevella Lok Sabha. I want to ensure that the state government spends all the funds that comes from the centre effectively in my constituency. I want to work effectively in the parliament not just for my constituency or state but also for the nation. I am glad that I am the convener of various parliamentarian groups of UN and UNICEF. I will continue to do it and I hope to make a difference.