New Delhi: Once called the chief executive officer (CEO) of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu says he has had to pay a heavy price for that epithet: His party—the Telugu Desam Party (TDP)— lost the 2004 assembly elections. This, despite the efforts of Naidu—who has had the longest tenure as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh—to turn the state into a preferred global destination for information technology companies. Naidu, 58, says he did not get the opportunity to reap the fruits of the labour he had put in during his rule from 1995 to 2004.
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After a break, you are back in national politics. How do you feel?
The TDP has always played a national role. When the Congress was very powerful, the TDP (formed in 1982) and its leader N.T. Rama Rao took initiatives (to form an anti-Congress platform).... We have been doing our best in national politics from the beginning.
Now you are talking about a third alternative, for which you have joined hands with the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left parties. But there was another third front initiated by the Samajwadi Party (SP). But SP is no longer a part of it. What’s the future of third-front parties now?
Upbeat: Naidu says the Congress came to power in AP just when the fruits?of his?labour were to be reaped. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
There may be some political compulsions for some of them. But at the end of the day, you can see, the Left parties, the BSP (Uttar Pradesh-ruling Bahujan Samaj Party), TDP and AIADMK (Tamil Nadu’s main opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) are all together. Before or after polls, a new polarization or alternative will emerge.
Do you see a chance of the SP coming back to the third alternative?
No. We are not looking at it.
The Left says it doesn’t mind supporting Mayawati as prime minister. Do you subscribe to that view?
All these will be discussed with other political parties at an appropriate time.
AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa is another aspirant for the prime minister’s post. People are looking at you also as a possible candidate for the post.
No. I am not an aspirant. From the beginning, I was very clear that I was not.
The TDP had extended outside support to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government (from 1999-2004). Why did you break away from it?
I had not joined the government. It was a support from outside due to political compulsions. I had to break away because of their communal attitude. I could not support them because we wanted to remain a secular party.
Do you see any chances of getting closer to the BJP again?
No. We are working with the Communists.
The BJP has been raising terror attacks as a major election issue. After the Malegaon (in Maharashtra) blasts, there is a new phrase — “Hindu terrorism”. How do you look at it?
...The governments have to protect the lives and properties of people... So anything of this sort—communalism or terrorism—is not good for the nation.
You are a supporter of economic reforms that the Left parties oppose. How do you expect to convince the Communists about the need for reforms?
My view is that the fruits of reforms should reach the common man. The Communist parties are also fighting for it. They don’t oppose reforms blindly. You have to treat the reforms with a human angle.
With the entry of Chiranjeevi in Andhra politics, the state seems to be heading for a triangular contest. Where does your party stand?
We (the TDP) have a track record. We gave good governance and the Congress has failed to deliver it. Both the TDP and the Congress have good (organizational) infrastructure (in the state). They (the Praja Rajyam) do not have the infrastructure and that will be their major drawback.
But do you think Chiranjeevi will manage to influence his community (the Kapus)?
People will vote on the basis of performance and on a party’s track record. So, I am confident people are with us irrespective of caste, and people belonging to backward classes realize that we were doing justice to them.
So, Praja Rajyam will not eat into TDP votes?
As a matter of fact, it will take away the Congress votes.
You said you have paid the price for your tag as CEO of Andhra Pradesh. Political observers say the current chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, is implementing welfare programmes effectively.
It is not correct. He (Reddy) is fulfilling his own aspirations. There is rampant corruption. If you go to a village, you can see that this government has failed to maintain the development works my government had initiated... I had created wealth and that had to be taken to the common man...what I am saying is that the Congress came to power at a time when the fruits of (my labour) were to be reaped.
The TDP seems to have done a U-turn on its stance over a separate statehood for Telangana?
We have decided to support Telangana after a series of discussions.
But your ally CPM is opposing it...
I have told them that there is a political compulsion for me (to support the Telangana statehood demand). Their stand may be different. But I am in talks with them.