Hyderabad: They fought side-by-side for almost five years to achieve Telangana’s statehood, but M. Kodandaram, chairman of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) is now firm that he has to take the political plunge against Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo and state chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s “undemocratic" ways. The TJAC will officially launch its political wing, the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) on 29 April at a big public meeting.

TJAC was formed in 2009 December as a common platform for all pro-Telangana parties and organisations. Its gradual falling-out with the TRS has more to do with former coming into its own as a civil society body, in the process becoming a constant critic of the latter for failing to fulfill pre-poll promises after forming a government. In an interview, Kodandaram talked about how he plans to take a more people-centric approach and solve issues where he feels the TRS government has failed. Edited excerpts:

It is being said that many from the TRS ranks have joined your new party. Is the TJS looking to poach leaders directly from the ruling party?

No; we are not poaching. But many people from the TRS are coming on their own. For example, the Khammam and Kothagudem presidents of the TRS came to us. We have not scouted as well. This is because people who were not part of the Telangana statehood movement are now controlling TRS.

The TJAC was being looked at like a conscience keeper, and had moral authority at least in that sense, as it has been taking up peoples’ issues. What made you decide to form the TJS?

The expectation is that in the course of social movements, the government would open up and create avenues for a healthy interaction. That is not there with the TRS government. Not only to civil society groups outside, but for even with those from within who took part in the Telangana statehood movement.

What is the core aim of the TJS? Will you announce the party’s manifesto for the 2019 (assembly and Lok Sabha) polls?

Our manifesto is still being prepared but on 29 April, we will announce a broad statement of objectives. Our main aim is the realization of the Telangana statehood aspirations, and what it entails. The struggle was not just for a geographical entity. In one sense, it was also a social and economic assertion. People expected that there would be some improvement in their lives, but nothing of that sort has happened. They feel that the government must be accountable and fulfill their needs.

Is the TJS also appealing to the general public to fund it? Or you will be relying for funding from within or other avenues?

We have decided not to go to corporate houses or to big contractors. We are asking people who are interested to work for TJS to join the party and to others to fund us if they want to help us. We have a finance committee and a new bank account will be opened for this purpose.

How do you plan to mobilize the public? How is the response from different quarters on the decision to form TJS?

The TJAC will continue to exist. We are getting a lot of support from people and some organisations have also merged with the TJS. We are reaching out to the public in all districts, informing them about the TJS and our decision to form it. Many people feel that the TJAC should not have a formed a party, within and outside as well. They feel that it was the only sane voice around which could challenge the government in spite of all the oppression. But we have been telling them why we formed a party and the need to do so.