From being one of the key partners of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to exiting and becoming its trenchant critic, Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu has come a long way. Contesting the assembly and Lok Sabha polls alone this time, his party is expected to be in a tight contest with the opposition YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). The TDP chief, however, said his party is in a comfortable position. The central government’s performance over the last five years has been “practically" negative, Naidu said. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s performance has been “hollow" and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will have a tough time, he said in an interview. Edited excerpts:
The TDP won the 2014 assembly polls in alliance with the BJP and Jana Sena Party. Now that it is contesting alone, how do you think it will fare?
In elections, someone is always with you or not. People will decide with which party they have a future or which they will benefit from, and they will vote on that basis. Today, there is a positive wave in AP (for the TDP). (YSRCP chief) Jagan Mohan Reddy is manipulative and in the weakest position today. Why? Because he is joining the federal front of KCR (Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao), who is a hated person in Andhra.
He (KCR) has taken all the properties of Andhra (post-bifurcation) and is not giving our due share from them in Hyderabad. Everyone has that grouse. KCR may finance Jagan Mohan Reddy, and will exploit him fully. If he spends ₹1,000 crore, he doesn’t have to share ₹1 lakh crore (total money and resources to be shared between AP and Telangana post-bifurcation).
In spite of having an alliance with the Congress in Telangana, why are both parties contesting separately in AP now?
There is a sentiment in AP (against joining hands with Congress); so we did not want to take a risk. We are working together against BJP on a common front due to democratic compulsions. So, we will take their support on the national level. After bifurcation, the losers were Andhra and gainers were people of Telangana. That is what everyone feels, that we lost what was created during a span of 60 years.
How many seats do you think the NDA will get?
They are in big trouble. People will always expect some benefit through governance, or welfare or development. All these things are practically negative for the NDA and it will have a tough time. They are only giving slogans. If you see the (assembly) elections that have been held earlier, they have lost except for Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Today in south India, there hasn’t been much improvement and even the north-eastern states are opposing them (BJP).
You have been sharing stage at public meetings with anti-BJP regional party leaders. However, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi claims to have the ‘covert’ support of regional parties...
They (TRS) will always do that type of politics. The federal front (idea floated by Rao to bring regional parties together) is a creation by Narendra Modi. He (KCR) is pretending that he is talking to everybody but he has never shared stage at anti-BJP platforms.
You worked with the NDA government; where do you think it went wrong?
The prime minister is hollow and does not know how to develop the economy. He is always marketing bad products and is a marketing manager. Modi is not a producer of wealth or a visionary. One should have vision, should strategize, execute and have outcomes. He is a big zero and does not have basic understanding. That is where we were fooled. What is the great thing about Ahmedabad? Can you compare it with Hyderabad? I started so many colleges; what has he done? When we went for privatization (of education), south India benefitted through so many (educational) institutions. They are lacking in knowledge economy. Manmohan Singh had allowed natural growth, whereas Modi is killing it. He is destroying leadership, be it corporate or political.