Nizamabad (Telangana): The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is facing a peculiar situation in the Nizamabad Lok Sabha constituency. K. Kavitha, member of Parliament and chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s daughter, is pitted against 185 candidates, most of whom are angry jowar and turmeric farmers demanding minimum support price (MSP) for crops. In an interview with Mint, Kavitha spoke about her constituency and said there are other regional parties who are “covertly" supporting the TRS’ idea of a federal front, which has been floated by her father. Edited excerpts:
Why are farmers in Nizamabad so agitated? How will it impact the result?
My constituency has a huge farmer base, who are very progressive. Our state government also gives a lot of importance to farmers in Nizamabad and the demand for MSP (by jowar and turmeric farmers) is a long pending issue. They protested in New Delhi before the state’s formation in 2013 to form a turmeric board, and (Union minister) Rajnath Singh had given assurances then.
Since 2014, I have repeatedly taken up the issue, including putting forth a private member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha. I even met chief ministers of other states, and got support letters from them. I chose BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) states for that. But after all that, (BJP general secretary) Ram Madhav comes here and says “your MP failed to bring this to our notice". It is a joke. So, as a mark of protest against the BJP and the Congress, my farmers have decided to file nominations. They intend to file nominations from wherever Modiji and Rahulji are contesting.
But don’t you think the huge number of nominations will confuse voters and inadvertently impact your vote share?
I completely trust my people. I have done my work, and the (state) government has done its work. Wherever I go, there is amazing support.
The TRS is repeatedly saying it will form a federal front. But leaders such as Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal, among others, are sharing stage with Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. So, how many parties are actually with you?
How many seats will Naidu win? Depending on that, Mamata’s loyalty might shift. Everything will change post-polls (on 23 May, after Lok Sabha results) and a completely different scene will emerge then. Whatever you are seeing now, will change. We have officially spoken to a lot of parties, and they agreed that it was high time that we group together. Some are with us overtly, and some are with us covertly. All the pre-poll alliances will be different after 23 May, and the TRS will be seen very actively participating in trying to form a neutral group at the centre.
Do you think regional parties with different ideas and ideologies can work together easily?
What ideology do these national parties have? You (Rahul Gandhi) are calling your prime minister a ‘chor’. What kind of an ideology is that? In this narrative, the agenda of the people is getting drowned. You can criticize and show a path to people. We have done that in Telangana.
What do you think of the Nyuntam Aay Yojana, or NYAY scheme (that promises to give 50 million poor households ₹72,000 a year) as proposed by the Congress?
It is unfortunate that he is still talking about the same things Indira Gandhi had talked about. Universal income is not a new concept, but where will you get the money for the programme? Your budget for the country last year was ₹19 lakh crore, and you will at least need ₹5 lakh crore for this scheme. A leader should have the guts to tell people where he is going to get the money from as well. We have done that for the Rythu Bandhu scheme (input subsidy for farmers) here, and have doubled the old-age pensions (from ₹1,000 to ₹2,000 a month) money (from 1 May). Give a vision, and tell us where the money will come from.
Ten Congress MLAs in Telangana have reportedly defected to the TRS. Critics have accused your party of crushing dissent in the state to eliminate the opposition. What’s your take?
Two more MLAs will join (the TRS). If you had a quality opposition, it would have been a healthy democracy. Our chief minister, while redesigning all the water projects (in the previous term), asked the opposition for ideas in the assembly. But they ran away, (Nalamada) Uttam Kumar (Reddy), (the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president), said he will prepare and come. But months passed by and he never said anything, but was instead talking about corruption.
The MLAs who have defected practically see no future and have come to the TRS. They have even said that they will go for re-election.
How many seats do you think the BJP and the Congress will win in the Lok Sabha this time?
My personal take earlier was that the BJP would go down to even 20 seats in Uttar Pradesh. But after the Pulwama attack, I think they will get more seats there, and other states. Bihar I think will be a surprise. Modiji is losing support, and Congress is not rising up to the occasion, and it should only pray that they can keep the same number this time.
How will you describe the last five years of the BJP-led centre? Do you think it has done enough for Telangana as a new state?
The centre has done nothing for Telangana. They were never proactive in holding the new state’s hand and wanted to create political confusion. When it comes to the country, they have not kept most of their promises. Mandir pata nahi kab banega (laughs)…Isn’t that what they said?