INTERVIEW

Will Support Any Party that Helps Rebuild Andhra: YSR Cong

A veteran of many political battles, M.V. Mysoora Reddy, currently with the YSR Congress Party, believes that in this election, Andhra Pradesh will vote for a party that has the best vision to develop the residual State. In conversation with Saptarshi Bhattacharya of The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, the former Congress and TDP leader says that his present party, if voted to power, will support any disposition at the Centre that helps rebuild Andhra Pradesh.`

Andhra Pradesh is facing a peculiar situation. The local body polls come up first followed by simultaneous elections to the Assembly and the Lok Sabha, and all these even before the official division of the State. The ‘Telangana’ hangover is still lurking in people’s minds. Your party has been in favour of an integrated State. How do you see this stand getting you electoral dividends?

You have to agree that local body elections are different. Those elections are based on local politics only. They will not reflect the policy of the State. But the general election will definitely reflect the mood of the people towards the division. Already, the ramifications of the division in both regions, in the would-be new States, are being felt. The Congress is wiped out in Andhra Pradesh. In Telangana, even after the creation of the State, their chances are not bright. They are not facing as bad a situation in Telangana as they are facing in Andhra Pradesh, but they have not received the appreciation of the people to the extent that they had expected.

Probably they might have thought that they are going to fare well in the national scene and may get around 150-160 seats. So, 10-15 seats in Andhra Pradesh (AP) would make some change in the complexion of the game during government formation. But across the nation, they may not reach three digits. What they have done here was a political game and they have not achieved their objective.

Our party expressed its view for an integrated State because the development of the three regions – Rayalaseema [Coastal], Andhra and Telangana – would be better in an integrated State than in a divided State. We believed in that and advocated for Samaikhyandhra. Now, the people in [Coastal] Andhra, Rayalaseema, and even Telangana, are appreciating our stand and that will give us good results in both regions. The Telugu Desam gave a letter for the division of the State. They are unable to contest on their own strength and have formed an alliance. How are they going to benefit from it? The BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] has also supported the division of the State and they gave a letter for the division of the State. The combination is not giving them hope. That shows the mood of the people of Andhra Pradesh.

People in Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema initially thought that the division could be blocked. But it eventually happened. Now they have to move on and look forward in terms of rebuilding the State, governance and building a new capital. A few people who I spoke to seem to favour Chandrababu Naidu as the development man….

That is a Telugu Desam view. His development is nothing. In all those nine years of rule, the State faced drought for seven years. Farmers committed suicide. There was no power. That’s why people have voted him out. If he had provided good governance, why would they vote him out of power? People fighting for the division of the State may not be knowing the intricacies of development and economy of the State. Leaving aside Hyderabad, if we consider development in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana developed on a par with Andhra. In some areas, it is better than Andhra. Of course, Rayalaseema is a little bit backward developmentally, going by a few yardsticks. If you add the capital to Telangana, it may appear that they are better placed. It was developed over a period of 30-40 years. Now, Andhra Pradesh has to develop a capital, no doubt about that. Definitely that capital will be world class. We have it in us. It will be a green capital and it will be attractive to the world. The people who would live there would have to feel proud of residing there.

There are rumours that Vijayawada or Guntur may be developed as the new capital. Has your party drawn up a roadmap for the same?

As I already mentioned, it would be a green city and not a brown city. How will you develop a brown city? Delhi was built as a green capital. Even after 20 years, it has its own look because of the planning. The outskirts may be a different thing, but Lutyens’ Delhi can be compared to any good capital in the world.

The new State of Andhra Pradesh will be revenue deficit, besides other teething issues. How would your party manage all that if it comes to power?

What revenue deficit? There are various theories about revenue deficit. I don’t want to dispute it when some people say that it would be a revenue deficit State. There are three types of taxations in India – the Income Tax, the Excise and Customs Duties, i.e., indirect taxes, and VAT, i.e. State taxes. Normally, irrespective of where Income Tax and Excise and Customs Duties are collected, they are sent to the central pool. The Centre would then give the States their shares based on the Gadgil Formula and some few other parameters. So, it is immaterial if the income is realised from Telangana, or from Andhra or Rajasthan. The formula is applicable to 28 States in all. It will be applicable to 29 States later. The remaining component is VAT, i.e. State tax. People think that the entire VAT collection comes from Hyderabad city. It is not entirely true. A major earning from VAT is from petroleum products and breweries’ corporations. Their head offices would be in Hyderabad and they would be paying their taxes here. That is why it appears that the revenue is from Hyderabad. Once the State is divided, the taxation will be different. A loss of a few thousand crores will definitely be there.

However, grave injustice was done to Andhra Pradesh related to the announcement of Hyderabad as a combined capital for 10 years. We would perhaps stay here for two, three or five years. During that time, the government employees and other agencies that work closely with the government would also continue to stay in Hyderabad, even though the departments and the agencies would be divided for the two States. The taxation accrued from those people, if principles of natural justices applies, should go to the AP government. In that part, definitely, the Government of India and the people who do not know anything about taxation did this injustice. A few leaders with vested interests sat in Delhi and decided on these things. They could have given some share out of the revenue generated from Hyderabad city. They have not done it. That is the injustice done to Andhra Pradesh. The coterie, the Group of Ministers who sat there, did not know anything about the system in India. There is no proper consultation with authorities concerned. They wanted to divide the State for their political gain. What they have done is gross injustice.

So how do you see the division affecting the voting pattern of people in Seemandhra?

Already they [the Congress] are voted out in Andhra Pradesh. And they are facing rough weather even in Telangana. That means people are against them. That means they are paying the penalty. Before elections itself they are paying the penalty.

The TDP had an ambiguous stand before finally supporting the division. The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) took a stand in favour of an integrated State. Do you think that this overriding sentiment of who-has-been-in-our-favour will be the reason for people to vote for you or is it going to be based on which party would help rebuild the State?

Definitely, sentiment will play a role. They voters will also look at development. Their [TDP’s] search for alliance partners shows the weakness of that party. If their stand is alright, if people have accepted their stand or policy, they could have gone to the people alone. Why are they searching for this man or that man, this party or that party? The TDP has to face the consequences and the wrath of the people. The development plank is the creation of some media houses. Everybody knows what development he brought to the State; in those nine years, what type of rule people have faced. It is not too long ago to forget.

In united Andhra Pradesh, caste played a crucial role in electoral politics. Now, we have the sentiments over the division of the State. Do you think that the sentiment would be strong enough to cut across caste barriers?

Definitely, every caste is interested in an integrated State. Even in caste-wise politics, the YSRCP is better placed. The sentiments among all castes is for an integrated State.

So you think the caste equations will not change and, despite the overwhelming factor, the basic thinking of the Andhra Pradesh electorate will remain the same.

We are giving importance to all castes, even backward classes and other communities. For selection of candidates, some balance, some mix has to be maintained based on the caste configuration in constituencies. Whether Andhra Pradesh is divided or integrated, we anyway have to give some representation to all castes. That is polemics of politics. We have to see to it that we balance all castes. It is based on configuration in general. The division of the State is one of the factors. Some percentage of the voting population may look at caste, some may look at the division, some may look at welfare policies and still others may look at the developmental aspect. The entire population will not be influenced by one thing. Indian politics is a single vote majority. Those influenced by the issue of an integrated State, will be an added factor for us. But we have to look at all aspects.

For your party, which is the most important poll plank?

Welfare activities and the development of the State.

There is speculation in the media, both inside and outside Andhra Pradesh, that the YSRCP will go it alone, bag a certain number of seats and become the biggest player in Andhra Pradesh. In such a case, you may form the government in the State, but what would your role be in the Centre? If the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comes to power, which several opinion polls are indicating, would you join the NDA government?

That is a hypothetical question. I can say one thing: definitely we will support the party or the leader who will extend help to reconstruct divided Andhra Pradesh. For us, the first and foremost thing is the State. Whoever gives us assurance, we will support that party and that prime ministerial candidate.

The only Prime Ministerial candidate in the race is Mr. Narendra Modi. And going by opinion polls and media reports, he is a forerunner. He also has a history, the 2002 riots and the alleged communal agenda. Do these aspects bother you?

I already said it is a hypothetical question. We will know our role in national politics only based on our numbers. How can I say anything about this man or that man?

Do you find Narendra Modi acceptable?

That is a different matter. This is not a post-poll scene that I am talking about. Before the results, how can I say this? For me, the question of acceptability does not arise. For a political party that is having some basic strength and is facing elections individually, it shows that it has some strength. We will answer all these questions post-poll.

What is your party’s stand on the 2002 Gujarat riots?

It is a different matter. How am I concerned with that subject? Now we are concerned about this State’s [Andhra Pradesh’s] problems. This State’s problems are entirely different. Our post-poll arrangement is going to be with the party or politician who would be useful for this State. Our top most priority is the reconstruction of the State.

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