Speaker Biman Bandyopadhyay suspended Leader of Opposition in Bengal Assembly Suvendu Adhikari from the winter session for interrupting proceedings of the House.
The Bharat Rashtra Samiti is facing, perhaps, its toughest electoral challenge in Telangana in a decade, from a resurgent Congress.
In an interview with Anindita Chowdhury, KT Rama Rao, the BRS working president and the state’s industry and urban development minister talks about the allegations of a tacit deal between the BRS and BJP, the anger over his government’s handling of the TSPSC paper leak as well the new controversy over the Kaleshwaram project. Excerpts:
Q: The public perception here is that the BJP and BRS have a tacit understanding. What do you have to say about it?
A: Fundamentally, it is wrong because we have supported the Central government whenever there was an issue – in the interest of the nation. But politically we never aligned, we have never contested elections together. In fact, if anything, we have contested elections with the Congress in 2004 and TDP in 2009. With BJP we never had any electoral understanding in the past and we never ever will, because our fundamental fabric as a party is inclusive. Now, of course, Rahul Gandhi and his party would like to cash into the sentiments of the Muslims. And that shows their intellectual bankruptcy because if you had done something for the Muslims and talked about that, it would have been better. Since they had not done much they can’t speak on that. This negative politics unfortunately, might confuse the voter somewhat but at the end of the day it won’t work because irrespective of your caste and religious affiliations every citizen in Telangana has benefited from good governance. One of the biggest achievements of this government has been the upkeep of communal harmony. No citizen, no individual has been mistreated because he belongs to a certain religion or group. That is a rarity in India now unfortunately, and I think Muslims, Hindus and Christians will appreciate it.
Q: TRS was always identified with Telangana. Do you miss the emotional connect now that you have become BRS?
A: No, even today if you go to rural Telangana – a lot of people will not take our party’s name. If you ask them who will you vote for? They will say Telangana Party. We wanted to go national (so) we had to alter the name slightly. Other than that our agenda, DNA, our leader, poll symbol and the connection with the masses in rural Telangana remain the same. Even though our name is technically Bharat Rashtra Samithi we are still called Telangana Party, because that is where our epicentre is.
Q: Did the resurgence of the Congress take you by surprise?
A: What makes you think there is a resurgence? We get swayed by certain popular perceptions that are created. The exodus from BJP probably is giving you an impression. But leaders change parties, voters don’t. It might create a perception in the short run but remember in popular voting contest you do not need more than 51 per cent so I believe we have that. Definitely, we will cross 88 seats – the number we had last time. Although Congress did not have candidates for more than 40 seats they have cultivated a narrative -that something is happening. Reality is, they do not have candidates; that is why they had to poach from here and there. They had to wait and alter their list at the last minute. Our party is quite strong though there is some anti-incumbency. End of the day though people will think in whose hands Telangana is most secure. Under whose leadership Telangana will prosper – for instance investments, industries, IT. Who in the Congress or the BJP will represent our state as effectively as the BRS leaders? Who in the Congress and the BJP can ensure that the state remains secure, with no law and order hassles? Who can execute irrigation projects like we did? These are all our strengths.
Q: In hindsight do you think you could have handled the TSPSC paper leak and unemployment issue better?
A: Absolutely, we should have done some course corrections. In retrospect we should have sacked the board if that was going to quell the anger. But we did get certain things right. We have conducted the exam again. We arrested the culprits. In fact the leakage of the papers was not detected by someone else but by our police department. We caught the thieves, we tried to do justice and conduct a re-exam. The Opposition has to take some blame because they kept demanding postponements. They went to court; that also put the spanner in the works.
Q: Did the whole controversy over the Kaleshwaram project come at a very inappropriate time?
A: No, not at all. Whatever that happened in Kaleshwaram and whatever is being talked about are two separate things. Kaleshwaram is not one barrage, one canal or one reservoir. It consists of thousands of km of channels, pipelines and tunnels and the problem happened with one single structure. And the NDSA report – I call it NDA because it is a politically motivated report. Remember, a bridge fell in Morbi and 130 people died. Was there any report? Did anybody talk about it? Did anyone take any responsibility? What has happened here? If an incident has taken place we openly said that we will repair and restore and the costs would be borne by the agency. There will not be even a burden of one rupee on the exchequer. If anything, Kaleshwaram is a huge success which has not been adequately reported. What magic has happened that FCI now refuses to buy our paddy? With the same number of tanks, lakes, even with copious rainfall there has been an agricultural expansion only due to Kaleshwaram.
Q: If voted back what would be your next set of priorities for Hyderabad city?
A: We have promised to expand the Metro to 415 km. The flood management system here needs to be revamped, supply water 24x7and beautification of river Musi.
Q: There is a criticism that you developed only West Hyderabad (the IT Hub)?
A: All the nice buildings are in the West so people get carried away. We have worked in every single part of the city. That is why Congress and BJP cannot claim they will even win one seat in Hyderabad.