Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu staged a day-long protest fast entitled 'Dharma Porata Deeksha' on 11 February against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the "step-motherly treatment" meted out to his state. In an interview, Naidu talks about the "grave injustice" done to his state, the possible repercussions on national unity, the Mahagathbandhan, the Lok Sabha polls and the agriculture crisis. Edited excerpts follow:
You were part of the NDA. But last year March you decided to call it quits. What was the reason?
A grave injustice has been done to Andhra Pradesh. We have been denied what was rightfully ours. The promises made in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act have not been kept and this is bound to have repercussions on national unity. Modi promised to help build the new Andhra capital Amravati: that would be even better than the national capital. How do we build such a capital without money?
You have accused the prime minister of not following raj dharma?
Yes. A national leader should follow raj dharma. He must work in the country’s and the national interests. Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said raj dharma was not followed in Gujarat (during the 2002 riots). Now I am emphasising that the raj dharma has not been followed in the case of Andhra Pradesh. That's why, on behalf of five crore people of Andhra Pradesh, I am warning this government.
What kind of alternative plan does your Mahagathbandhan have. Has anything concrete been chalked out?
We are working to arrive at some sort of a consensus. There are many problems before us. There is a crisis in agriculture. Unemployment is another major issue.
Would you prefer a pre-poll alliance?
We are working to create an informal pre-poll alliance. We will fight separately in Andhra Pradesh, but we will be united at the national-level for democracy.
Who will head it? Modi has called your Mahagathbandhan a mahamilavat khichri?
He can say anything. India has always done well under a consensus government. India needs cooperative federalism. Modi has destroyed all the institutions in the country. He has also lowered the level of political discourse.
Who will be the face of this Mahagathbandhan? Are there many contenders?
This will be decided after the elections on the basis of consensus. But first, let us win the elections. But one thing I will emphasise and that is anybody will be better than Modi. Modi is dividing the people. He is dividing the country. I have been in politics for the last forty years, but have never seen this level of political discourse.
Are you in the race for prime ministership?
No, I am not in the race.
The PM attacked you in the rally he held at Guntur recently. He said you are busy promoting your son Lokesh...
I would like to point out that making personal attacks against me and my people is unwarranted. I am just doing my duty as the head of my state. We are only demanding what we were promised. Yes, Lokesh is my son. I am proud of my family: as husband of Bhuvaneswari, father of Lokesh and grandfather of Devansh. Modi would not understand as he doesn’t value family life.
The feedback from Andhra Pradesh is that YSRCP chief Jagan Mohan Reddy’s campaign is picking up...
Every party in the state supported my protest except YSRCP chief Jagan Mohan Reddy, because he was hand in glove with the BJP. Jagan made arrangements for the BJP gathering in Guntur because he feared his cases would otherwise be reopened by the CBI and ED.
A large number of Opposition leaders came to express their solidarity to your protest. Did you invite them?
Yes, they were invited.
BSP supremo Mayawati did not send anyone...
No one came from BSP. I will be speaking to her. I am in touch with her.
Jagan Reddy is spending his time campaigning in Andhra but you are in the capital...
I am going back to Andhra, but will return tomorrow morning to express solidarity with Mamata Banerjee. She is holding a dharna in the capital.
Do you see Rafale being an election issue in the coming polls?
Yes, it will be an important issue. There is no doubt about that.
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Updated Date: Feb 12, 2019 21:39:23 IST