Chandrababu Naidu echoes Mamata Banerjee, says Opposition alliance will announce prime ministerial candidate only after elections

Kolkata: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has stressed that "collective leadership" is the need of the hour for the 'Mahagathbandhan' (grand alliance) of opposition parties, and said the name of the leader for the prime minister's post would be declared after elections.

Naidu, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president, said that be it West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee or NCP chief Sharad Pawar, nobody is working single-handedly but functioning together.

File photo of N Chandrababu Naidu

He came down heavily on his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao for skipping the Trinamool Congress' (TMC) mega opposition rally in Kolkata on 19 January, and described his absence from the event as "drama".

The absence of the BJD and Left parties at the Brigade Parade Ground national unity rally, which was participated by nearly two dozen opposition leaders, had also set tongues wagging.

Naidu also made a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and dubbed him as a "publicity-seeking prime minister, who only raises slogans and never performs".

"There is a need of a collective leadership. Politics is for serving people. It is through politics we will form the next government. Only post elections, we will announce the name of the leader," Naidu told PTI in an exclusive interview on 19 January.

The remarks came in response to a question about the possible face from the proposed coalition of the opposition parties for the prime minister's post.

"Nobody is working single-handedly. Not Mamata Banerjee, not Sharad Pawar, we are all together. Their (leaders in the 'Mahagathbandhan') commitment-level to save India is very high. It was clear during the rally in Kolkata. We all are working together, forgetting our differences.

"Didi (Mamata) had invited him (KCR), but he chose to skip the rally. It indicates that you are up to some drama. There are differences among political parties. (Arvind) Kejriwal has differences with the Congress, even Akhilesh (Yadav) and Mayawati joined hands in UP. It is time to come together for the sake of saving the nation," he said.

On the issue of electronic voting machines (EVMs), he said they were susceptible to "manipulation" and called for restoring the ballot paper system.

Naidu said the coalition of opposition parties would soon visit the Election Commission (EC) to press for their demand to do away with EVMs and return to paper ballot.

"The 'Mahagatbandhan' allies are planning to begin a nationwide debate on reintroducing ballot paper system for Lok Sabha elections. EVMs are not used in any other democracy," the TDP president said.

The machines pose a big "risk" as the fate of the democracy lies in the hands of a computer programmer.

"Using EVMs means you are risking democracy in the hands of one individual, who is a computer operator or a programmer. No developed or technology-driven country, including the US, Japan or Germany, has allowed EVMs. Anybody can manipulate these machines," he said.

Naidu, who had pulled out of the NDA last year over denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh, said the common people are "annoyed" over the performance of the present dispensation.

"Modi's slogans have to match his performance. That is missing. Common people have realised that he makes tall promises without delivering them. That is why they are annoyed. Because of him, the country is suffering. Today, democracy is under threat. This never happened in the past.

"All these sop announcements will be more damaging. He (Modi) might announce more (sops) on January 26. These are all panic reactions which will not help now. You (Modi) should have done all that in the past four-and-half years," he said.

On BJP's rule at the Centre during the present term, Naidu said, "We have lost five to six years and that agonises people. You cannot bring back time."

Referring to the "success" of previous coalition governments, the TDP leader said, "Earlier, P V Narasimha Rao had a minority government and fared well post the economic reforms. Then things started rolling. After that, we had two coalition governments under prime ministers (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.

"Now, he (Modi) has an absolute majority. If you compare these four governments, all of them performed better than the present dispensation. It indicates that a collective leadership performs well with timely reforms."

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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2019 12:52:24 IST

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