The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is giving the Congress an electoral headache in Seemandhra. APCC chief Botsa Satyanarayana, a senior minister and former MP, tells Ch.V.M. Krishna Rao in this interview that most other parties have concurred with the decision, and the Congress will expose them.
How do you react to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh? Why did you not prevent it since you told the people you were for a united state?
It is not a sudden decision. Former chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and I were fully briefed about it by the high command back in July last year. They told us it was part of fulfilling the commitment the Congress gave in its manifesto. They also provided us the roadmap. I thought division won’t be easy.
Then how do you account for what came about?
If I have to analyse things now, we failed to tell the high command about alternatives to creating Telangana. We only highlighted our concerns. Things would be different if we had advanced alternative scenarios.
Who prevented you?
It is only now we realise where our mistake lay. At that time it is our concerns that were uppermost in our minds. The Telangana people have waited 50 years with their demand. There would have been no problem if there were alternative solutions on offer. In that event, the high command could have arranged a meeting of all concerned and made a different decision. We made a strategic error.
Who is responsible? You or Mr Reddy?
We are collectively responsible.
Lack of unity amongst you also seems to have played a part. You never had a meeting with leaders of all parties and MPs, MLAs, Union and state ministers, to fight collectively against bifurcation.
That is correct. We failed there. If you ask me why that did not happen, I would say it was politics. I don’t want to name anyone, but some thought they could do politics instead of finding solutions to the problem at hand, and now we are in this mess. They thought they could elevate themselves by opposing the party decision. Their fight for a united AP was not for the cause, but just for the sake of their politics.
It is clear you are targeting Mr Reddy.
I don’t want to take names, but Seemandhra suffered because of the wrong handling of the situation.
Why should you blame anyone? Why did you not raise the relevant issues on your own with the Congress high command?
In fact, a few party leaders and I wanted to raise the issues but the atmosphere was vitiated. All those who tried to raise different ways of thinking were branded as traitors (to Seemandhra). Processions and dharnas were orchestrated. There were leaks to select media to write stories against us.
What is the impact of bifurcation on the Congress?
We will be strong in Telangana. In Seemandhra, there is a problem, naturally, since we are in power. But with the latest economic package and other benefits announced by the Centre, it is better than having nothing. We will try to contain the damage. The Congress has passed through critical phases in the past. In the 2009 election, we had only 38 per cent vote share. Other parties taken together had 62 per cent. But barring Communist Party of India (Marxist) and All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, these parties are also part of this decision to divide the state, whatever their posturing. They have supported division at one time or another. We will make this clear to the people, although the polls are going to be tough. We should expose parties like the Telugu Desam and the YSR Congress. Both have supported Telangana and are now conveniently changing their tune. People know this. I hope they will understand in what circumstances the Congress took the decision to divide the state. We also need to convince people about the positive side — the commitment to develop Seemandhra, how best to utilise the Centre’s economic package and the like.
But many in the Congress are leaving the party to protest the bifurcation and it is being said the party won’t find candidates for the election.
This is rubbish. We badly lost the 1983 Assembly polls. Stal-warts were felled. But in 1985, Rajiv Gandhi took the decision to develop alternative leadership. Along with me, several others, including some present ministers, were given tickets. This time, too, we will give tickets to new leaders. That is not a problem. There are hundreds of aspirants. I am telling you today that not a single Congress MLA who has left to join other parties will win the election.
Then why are they quitting you?
They think the Congress cannot win because it has been in office for two consecutive terms. Besides, we failed to provide collective leadership. Many of them had decided to leave the Congress even before the bifurcation.
Were there failures on the part of the chief minister who has now resigned?
Certainly there were wrong priorities. Mr Reddy suddenly decided to decrease the price of rice from Rs2 per kg to Re1 per kg. Nobody had asked for it. The government was unnecessarily forced to incur extra expenditure. To make up the funds, we hiked power rates in the name of Fuel Surcharge Adjustment (FSA).
Mr Reddy says he resigned as chief minister to protest the bifurcation decision.
Wasn’t he aware of the thinking of the high command all these months? If he was uncomfortable, why didn’t he resign then?
Don’t you think there will be impact on the Congress after Mr Reddy’s exit?
I don’t hear of any rallies, dharnas or bandhs being held in the districts. I think people are a little bit worried about the division of the state, but no one is worried about Mr Reddy’s resignation.
Mr Reddy has reportedly said that if he had resigned four or six months ago, someone would have come forward to take his place and cooperated with the Centre’s decision.
I myself suggested six months ago that it would be better to tender en masse resignations in the cause of united Andhra Pradesh. When that was the mood, it is not right to say that someone will occupy the chief minister’s chair and cooperate.
What should be the approach now?
Everyone needs to reconcile to the division of the state and concentrate on development of both states.