Ahead of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti's (TRS) annual plenary to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of its formation, K.T. Rama Rao, party working president and minister of IT, industry and MA&UD, spoke on a plethora of political, administrative and people issues exclusively with Deccan Chronicle.
Despite the Assembly elections for Telangana being slated next year-end, politics has heated up. Will the TRS go to the electorate to seek a rare third consecutive term under the same leader — a feat never achieved by any Telugu politician — on the basis of your performance and track record, or the narrative of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government having failed at the Centre?
A: It is true no Telugu leader has won a third consecutive term but in our leader, TRS founder and Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, you have a person who has achieved many things considered unprecedented. When he started the agitation for a separate Telangana, it was considered mission impossible. If a hat-trick is considered impossible, it is very obvious KCR is the leader to achieve it.
When we go to the elections it would be on our own achievements and performance. People across India must know that Telangana since 2014 is the most successful state ever in the history of independent India. Our growth as an economy, our transformation from a dry, drought zone to a water-abundant geosystem, from a power deficit region to becoming a state that gives free round-the-clock power to farmers and quality power to everyone else, our green fields and water-filled blue tanks and canals, the creation of jobs and ability to attract global and national investments, being the preferred destination for migration of capital and manpower, our balanced governance where we have been able to deliver both growth with jobs and welfare with a human face; being the best state in managing Covid pandemic - these are the issues on which we will go to people of Telangana.
And I am not alone saying it, or just the people of Telangana, the reports from World Bank, the RBI, Niti Aayog, every single fair data point shows the success of our state, unmatched by the BJP-ruled, or Congress-ruled states.
There is no reason why we will not be able to win. The reason we will highlight the failures of the BJP is to make people compare, if the TRS is a party under KCR's leadership to deliver on promises, the BJP under Modi has not failed to deliver on its promises, but also given us too many negatives.
You have spoken about taxes — Telangana giving more to the Centre without reciprocal returns. Is regional or geographic tax parity a policy thought?
Not at all. Though we are the youngest state of India, and small, we have delivered to India's growth by emerging as the fourth largest state. We are happy to deliver to India's progress, through jobs, through growth and through the taxes generated here. We are happy to help the less fortunate states. But let the Centre, after giving us the minimum statutory due devolution funds, not talk as if they are doing a favour.
Why does Mr Modi's not take pride in Telangana's success? Why won't he even name or highlight the successful creation of one of the largest irrigation projects of the country that has transformed the lives of millions of farmers and increased multifold the production of foodgrains?
How are your plans to make Hyderabad an electric vehicles (EV) hub shaping up?
The world is heading the EV way. We must understand that the EV is not a variant of a traditional automobile, but more like a computer on wheels. It has more software complexity than hardware. We are in talks with some of the top EV companies in the world, incuding the top three competitors to Tesla.
Fisker, a firm created by a former lead designer of Tesla, an $8 billion dollar firm, is setting up a development centre in Hyderabad. Two other companies are in talks with us and we will have two different positive announcements to make in the next two months.
But our vision is not just about EV but creating a mobility cluster. Vehicles manufacturing, research and development, batteries, software development centres — we want to ensure we create an entire mobility cluster in the next few years.
Why has the relationship with the Governor deteriorated to a point of total avoidance and public acrimony?
We respect the Constitutional position of the Governor and always wish to have a healthy, respectful relationship. But, if a Governor chooses to make a political speech of her own instead of the one created by the state government, which is the precedent and the norm, speaking of how PM Modi gave us central medical educational institutions when he actually gave none — the Governor has chosen to behave like a former state president of the BJP.
You speak of being a progressive and modern government. You speak of environmental concern. Then why revoke GO 111?
We had promised to revoke GO 111 as have both the opposition parties in their manifesto and we have abided by. Let us understand that the primary restriction in those 84 villages in the zone around the two water bodies based as GO 111 in 1996 was during the primacy of Osmansagar and Himayatsagar as water supplying sources for Hyderabad. The TRS has created alternatives to them because of the city's growing needs.
Two things for environmentalists and social activists would be to firstly think of the 3,000-odd lakes and water bodies in the over 7,250 square kilometre (sq. km) area of the HMDA and ask, why focus on only two? Let us create a new policy keeping in mind today's heightened awareness and criticality of the environment for the future?
Second, join us in creating a new city in that area, making it a model green city, matching Lutyens Delhi or Chandigarh and allow the farmers of the area to derive benefits as partners. We are talking of creating another Hyderabad-sized 500-odd sq. km new city, a green role model for the country in coming years.
Coming back to politics, which party is your primary rival — the Congress or the BJP?
Both of those parties are trying to compete with us. But our primary rival is the Congress, I feel, because of their presence across the state. Electorally, they are our principal rival. We are against the BJP for ideological reasons. The BJP is an agenda-driven party, an agenda which is not good for India. They have been a responsibility to take India to greater heights but they have only fuelled hatred, quelled dissent and undermined democracy.
They create communal tension, they arrest people who criticise the government. Why is Aakar Patel (a former Deccan Chronicle journalist) being harassed? Why was Jignesh Mevani arrested — for a tweet? Let me repeat what Mr Mevani tweeted that Mr Modi's party has more Nathuram Godse worshippers than followers of Gandhi. Let me say that Mr Modi keeps quiet when communal tensions break and minorities are targeted.
In contrast, in Telangana we have achieved both development and welfare without any sectarian feeling, ensuring betterment of all sections of people.
You say that, but how do you want the people of Telangana to understand the increasing cases of crimes by leaders and followers of the TRS?
There have been some sporadic cases but the TRS has over 60 lakh primary members. Good governance is the response. We have not shielded any leaders, we have got them arrested. The law is working. Whereas in the BJP-ruled states, they are shielded or quickly get bail. No one in Telangana, even if he belongs to the TRS, will get away unpunished if they do anything wrong.
With the news of Prashant Kishor joining the Congress making rounds, how will you respond regarding your engaging him as a political consultant?
We have engaged I-PAC, a company founded by Prashant Kishor but from which he maintains a professional arm’s distance. Personally, even if he joins the Congress, the TRS will use the services of I-PAC for the next Assembly elections....