Debating India

ELECTIONS 2004

YSR’s manna: Power to people

Vineeta Pandey

Sunday 16 May 2004, by PANDEY*Vineeta

NEW DELHI: Y S Rajashekhara Reddy, Andhra Pradesh’s new chief minister has his work cut out. He’s logged out Cyber Naidu all right, but he now has to log into the numerous problems facing his state, namely farmers’ suicides, power situation, etc. He speaks to Vineeta Pandey of his priorities.

What were the factors responsible for Naidu’s loss and your win?

People were disillusioned with the performance of Naidu’s government. Unemployment was rampant and farmers were committing suicide. People started looking at Sonia and the Congress as a better alternative.

Sonia has surpassed Vajpayee in terms of her image. Today people see her as a messiah of the poor and a saviour of the farmers. It was different in 1999. Then, Vajpayee’s image and acceptability was better than Sonia’s in Andhra.

And since the polls happened after the Kargil war, the BJP managed to cash in on the sympathy wave.

What plans do you have for the youth, the poor and the farmers?

First of all, come what may, there won’t be any more farmers committing suicide. They won’t be forced to pay debts to money lenders. We will make the local Mandal Revenue Officer responsible for any farmer committing suicide.

There are enough laws to prevent all that but they need to be implemented properly. We will try to bring co-operative banks on the rails to provide necessary help to farmers and others.

We plan to create more job opportunities in government, private and public sectors. We will encourage tourism in a big way - that should help in tackling unemployment and poverty.

You promised free power to farmers. Can the government afford it?

Yes. We will slot a budget of Rs 300 crore per annum for this in an overall budget of Rs 43,000 crore. The last state government’s publicity bill alone came to Rs 350 cr. I don’t want that. There’s no need for the chief minister’s face to be shown on television everyday. The money can be better used.

You fought elections in alliance with the Telengana Rastriya Samiti, which has been demanding a separate state. What will your stand be?

Ghulam Nabi Azad, the AICC in-charge of AP, has already declared that we will stick to all joint statements made by both parties before the polls. If there’s any change, the AICC will decide.

Will you overhaul Chandrababu Naidu’s policies?

We don’t want to demolish any good work done by him. The current fear in the IT sector is unfounded. We will give everything and anything to entrepreneurs in the software industry.

However, quite a lot of hype was created about IT. We will also encourage tourism, and focus more on agriculture and rural economy.

How will you tackle the Naxalite problem?

There has to be a policy to start negotiations and bring them back into the mainstream.

You are known to have made more enemies within the party than outside. How will you carry the party forward as a team?

I speak my mind whenever anything goes against the interests of the people. Anyone functioning in government will have critics. One should look at criticism in a positive way and make amends. I won’t hesitate to accept my follies and make amends.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Sunday, May 16, 2004.

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