"I have come back, because I wanted to come back. I was sure that nothing would happen to me," says V Hanumantha Rao, in a firm and assertive tone. The veteran Congress leader from Telangana, popularly known as VH, had recently tested positive for the coronavirus and was discharged in the first week of July after his recovery.
TNM reached out to the 72-year-old senior Congressman, who is known for his brash criticism of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and sometimes, sharp jibes at his own partymen, to talk about his fight with COVID-19 and the subsequent recovery.
‚ÄúOn June 21, I felt a bit uneasy but I was otherwise completely asymptomatic. My son-in-law took me for a test and a day later, I was informed that I had tested positive for the coronavirus. Both me and my wife were admitted to the hospital,‚ÄĚ he said.
Hanumantha Rao said that during his time in the hospital, he was concerned about ‚Äėkaryakartas‚Äô (Congress cadre) who participated in party programmes along with him, further adding, ‚ÄúInitially I was unhappy with the diet at the hospital, but later everything was fine. I recovered because I had the willpower to defeat it (COVID-19) along with medical treatment.‚ÄĚ
"Our confidence and willpower gives us strength. Medicines will also work better if we stay stronger," he said.
The Congress leader is known in the state for frequently going to the ground and staging protests. Even a week before he was admitted to the hospital, Hanumantha Rao was detained by the police for heading to Khammam as part of the party‚Äôs plan to stage protests over irrigation projects in Telangana.
While it was speculated that he may have been infected during his visit to Gandhi Hospital -- the state‚Äôs nodal centre for COVID-19 treatment, when he went to express his solidarity with protesting medicos, the former Rajya Sabha member is still unsure about how he got infected.
Hanumantha Rao was discharged from the hospital in the first week of July and is presently under home quarantine.
When asked if he is missing his political activities, he said, "It's been more than a week since I was discharged from the hospital. It's better if I take rest for two more weeks as doctors advised. Later, if it is required, I will definitely come out."
Hanumantha Rao has also expressed his displeasure over the management of the COVID-19 crisis by the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government.
Stating that Chief Minister KCR had got his priorities wrong amid the pandemic, he lashed out at him for ‚Äėnot having enough foresight‚Äô to handle the crisis.
Lamenting on KCR‚Äôs 'hasty' demolition of the old Secretariat building in Hyderabad after a green signal from the High Court, Rao said, ‚ÄúThe court gave you clearance, but does the demolition need to be done at this moment, when people are panicking about healthcare in the state? Instead, the government should have looked at the healthcare system and addressed the people‚Äôs concerns.‚ÄĚ
Rao, who is referred to as ‚ÄėHanumanthanna‚Äô by Congress party cadre said that he will return to public life with more energy in the future.
"With the blessings of people from marginalised sections of society, I have won the fight against COVID-19. I will re-dedicate my life to the fight for the betterment of weaker sections," he said.
Hanumantha Rao who forayed into politics during Indira Gandhi‚Äôs regime in the 1970s has held several positions at the state-level including ministerial posts and has also served as a Secretary in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) besides a few terms as an MLA and an MP.