The KCR government has done good on the irrigation front, but a clear plan is lacking: TNM interview with TJAC Chairman Kodandaram

From KCRs biggest supporter to vocal critic An interview with Prof Kodandaram
news Politics Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 13:01

There is a constant buzz of activity outside a house in one of the bylanes in Hyderabad's Tarnaka area, near Osmania University.

'Prof.M.Kodandaram', the plaque outside the house reads.

Three years ago, Kodandaram, played an active role in the Telangana struggle for separate statehood as head of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), and was one of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's biggest supporters.

Today, he is considered one of KCR's most vocal critics.

A row of vehicles are parked outside the gate, as people walk in and out of the house. As soon as one enters, several people are seen seated around the room, and they get up in unison as Kodandaram enters.

After exchanging pleasantries, he sits down as three students begin narrating plans of a protest in a Telangana village that is facing water problems and other agrarian issues. 

"I will come. We will arrange it and make sure it is a success," he assures the students.

However, he insists that he does not want any politicians present there, barring the local MLA.

"I don't want to get involved with them (politicians)," he says -- something that he repeats multiple times during the course of the interview.

As the students disperse, we head into his dining room and sit down for the interview.
From one of KCR's most vocal supporters, to his biggest critic; What changed?

I would say that there is only one core reason. We (TJAC) are a non-party forum and we act like the watchdog, irrespective of who is in power. We could've joined the TRS bandwagon when we had the chance, but we chose not to.

I still don't have anything personal against the state government. My differences are on policy, which is why we critique the decisions that the government takes. After all, we are also accountable to the people.

The TRS government is roughly halfway through its term. How would you rate its performance?

On the irrigation front, the government has shown a lot of interest. However, on the other fronts, it is unable to evolve an action plan. We need an alternative development plan, that caters to the needs of all sections of the society, especially the rural poor.

Have things changed for people in the Telangana region since statehood?

There are more welfare schemes reaching the people, but the self-respect and dignity that we had asked for as people of Telangana, is yet to be instilled. For that, the government still has a lot of work to do.

The TJAC was formed for gaining statehood. What role does it play now?

We have a very clear set of principles. We want to fight for development of the people, and define the kind of democratic state we live in. It should be a people-centric democracy.

What about OU students who helped KCR in his rise to the top? Do you think he has fulfilled their demands?

When the Srikrishna Committee submitted its report, it defined the Telangana movement as a 'movement of the masses'. People from every section of the society, participated in the struggle. It is true that the government has not been able to address all their concerns.

As far as the students are concerned, they have been neglected mainly on two counts. One, is the fee reimbursement issue, and the other is the issue of job creation. There is a lot of frustration in today's youth due to unemployment, and the government should really take up this issue on a priority basis.

What are your views on KCR's family members being part of the state cabinet?

Personally, I have no problem. There is nothing wrong in that, as long as the decisions are taken in a democratic manner, and no priority is given to anybody, because they belong to a certain lineage.

What about the Chief Minister's superstitious beliefs?

I would like to reiterate what Jawaharlal Nehru said, when he stated that a person in an official position was to keep his personal beliefs to himself, and not let it encroach on official work. Secularism is a fundamental principle of our democracy.

As a Chief Minister, one must abide by the constitution, and treat it like the Bible, Gita and Quran.

You have been accused of behaving like a 'frontal organization' of the opposition parties in the state

Political parties are a legitimate institution, and perform certain functions in society. The TJAC on the other hand, is an autonomous body that makes its own independent decisions. However, there will be certain situations when we will need to interact with the parties.

For example, we can't walk into the Assembly, but that is where the biggest decisions are made. We were just ensuring that certain concerns are voiced in the state legislature.

Do you ever see yourself joining politics in the future?

We (TJAC) are constantly working to change the existing political culture. We are demanding that politics should be clean, transparent and accountable. We will continue to work for changes in politics, based on our people-centric objectives. That is all I can say at the moment.

What plans do you have for the future?

There are certain issues that we plan to take up actively in the next few months. Agriculture is one of them. The government has no strategy in place to face the agrarian crisis in the state.

We are also asking that the household industry, like handlooms, should be protected, promoted and conserved.

Another important aspect that we want to focus on, is quality health and education, that can be accessed by all, and for free. We will also demand a policy for employment.