The Telangana unit of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) secured 15 seats in the state Assembly in 2014, but has since been decimated, left with only two MLAs. Despite this, as the state goes to the polls again, there is a flutter of activity at NTR Bhavan in Jubilee Hills, the headquarters of the party in Hyderabad.
In an interview to TNM, L Ramana, the President of the TDP Telangana unit speaks about the state of affairs in the party and plans of a ‘Mahakutami’ or grand alliance. Stating that the party cannot be dismissed easily, Ramana says, “The TDP has always been strong in the state. We have a large number of workers and activists on the ground, and we have many senior leaders who have held positions of power in the state and Central level.”
‘TRS failed to fulfill promises’
“Since the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has come to power, riding on the sentiment of the public who fought for the Telangana movement, no justice has been done. The government led by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has taken loan after loan and increased the debt burden on the state,” he adds.
Referring to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) which said that the state was revenue-deficit, Ramana alleged irregularities saying, “In the last five Budgets, the Telangana government has made tall claims and presented a total amount of Rs 6.80 lakh crore. However, according to the government's own figure, it has spent only Rs 5.90 lakh crore.”
He also accused KCR of failing to fulfill any of his promises, stating that water woes continued in many parts across the state and unemployment was rife. He also said that promises like granting 3 acres of land to Dalits were unfulfilled.
“Big promises were made. Two-BHK houses were promised, 1 lakh jobs were promised, reservation was promised to the minorities, free KG to PG education was promised. None of this has been done. Even where farmer suicides are concerned, the TRS is not serious,” Ramana said.
He further added, “The entire government administration has fallen into the hands of KCR's family. The people of Telangana voted for the TRS party in 2014, but the party violated that trust and only KCR's family reaped the benefits. People have now understood this and they can see through this clearly. Power rests only in the hands of KCR, his son KT Rama Rao, his daughter Kavitha and his nephew Harish Rao."
When asked about the Mahakutami, a grand alliance being formed with the TDP, Congress, CPI and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), Ramana said, “The TRS party and the Chief Minister undemocratically dissolved the Assembly before its mandate of five years was completed. This has not gone down well with the people. Many of us saw voters in some constituencies questioning their leaders, before chasing them away. The media has also reported about some of these cases.”
“Due to this, there was a need to address the problems of the people and we decided that a platform like this alliance will be a good place to start. Our agenda is being set on issues that matter to the people whether it is farmer suicides or unemployment, and our joint manifesto will reflect the same,” he added.
Asked about the TDP’s plans on negotiating a deal for seat sharing, Ramana said, “Even with the Mahakutami, we only wish that everyone amicably agrees on the seat sharing and there is mutual respect within the alliance. We have a common goal which is the welfare of the people, and our negotiations will also be on those lines only.”
Another major problem in Telangana is defections. While the TRS won around 63 seats in the 2014 elections, it presently has close to 90 MLAs who have pledged loyalty to it, after defecting from their parties.
“Since Telangana was created, KCR insisted that he would respect all parties and consult them while taking decisions, for the betterment of the people. However, all he has done is to encourage almost 30 MLAs and two MPs to defect from all Opposition parties. Members of the TDP were also part of this,” Ramana said.
“Despite this, those of us who are still remaining loyal to our party are not disheartened. We have many leaders already among our ranks, and more are being shaped and formed. Accordingly, we will also move forward during the upcoming elections,” he added.
Earlier this week, senior leaders of the TDP called on MLA and actor-politician Nandamuri Balakrishna, asking him to campaign for the elections in the state. Balakrishna, or Balayya as he is more commonly known as, is the son of TDP founder and former Chief Minister NT Rama Rao, and the party hopes to tap into his immense popularity to pull potential voters.
The party is also considering to rope in TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh CM Nara Chandrababu Naidu for the same. “The Nandamuri and Nara families have been closely associated with the TDP since its inception. We will hold talks and act accordingly on who will come to campaign for us and when. It will be a unanimous decision,” Ramana said.
Is TDP an Andhra party?
The TRS has been repeatedly lashing out at the TDP stating that it was an ‘Andhra party’ with KCR even asking people if they wanted “Do you want to be a slave of Vijayawada and Amaravati or Delhi? Shouldn't decisions for Telangana be made in the state itself?"
Responding to the jibe, Ramana said, “Everyone knows who were the ones who gave approval to the creation of Telangana. Even at that time, when we had contested with the TDP-BJP combine, the TDP managed to win 15 MLA seats at the height of the movement. We are not looking for KCR’s or TRS' certificate. The people already voted for us and asked us to serve the role of the Opposition party.”
“We are spread across Telangana and we are campaigning hard to ensure that we win as many seats as we can. We are strong and now that we are allying with the Mahakutami, KCR is scared and is making such statements out of desperation. We always have the best interests of the people in the state,” he added.
Another criticism, especially by caretaker Irrigation Minister Harish Rao has been that the same TDP government which has filed cases and moved court to stall irrigation projects in Telangana, is now asking for votes from the people in the state.
Asked for a response, Ramana said, “We are a democratic country with rules, regulations, checks and balances in place guaranteed by the Constitution. We have a judicial system to deliver justice and we have state governments working with each other and with the Centre. When such cases are filed, they are done only in the interest of the people.”
Alleging kickbacks for the TRS in the projects, Ramana added, “TDP has the interests of the people in mind and is working on that only. We are working within the framework of law only. The people already know this and they will not get blinded by KCR's speeches or Harish Rao's letters.”
“The TDP has always stood for the oppressed and underprivileged, and we have worked to uplift those sections of the society by offering them more opportunities. In the future as well, the party will continue working along those lines,” Ramana emphasises.
“There is no doubt that there is a massive change in the attitude of Telangana voters and since the announcement of Mahakutami, more people are attracted to us. The countdown for KCR and his family has begun. The TDP and Congress have immense experience while compared to the TRS. Our agenda and manifesto will also reflect that. The Mahakutami flag will fly over the Telangana Assembly for sure,” he concludes.