Edited Excerpts from an Interview
After the agitation, running a government is a different ball game. How is the transition working out?
Until now, we were the ones constantly petitioning the government for more attention, more budgets, etc. Now, it is our responsibility to deliver whatever we have promised the people. We are ready to take that responsibility. We have been dreaming about this day for a long time. On 2 June, the entire police force was saluting the new CM. We were extremely proud. We were recollecting the days when he was handled very roughly. Now, it is quite the opposite. Even our worldview has changed a lot. We understand that we have taken up a great responsibility. We have promised the sky, moon and stars to our people. Now, it is time to deliver (laughs). We are determined to work hard. We are determined to make Telangana a corruption-free society. We want to give the best possible government to the people. We have suffered enough. We have seen discrimination. We want to be very inclusive towards every section of society. We want to grow as the No. 1 state in the country. It will be progressive — there will be novelty. We have a lot of grand plans (laughs).
What is the plan for the economy?
Our goal is to focus more on irrigation. While campaigning, we had promised to provide irrigation to 1 crore acres in Telangana. It has to be done methodically; it has to be done right. Power will be a major challenge. We are working on that. We are facing a massive power shortage but we aspire to become a power surplus state. Apart from that, we need to concentrate on our youth. Ensuring employment is a major hurdle. There are high expectations from the youth and women. They have always believed in KCR. They will be hoping that their situation will improve, their finances will get better. With great patience, we want to work towards achieving those goals. Of course, my father is going to do things in a different way. He has hired six retired IAS officers who were with him while preparing the blueprint for Telangana’s future. Each has been given a major sector so that they will be reporting to the CM, apart from the ministry, on whatever they are doing. He has already said that it will be a very employee-friendly government.
Employees will have to put in double the number of hours they used to during the united Andhra period, as we will have to progress at a faster rate.
Another great challenge is to ensure equitable growth outside Hyderabad. We will have to sustain growth in Hyderabad. We will also have to brand and promote Hyderabad in a manner that ensures progress is unhindered. We also have IIT projects on the cards.
But your domicile policy is creating a lot of controversy. The people from Seemandhra are anxious about how they will be treated in Telangana.
We never surprised them. We have reiterated the same things that we have been saying for the past 16 years. There is an infiltration of (government) employees into Telangana on various pretexts. Thousands of employees have migrated to Hyderabad. We said: “You have come here against the rules. Please go back now that we are a separate state.” We stand by it. We have nothing against the people from Seemandhra. It is just that we have seen Seemandhra employees take our government jobs. We can’t accept that. It is against the Constitution.
Will the people from Seemandhra be safe in Telangana? There are elements in Telangana who are threatening the people from Seemandhra…
Leave aside ordinary people. It is the government employees we are talking about. We are asking them to stick to the rules and go back to Seemandhra. We have nothing against ordinary people or private individuals. We only said that Seemandhra employees who have violated the rules must go back. As a party that spearheaded the Telangana movement, we have always been non-violent. We have always ensured that no element within the party treads the path of violence. I agree that there are some radical elements. But we will not compromise with them. The TRS has tried to maintain a good, friendly atmosphere. There is a reason why there are many intellectuals in Seemandhra who have supported the Telangana movement. We realise we have to build the Hyderabad brand. And mind you, a Hyderabadi has always been an open-minded host. We welcome everybody. Why just people from Seemandhra, but the entire world. It is just that we expect them not to eat into our share of jobs and resources. If they are breaking the rules here, then it is a different story.
If that is your outlook, then why didn’t you invite Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to KCR’s swearing-in ceremony?
Please note that the moment the NDA government took charge, the likes of Chandrababu Naidu and Venkaiah Naidu passed an ordinance on the Polavaram dam. What was the necessity for passing an ordinance? What was the hurry? If you check the rules, it says that an ordinance is justified only if there is an extreme situation or emergency. So, what was the justification? Could it not have waited for another two weeks until the bifurcation was complete and the governments had been formed? They could have discussed the issue with us amicably. The Telangana people are against the Polavaram dam in its current form. But they are hell-bent on building the dam according to the existing plan. The UPA government decided that nine of the mandals in Khammam have to go to Seemandhra. The Telangana Bill was passed and there was no discussion and this decision became part of the Bill. As the NDA government has come with a thumping majority, they could have taken a decision in a democratic manner by tabling it in Parliament. Chandrababu Naidu was the key person behind the ordinance.
Another instigation was Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju’s decision to change the Hyderabad airport’s name from Rajiv Gandhi airport to NTR airport. What has Hyderabad got to do with NTR? We do not want Andhra names in Telangana anymore. We can change a hundred names but why provoke us? The provocation is from their side. They are not extending a hand of friendship. At some point, they will have to act like statesmen. My father was very magnanimous in giving a statement that there will be no discrimination. Now, they are making a big issue of not being invited.
Congress leaders are alleging that you have betrayed the party as well as the people. They are asking: where is the Dalit chief minister that KCR promised?
There are two things. Tabling the Telangana Bill in Parliament was Sonia Gandhi’s initiative. We are immensely thankful and we will always be indebted to her. However, we did not go with the merger as the Congress did not yield on the issues that we raised, such as Polavaram, special status to Seemandhra and the governor handling Hyderabad’s law and order. A merger would have helped neither of us politically. About the Dalit chief minister, KCR said in a statement before the Assembly polls that we will review the policy of selecting a CM after the election. We got a clear mandate and it is also inarguable that KCR is a popular leader. That there was a review in our policy was already in the public domain.
What about your relationship with the Narendra Modi-led BJP?
The only relationship we have now is that of a Centre and a state. We hope that the Modi government will help Telangana grow and develop.