‘KCR laid a trap right from day one, and knowingly or unknowingly BJP went into it. The trap was to be friendly with the Centre and not let us grow in the state.’
HYDERABAD/NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janata Party’s chief spokesperson for Telangana, K. Krishna Saagar Rao, spoke to The Sunday Guardian about the Assembly elections there, at the party headquarters in Hyderabad, last week. Excerpts:
Q: What are BJP’s prospects in these elections?
A: BJP is not the primary Opposition in Telangana. We are the second opposition, primary being Congress. We got five MLAs in the last elections. Currently, we have a situation where the TRS has failed in all its manifesto promises. It has misgoverned the state thoroughly. It has transformed a financially sound state, which had a revenue surplus, into a revenue deficit state, which has created a debt of almost Rs 2.5 lakh crore. So, today KCR has created a financial mess and has led Telangana into a debt trap. He has also indulged in the daylight murder of democracy. He has removed the places where we can protest in the city and he has made the entire government into a family affair. He only has his son and his son-in-law or his nephew as the key riders of the government. None of the ministers are actually empowered, they are all dummies. They don’t even go to office. So doesn’t the Chief Minister. He doesn’t go to office. He is a work from home CM. We believe that we are the only alternative because Congress is also a family party; it is a corrupt party; it is a party which has murdered democracy several times. If there is an alternative, it’s only the BJP that can provide a good government, a transparent government, an organised government, a fiscally prudent government.
Q: But then you have almost zero presence here. I am told your five MLAs will come down to two MLAs in these elections.
A: That is the propaganda which our rivals are doing. Basically, they control the media—50% is controlled by TRS and 50% is controlled by Congress and its alliance partners. So they have initiated a propaganda war against us, marginalising us and highlighting that the war is between only two entities—the Congress alliance and the TRS, which is not true, because we have better organisation across the state. We have village committees, which neither Congress nor TRS has. We have booth committees, district committees, an officially run state committee, which none of these parties have. So, they don’t have organisational strength to say that they will be 100% winners. We are also capable of drawing a vote in Telangana because we are saying that without us Telangana would not have been formed.
Q: That’s fine. But I also went around and wherever I went, I did not see any presence of the BJP. So what are your pockets of influence? How many seats are you expecting?
A: No one can give the exact estimate; even Amit Shahji did not do the estimate of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan this time. But certainly we are going to strengthen our position in Telangana and we are aiming for 60 plus. This is our goal.
Q: In case there is a hung Assembly, will the BJP, if it gets a few seats, go with the TRS?
A: No, we will not. We believe, after the Assembly elections, Congress, TRS and AIMIM will get together and fight us in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. And we have enough proof that a back channel is open for Congress alliance with KCR. And AIMIM (Asaduddin Owaisi’s party) is brokering this relationship, because AIMIM is a fried of both. So, we don’t trust KCR and we will not give any support to KCR’s party if it falls short. This is the official position.
Q: If Congress, TRS and AIMIM get together ahead of 2019, where does that leave Naidu and his front?
A: TDP is also a part of that deal. TDP is going with Congress in Andhra Pradesh. TDP is already going with Congress here. TDP will not have any problems having KCR as part of the alliance. Two weeks ago, Chandrababu Naidu made a statement that “the first alliance I was looking for in Telangana was with TRS, but because Narendra Modiji intervened and disrupted that, I am going with Congress, otherwise TRS was my first alliance prospect”. So he is posturing. He is sending a signal to TRS that you are not my enemy, although I am fighting you this time, but post election we can still work. Also, Naidu never attacks KCR personally. So, Naidu has a scheme to ensure that he works with KCR and Congress together so that he can drive an anti BJP front from here.
Q: I have been told that certain BJP leaders here have sabotaged the party’s prospects by giving priority to their personal interests. What do you have to say about that?
A: Every political party will have internal political equations, but I will not say that somebody internally sabotaged our prospects. I don’t think it is true. But I can certainly say a trap was laid by KCR right from day one, and knowingly or unknowingly BJP went into it.
Q: What was the trap?
A: The trap was to be friendly with the Centre and not let us grow in the state so that we don’t operate as an Opposition. So, he engaged with Narendra Modi and his government so much that our leaders who stood locally could not fight him as much as we wanted them to. KCR knew that Congress will never be a threat for him, it would be BJP eventually, because of the kind of rise we are having across the country and the kind of vote bank we have here. He was rock sure that if the Congress was dying, the BJP would rise here, so he kept BJP on a leash here by being friendly with the Central government.
Q: Is there any possibility of the BJP joining hands with KCR post the Lok Sabha elections?
A: No formal relationship with KCR is possible. Zero possibility, for the 2019 elections also. It is not possible because of the kind of vote banks he has.