Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu, a Member of Parliament from Telegu Desam Party (TDP) representing the Srikakulam Lok Sabha constituency in Andhra Pradesh, talked exclusively to The Sunday Guardian to draw a picture of the current state of affairs in the political ecosystem of the state which has been affected by the arrest of the main Opposition leader and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu in an alleged skill development scam. Excerpts:
Q: There were reports that Chandrababu Naidu had refused to go by helicopter to Rajahmundry Central Jail and thereby chose the road where he had to travel hours together. Can you tell us why he didn’t go by helicopter?
A: In the beginning, there were rumours like that. He (Naidu) was in a different part of the state and then he was supposed to come to Vijayawada. Subsequently, there were reports that there would be a lot of hungama (chaos). So, they spread such rumours saying they might take him by helicopter. Ultimately, they put police throughout the way, not letting anyone interfere with the convoy. It wasn’t that Naidu had refused to go by air.
Q: After the arrest, the counsel for Chandrababu Naidu had filed two petitions, one for house arrest and another request for home food. Have these requests been accepted?
A: House arrest was not accepted, home food I think they have allowed, so we are sending him food from outside.
Q: Naidu was arrested in alleged skill development scam by the AP CID and your party has repeatedly contended that this is political persecution. What are the reasons you think made Jagan Mohan Reddy (Chief Minister of AP) persecute Naidu politically?
A: One clear indication is that the TDP is going to win the upcoming elections. That was a clear writing on the wall. The sound in favour of the party was increasing day by day. No matter which part of the state Naidu was touring, there were lakhs of people coming for his meetings. Even if there was a party organised meeting, we saw a lot of common people, women and all flocking in such meetings. It has turned out to be a good push for TDP as the elections are also nearing. So, the reason for the whole arrest was that Jagan felt he wouldn’t be able to fight TDP in the coming elections. He had to break that thing somehow. And he probably thought by putting Naidu in jail, it will give him undue advantage politically. That is why you see the timing is just six months before the elections even when the case was registered two years back and moreover, his name was not there in the case till the moment he was arrested. So, they picked him up suddenly and illegally.
Q: Your answer seems to suggest that Jagan has taken an extreme step. Do you think such an extreme step has benefited the YSRCP in any way?
A: Yes, it was an extreme step, I think he was cornered from all sides. Looking at the way how people were reacting to the TDP, he might have felt that there was no other way but to attack politically and take a drastic step. I don’t think that with this he has benefited in anyway. Even if you talk to YSRCP people, they are also saying that it’s a blunder because it is giving a lot of sympathy to our party at this point and even to Chandrababu Naidu, so politically also, he didn’t gain anything from it. They have put such a big leader in jail they thought by doing so all the political activity of TDP will stop because he is the one who is giving directions to do everything. But that also didn’t happen. Since he has been in jail, every constituency has continued to have state programs. He has been directing everything from inside also and moreover Nara Lokesh is also there and he has also taken responsibility of things which has leveraged the party stand.
Q: How would you describe Jagan in the current scheme of things?
A: I think he has lost his direction. Probably he had expected this to give him political advantage but because of the negative feedback, I think he doesn’t know what to do now. And what I think he is trying to project is show to the people of Andhra that even the Centre is part of this, that BJP is supporting him. By this, he wants to do some damage control.
Q: N. Chandrababu Naidu was arrested and Jagan Mohan Reddy’s main political opponent in the state is Naidu. Do you think such a step will create a momentous shift in Andhra politics?
A: Yes. Someone like Naidu (ex-CM) had been deciding things for Andhra for a very long time. So, when something happens to a leader of that stature, it’s going to affect the way politics in AP is being looked at. Now, the very interesting scenario is that, we are doing surveys week on week after the arrest, the kind of sympathy and support is increasing day by day. The support has been exemplary. We didn’t expect this kind of support in such a way. The arrest has played out to be such a boost for TDP that, even if TDP was doing all kinds of political programs it would have taken us months to achieve that kind of support. So, if we are doing general political programs like reaching out to people and following the regular processes, we wouldn’t have gotten so much of traction in public as much as we got in the last 25 days of his arrest. And people have realised that the arrest is politically motivated, which has motivated people to voluntarily come out in support of whatever the TDP is doing which is surprising. This is going to give us a good push in future also.
Q: Nara Lokesh and Nara Bhuvaneswari have taken centre stage after Naidu’s arrest. What response have they received from the people?
A: Lokesh anna has been there earlier as well, he has been doing his padayatra, he has finished his 210 days journeying around 2,800 km and finished around 65% of the state. So, he was already in the thick of things. People have seen how he has matured as a leader. But Bhuvaneswari Garu (wife of Naidu) coming out has been something new. There are a lot of women who are trying to sympathise with the situation. We are trying to reach out to them in terms of how the injustice is happening to the party and Chandrababu Naidu and his family. She has been strong enough in such a situation. She is the daughter of NTR. But never did she come out in public. Yet, right now, she feels there’s a need to communicate with the people of Andhra Pradesh, especially with women. So, she has taken the lead and come out, people have responded fantastically as they have connected with her so much.