Nagarjunasagar: Kunduru Jana Reddy, the Congress heavyweight and a veteran seven-time MLA from Nagarjunasagar (known as Chalakurthy constituency until 2009), is facing the toughest battle of his political career spanning nearly four decades from two new political entrants — from the TRS and the BJP –in the Nagarjunasagar Assembly bypoll slated for April 17. He was first elected as MLA from TDP in 1983. Barring the 1994 and 2018 assembly polls, Jana won as MLA for seven terms and served as minister for 17 years, which is a record of sorts in Telugu politics.
Jana Reddy is depending on his clean image to win votes this time, apart from the sympathy factor that he lost the 2018 elections. He is giving an impetus to the campaign by reeling out the development done by him as an MLA and minister. He is also challenging the ruling TRS that he would sit at home without campaigning if they are willing to do the same and let the voters decide who is better, based on who did what so far.
In an exclusive interview to Deccan Chronicle at his Nagarjunasagar residence, Jana Reddy says why it is important for people to elect Congress nominees in the bypoll, and adds there is need to save democracy in Telangana and check the abuse of money power in elections, “which has become a norm under TRS rule for the past six years.”
Q: Why do you offer to contest this bypoll without campaigning and are challenging the ruling TRS to do the same?
A: This is just a bypoll. The Congress will neither form the government if it wins this seat nor will a Congress government fall if it loses this seat. For TRS too, this theory holds good. The outcome of this bypoll will have no impact on the TRS government. Under this scenario, let us remain at home and leave the decision to voters.
TRS says they have developed Nagarjunasagar constituency during their six-year rule and that I did nothing in the last three decades. Let voters decide who did what. In the name of campaigning, the TRS is deploying a large contingent of leaders and ministers. They are luring voters with money, liquor and other inducements. When they claim that all the development was done by TRS,where is the need for all this hungama?
Q: But campaigning in elections is the right and responsibility of political parties.
A: I totally agree. Unfortunately, the TRS had completely commercialised the elections ever since it assumed office in 2014. We never witnessed such abuse of money power and government machinery in elections as is being
Q: What were your achievements as the seven-time MLA of Nagarjunasagar?
A: I worked for the development of the constituency and succeeded in solving many issues faced by the people. My constituency is surrounded by forests and irrigation projects. Getting forest and environmental approvals to take up development programmes is a herculean task. Despite this, I secured permissions to lay BT roads extending over 975km, more than what KCR did for his constituency. I could secure approval for a drinking water scheme worth Rs25 crore. Entire land in Nagarjunasagar was under purview of PWD but I helped in 1983 to provide ownership to the residents of 2,000 quarters at a nominal payment of Rs 100 on Nagarjunasagar.
Due to my efforts, the penalties imposed on the people under the pretext of unauthorised constructions were also cancelled by the state government in 1985. A residential school was set up at Nagarjuna Sagar about 35 years ago. Of the three residential schools set up in united AP then,
one came up in Nagarjuna Sagar due to my efforts.
Q: Yet, you were defeated in 2018 election?
A: As a ruling party, the TRS indulged in gross misuse of power to defeat me in 2018. They went to the extent of threatening beneficiaries of welfare schemes that their names will be removed from
the list of beneficiaries if the TRS candidate was not elected. Despite this, I lost with a small margin of 7,700 votes. I polled 76,000 votes and TRS got 84,0000 votes. This is no mean achievement.
Q: But opposition parties say you are afraid of campaigning as people would pose questions on lack of development in Nagarjunasagar during your stints as MLA and minister.
A: TRS leaders are uttering lies on the lack of development of Nagarjunasagar during my tenure. I am ready for an open debate with anyone on this issue.
Q: TRS campaigns that its welfare schemes and development programmes have reached every household.
A: This is yet another lie. TRS welfare schemes are nothing but the continuation of the Congress government's welfare schemes which also reached every household. It's the Congress government that introduced pensions for the poor, free power to agriculture, crop loan waiver, Arogyasri, fee reimbursement, scholarhsips. What KCR did was that he simply renamed those schemes. He failed to implement even the renamed schemes properly. What he did new was Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bima. But he stopped all other financial assistance, subsidy schemes to farmers like interest-free loans, the pavala vaddi loans, and also the Rs 5 lakh compensation for families of farmers who committed suicide, and he did this under the guise of the Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bima. The end result is farmers are getting the same financial assistance now as what they used to get during the Congress terms. Congress built new irrigation projects in Nalgonda district. I dare KCR to show at least one new project he launched and completed in Nalgonda district or elsewhere in state.
Q: The ruling party argues you were rejected in 2018 and Nagarjunasagar people elected Nomula Narasimhaiah for five years until 2023. Due to untimely death of Narasimhaiah, this bypoll came and it would have been ideal for Jana Reddy to leave the seat to Nomula's family instead of contesting again against the wishes of the people?
A: I am ready to quit from this election even today if KCR makes a public appeal to my party high command to leave the seat to TRS in the bypoll. I made this proposal earlier also but there was no response. If KCR makes this appeal, I will strive to convince my party high command to allow me withdraw from this bypoll.