Interview: Andhra BJP chief Daggubati Purandeswari says people see similarities between YSRCP and Congress

Speaking to South First, NTR’s daughter and Andhra BJP chief says there were initial coordination issues with TDP-JSP, but all is well now.

ByBhaskar Basava

Published May 02, 2024 | 9:00 AM Updated May 02, 2024 | 7:41 PM

The Andhra BJP chief Purandeswari on her campaign trail in Rajahmundry. (Supplied)

Ramarao gari ammaye vachindhi” (The daughter of NTR is here), announced the poll vehicle touring the streets of the Anaparthy constituency, which is part of the Rajahmundry Parliament seat.

Villagers leaned out from their hallways, windows, and gates to greet NTR’s daughter, Daggubati Purandeswari, who waved from the campaign vehicle as it moved through the streets.

The former Union minister and BJP leader was seeking votes for herself as she is contesting the Rajahmundry Lok Sabha seat with hopes of joining the NDA Cabinet.

On the campaign trail, she discussed — in an exclusive conversation with South First — BJP’s coordination with regional ally parties, the INDIA bloc parties in Andhra Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “lack” of direct references to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and YSRCP chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in his speeches, and the sentimental promises to the bifurcated state, such as special status.

Interview: Nara Lokesh on his ‘red book’, alliance with BJP in Andhra Pradesh

Edited excerpts:

Q. How’s your campaign progressing in Rajahmundry?

A. The response from the people has been positive, and they seem to be welcoming us warmly. Moreover, I believe they are not just welcoming us but also showing support for the coalition formed in the state.

Q. The political polarisation in Andhra Pradesh is mainly between the two regional parties — YSRCP and TDP. How is the BJP being received in this context?

A. This isn’t the first time BJP and the Lotus symbol have had success. Earlier, we won two-three times from Rajahmundry, and some public representatives were elected under the Lotus symbol.

As for the regional parties, one of the strong ones — TDP — is in alliance with BJP, making it a coalition of three parties. People are also welcoming this alliance, which is a positive sign.

Q. How are the cadres of Jana Sena and TDP accepting the alliance?

A. By the time the tripartite alliance was announced, Jana Sena and TDP had already been working together for three months. There were some initial coordination issues, but they’ve been resolved, and we’re now operating smoothly.

We’ve formed coordination teams at the state, district, Assembly, and Mandal levels. These teams meet regularly to address any issues, and this approach has significantly improved coordination.

Q. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Andhra Pradesh next week. During his previous visit to Chilakaluripet, he was criticised for not directly addressing YS Jagan’s policies. How do you respond to this approach?

A. It’s unfortunate that people make such comments. As prime minister, Modi typically focuses on the development that the Central government has provided to the state. People criticise him for not being confrontational, but if he strongly criticises the state government, he’s accused of overstepping.

However, if you examine Modi’s speech in Chilakaluripet, you’ll find that he did mention corruption and discussed how state funds were being misused.

Q. YS Jagan has been saying that the BJP is working for TDP and not for its own interests. What do you think of his comments?

A. I don’t think I need to respond to his comments. He has the right to express his views, but it’s unfortunate that he says this.

We’re in a coalition and we’re working together. I don’t think there’s any tension or rupture in the relationship among the coalition parties. It’s disappointing that he would speak this way.

Read: PM Modi refuses to come down heavily on Jagan in Andhra Pradesh

Q. How do you see your national rivals, such as the Left parties and Congress, operating in Andhra Pradesh?

A. The INDIA bloc seems to lack a clear ideology. When the alliance parties met, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge stepped out.

Asked about the meeting’s focus, he couldn’t mention anything about the country’s development or welfare initiatives. Instead, they emphasised that BJP should not come to power and resolved to work against Modi, indicating a lack of ideology or future vision.

The Congress isn’t very visible in Andhra Pradesh. However, its state president YS Sharmila shows that people recognise similarities between YSRCP and Congress, given that YSRCP splintered from Congress. This similarity is already in the minds of the people.

Q. What would be the NDA’s prospects in the state?

A. We expect the NDA to perform very well. We are confident that the number of Assembly seats will exceed 100. As for the Lok Sabha seats, we anticipate securing between 18 and 20.

Q. Emerging victorious in the six Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly seats could be a strategic win for the BJP, especially since it has fewer votes. Who would deserve the credit if the BJP is successful? Union minister Amit Shah or the state leadership?

A. Various factors would contribute to this success, such as the strength of the party’s organisation, the strength of the cadre, and the leadership in those particular assembly segments.

All of these elements would have to be taken into account when making decisions, and the numbers would be determined based on input from the state and Central leadership. So, it would be a collective achievement.

Q. If NDA wins. what would be its offer to Andhra Pradesh?

A. Irrespective of whether the people of Andhra Pradesh vote for the party or not, the BJP has always supported the development of the state. It never had said that because it did not get votes and it did not support the state.

The Center has always supported and will continue to support.

Read: After Chandrababu Naidu, YS Jagan jets off to meet BJP leaders in Delhi

Q. Will the Central government change its stance on special status or the privatisation of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant?

A. Regarding special status, when the TDP was in power, it accepted the special package instead of the special-category status. Now it’s about converting that special package into action, which depends on the government that comes to power. BJP’s central leadership never backed away from this commitment.

As for the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, we’re not considering disinvestment. Instead, we’re focused on making the steel plant profitable. Our goal is to turn it into a successful enterprise.

Q. There seems to have been an exchange of words between you and the YSRCP Rajya Sabha member V Vijaysai Reddy, especially when he was seen coordinating between YSRCP and BJP. What’s your take on this?

A. Vijaysai Reddy is a Rajya Sabha member, and when the prime minister moves through the Central Hall, any MP can approach and greet him. This doesn’t imply that he was coordinating between YSRCP and BJP.

Similarly, if a state’s chief minister requests a meeting with the prime minister, it’s granted. This isn’t unusual, and doesn’t suggest any formal coordination between the state government and the Central government.

Regarding the exchange of words on Twitter (now X), it’s unfortunate that there’s so much mudslinging. These accusations often lack substance, and when we refute them, there’s no response, which indicates that these claims are baseless. It exposes the fact that they are just throwing random accusations.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)