Interview: Andhra Pradesh is on track to become a leader in green energy production, says Chalamalasetty Sunil

"I have a vision for Kakinada, I plan to adopt 400 villages and invest 400 crores," says Sunil, who is contesting for the parliament.

ByBhaskar Basava

Published May 07, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedMay 09, 2024 | 7:47 PM

Sunil Chalamalasetty, YSRCP Kakinada MP Candidate with AP CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. (Supplied)

In the port city of Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, a prominent businessman, Chalamalasetty Sunil, is seeking his electoral luck for the fourth time to debut in India’s Parliament.

The electoral losses of Sunil seem to stem from a misalignment with the voter sentiment — starting with the Praja Rajyam Party in 2009, then YSRCP in 2014, and TDP in 2019.

With the NDA partner Jana Sena and its chief Pawan Kalyan boasting of a significant influence in the Kakinada region, the challenge ahead for Sunil with YSRCP is expected to be tough.

Kalyan is contesting the state Assembly election from Pithapuram, a part of the Kakinada Lok Sabha constituency. He has entrusted Uday Srinivas Tangella, the startup chain Tea Time founder, to run for the Kakinada parliamentary seat.

Sunil is banking on public sympathy, his family’s legacy, and the support from YSRCP’s welfare beneficiaries to turn the tide.

In conversation with South First, Sunil discusses his confidence in his bid to enter parliament, his ₹400 crore manifesto for Kakinada, the potential for Andhra Pradesh to lead in the green energy sector, and the trend of businesspeople entering politics.

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Edited Excerpts: 

Q. You are contesting the election for the fourth time, how confident are you about winning?

A. Based on my thorough preparations and my past experiences, I am quite confident. The YSRCP government’s governance in the state has also laid a strong foundation for my confidence.

Q. What led you to pursue a career in politics instead of continuing your business?

A. My journey into politics was driven by my desire to make a broader impact through charity. As a businessman, I could make a difference, but there were limits to how many people I could reach.

Politics, however, offers a platform to bring about change on a larger scale. Through politics, I could potentially influence the lives of many more people.

Moreover, politics offers the opportunity to address issues at both local and state levels, allowing for substantial changes and creating wealth for those in need.

Q. Your political journey involves multiple affiliations: Praja Rajyam in 2009, YSRCP in 2014, TDP in 2019, and back to YSRCP in 2024. Can you explain these shifts, and why did you choose YSRCP this time?

A. I have always been closely associated with YS Jagan Mohan Reddy since the party’s inception. I left YSRCP before the 2019 elections due to personal reasons.

At that time, I was considering stepping back from politics altogether, but as the election approached, I made a decision in hindsight that was a mistake — I ran with TDP.

My time with TDP was brief, from nomination until the elections, after which I returned to my entrepreneurial career.

However, soon after becoming the CM, Jagan Mohan Reddy reached out to me. He invited me to rejoin YSRCP. He appreciated my character and commitment to the party’s values, and I rejoined unconditionally.

His invitation demonstrated his trust in me and his desire to have me on his team. As we approached the current election, he expressed that he needed people like me, with my background, to represent the party.

Given his confidence in me and my dedication to serving the people, I decided to go ahead with YSRCP again.

Q. YSRCP has faced criticism for its perceived lack of focus on industries and investments. As someone from a business background, how do you assess the party’s performance?

A. I think this criticism is largely unfounded. Even while the focus of YSRCP is welfare programs and supporting the needy, it has also been investing in key areas that drive development. Education is a critical component of that foundation. Providing education and welfare to the poor is not just about social responsibility; it’s an investment in the state’s future.

Additionally, YSRCP has invested in infrastructure projects. Over the last five years, even with the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government initiated the construction of four major ports, with two nearing completion.

It has also started building multiple fishing harbours, recognising the importance of a coastal economy. These initiatives create not just infrastructure but also opportunities for new industries and jobs. Around the fishing ports, for example, YSRCP is setting up cold storage facilities, marketing centres, and sorting facilities to support the fishing industry.

The government is also building 17 new medical colleges, ensuring that healthcare and education reach more people. These steps toward long-term economic development demonstrate that YSRCP is not just focused on welfare but also on building the infrastructure and industries needed for a thriving economy.

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Q. The Opposition criticises YSRCP’s approach to infrastructure, industry, and capital development. How do you respond to this?

A. YSRCP’s approach to capital development is realistic and practical, given the state’s fiscal position. Even before 2019, the state’s financial condition didn’t support grand projects that the Opposition had proposed.

The party’s plan is more balanced. Instead of concentrating resources in one area, the government focused on developing different regions to promote balanced growth across the state.

Jagan Mohan Reddy chose to create three regional capitals, each serving a specific role in the state’s development. This decentralised approach ensures that development isn’t confined to just one city or region, but spreads across the state.

This way, more people will benefit, and there will be an even distribution of resources and opportunities.

Q. There are reports of you pledging 400 crores for the development of Kakinada. How do you plan to fulfil this promise?

A. As someone born and raised here (Kakinada), I have a vision. I will transform my vision into reality through a detailed manifesto for this region.

The Kakinada parliamentary constituency encompasses many villages, and I spent significant parts of my life in these villages. I plan to adopt 400 villages in this constituency and invest one crore per village over the next five years, totalling 400 crores.

In addition to developing the villages, my secondary focus is on empowering the youth of this region. I plan to create a large training centre dedicated to skill development.

Every year, this centre will train 5,000 to 6,000 young people, preparing them for jobs in various industries. This initiative aims to create a skilled workforce to attract employers and reduce unemployment.

The third aspect of my plan involves leveraging the region’s geographical advantages to attract large industrial enterprises. Kakinada has a significant coastline, two major ports, and excellent road, air, and train connectivity.

Promoting these attributes can attract businesses and industries to the area, generating economic growth and creating new job opportunities.

Q. YS Jagan has emphasised ports and the green energy sector over the past five years. Do you believe his administration has effectively materialised these investments, and can Andhra Pradesh lead in these sectors?

A. I believe Andhra Pradesh is on track to become a leader in green energy production. Within the next three to four years, we could be the highest green energy-producing state in the country.

This development can attract large manufacturing companies to set up operations in Andhra Pradesh, given our strategic access to ports, which facilitates exporting to Europe, the US, and other parts of the world. With green energy, companies can avoid carbon taxes, making Andhra Pradesh an ideal location for production.

With this approach, combining ports and industrial estates, the state can create a well-suited infrastructure for manufacturing and international trade. This allows us to capitalise on our strengths and create a sustainable, industry-friendly environment.

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Q. Your opponent in the Kakinada race, Tea Time founder Uday, is also a businessman. With more businesspeople and NRIs entering the political arena, how do you view this trend?

A. As an entrepreneur, I can tell you that only a handful of genuine businesspeople venture into politics. True entrepreneurship requires a high level of commitment and focus, and entering politics often represents a significant sacrifice.

In my case, I had the support of my family, including my brothers, which made it easier for me to balance both business and politics.

However, some people enter politics using a “business” label without necessarily having the depth of experience that real entrepreneurs do.

This can be misleading, as these individuals might come from a variety of backgrounds and simply use the business tag to boost their political credibility.

Q. Andhra Pradesh MPs, both from TDP and YSRCP, have faced criticism for not championing key issues with the BJP in Delhi, such as special status. How do you respond?

A. In the parliament, certain policies are crafted through a process, often involving debates and discussions. Issues like special status and reservations have undergone extensive deliberations and have been subject to politicisation.

However, as educated parliamentarians, it’s our responsibility to prioritise our efforts wisely. We must focus our resources and time on matters that truly impact the welfare of our state and its people.

This means conducting thorough research and understanding where our attention should be directed for the benefit of our constituents.

Q. Your opponent, the candidate of the Jana Sena, claims you are a “political tourist”, and you say that he has a betting link and is not a businessman. Can you please explain?

A. The people of this region are politically savvy and have a long-standing legacy of engagement in the democratic process. I don’t take these accusations seriously because my opponent lacks the credibility and credentials to make such statements.

Throughout my campaign, I emphasise the importance of voting consciously and understanding the candidates’ track records.

It’s crucial that people vote with awareness and a clear understanding of who will best represent their interests.

I trust the people of Kakinada to make the right choice, and I’m confident they will choose candidates who will make a positive difference in their lives.

(Edited by Muhammed Fazil)