Jana Sena Party (JSP) chief K. Pawan Kalyan has opined that a reprisal of the 2014 alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Jana Sena Party (JSP), and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) would be essential for presenting an electoral challenge to Jagan Mohan Reddy, the incumbent Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and his party, the YSR Congress.
In an exclusive chat with The Hindu, Mr. Pawan said his goal was to see Mr. Reddy removed from power, adding that the matter of alliance-formation would have to be dealt with by the top leaders of the BJP and TDP.
Admitting that there might be differences of opinion, Mr. Pawan said such issues could be ironed out for “a larger good”. “Differences are bound to crop up, as at times ideologies do not match even between alliance partners. Even I am vocal about certain things and have clearly voiced them to the BJP top leadership, be it for Special Category Status for AP or the privatisation of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. Both Mr. Modi and Mr. Amit Shah have always given me a patient hearing and I am sure some solution will come out in the future, he said.
Adding to the alliance formulae, he said, “It all depends on how the top leadership of all the three parties view it. If they feel that they should stay out of it, it might aid YSR Congress for another five-year term, which would take the State backwards by another five years, or align to throw him [Jagan] out for the betterment of the State.”
According to Mr. Pawan, there is rampant corruption in the State, playing out through the mining mafia or liquor sales.
“The basic idea of three capitals is to see that the land prices in Visakhapatnam and Kurnool go up,” he alleged, claiming that the ruling party had grabbed enormous amounts of land. “In the outskirts of Visakhapatnam and Anakapalli district, the ruling party has acquired over 30,000 acres of land and they have jacked up the prices. Similarly, crores of rupees through sand and gravel mining and liquor sales, which is done only through cash transactions, do not reach the State’s exchequer,” he alleged.
‘No hunger for posts’
Asserting that he had launched a political party in order to bring about a difference in the lives of people, Mr. Pawan said: “Corruption has ruined the State and it is already debt-ridden. It is because of this that I had launched a political party and winning or losing is not important for me. My goal is to see that the common and poor people are not marginalised and I will stand by them. Acquiring a political post is only a by-product. I have no hunger for posts. If that be the case, I was offered a Rajya Sabha membership, which was refused. I am here to stay and JSP is not a political party; it is an institution.”.
“The main reason for me to join politics is to stop corruption and bring down the disparity between the ‘haves and the have-nots’. Both power and wealth are in the hands of a few and Mr. Jagan’s claim [of having instituted welfare schemes in the State]is a big farce, as almost all the schemes, including housing, are Central government–sponsored.
“I have seen such corruption in unified Andhra in Telangana region during Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s regime and the same is happening now in A.P. The government is functioning like a real estate company,” he said.
Splitting of votes
Acknowledging that his party lacked a solid middle-level leadership, the actor-turned-politician said: “Yes I agree that my party at present lacks a formidable force of MLA faces and that is why I have been harping [on the need] to strategise an alliance that would stop a splitting of votes, and it will work out at the opportune time, when things are in place. Moreover, I believe in grooming leaders, which I am doing, as they would be the future leaders,” said Mr. Pawan.
The JSP chief was also candid in accepting that there was a lack of sync between the BJP and JSP grassroots workers. “We are working on it and we have already jointly taken up the agitation against the diversion of Central funds for the Sarpanches.”
‘Mapping voting patterns’
Taking a dig at the volunteer system prevalent in the State, he said: “All that Mr. Jagan has done is that he has dismantled the earlier Mee Seva system, rendered thousands jobless, and floated this system for his own people, who are nothing but snooping for the government,” he alleged.
“For a paltry sum of ₹5,000 per month, the volunteers, who are not government employees, are used to gather sensitive data of people and voters and stored by private companies, [which] are being used to manipulate many things, including voting patterns. The government is using this system to ‘map’ the voting pattern for their use,” he alleged.
‘Not a Kapu leader’
Deploring the divide being created in the name of caste and region, Mr. Pawan said: “The YSRC-led State government has brought casteism and regionalism to the fore, as never before. They are branding me also as a Kapu leader, which I am not. In the 2019 elections, my vote share was about 7.5% and about 6% out of it was non-Kapu votes. I am a leader of the masses and I do not believe in castes or regional feelings, as I have [had] a bit of a [leaning to the Left] since my student days, he said.
On his poll strategy, he said he would be focussing on the growing unemployment in the State, corruption, safety for women and development. “My Varahi Yatra will hopefully bring the change that the people of the State is looking forward to,” said Mr. Pawan Kalyan.