Q: How are you feeling?
A: As a matter of fact, I am ill. But as a special ... to Barkha Dutt, I am giving this interview to NDTV.
Q: We appreciate that, sir. You must have noticed the entire crisis Andhra Pradesh has plunged into with the mass resignation of MLA s from Rayalaseema and the North Coastal region. How do you observe this development?
A: I would like to say one thing. The Government of India has made a clear-cut announcement on the creation of a Telangana state. There are MLAs in the Telangana region belonging to other parties. In such a situation, if anyone thinks Andhra Pradesh can kept intact, it is foolish. People from both regions should sit together and sort out the issue - I will appeal to them.
Q: But you broke your fast after the Home Minister's announcement that the process for creating a Telangana state would be initiated, and a resolution would be brought to the Andhra Assembly. Given the current situation, do you believe this resolution will still be brought?
A: The Assembly resolution is actually a cock-and-bull story...
Q: It is not important..?
A: It is not important. For example, when Gujarat state was separated from Maharashtra, Maharashtrians bitterly opposed it despite Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's announcement. The issue landed in the Supreme Court - the highest court of law - and a bench of seventeen judges categorically stated that there is no need for a resolution from the state assembly; it is not in their jurisdiction.
Q: What should happen then..?
A: See, it is a formality for the Government of India to keep the state assembly informed, stipulating a period of time for them to express of their view - but no endorsement is required. If they don't express their view within the stipulated time, the process is deemed to be complete.
Q: You are saying the government can initiate the process for a separate state without a resolution in the state assembly. But is there any timeline that your party will be looking at, before you restart methods like your fast unto death?
A: There is no deadline. I am actually thankful to Sonia ji, because her initiative has allowed our dream to come true. The risk she took, has transferred the whole burden of the people of Telangana on to her shoulders. Actually, she used to love me like a son.
Q: But you left them and walked out...
A: When our cause was denied, the people here were angry. I was unable to bear the anger of the people of Telangana, and I was compelled to quit the UPA. It was nothing against Sonia ji. IN all my interviews, I have never uttered a single word against Sonia ji.
Q: You say that there is no deadline. How long will you wait, because many believe that the Congress has again put Telangana on the backburner?
A: No, never. You can go through the statement of Mr Chidambram. He clearly says: "I am making this statement on behalf of the Government of India. " So, once the Government of India has issued a statement, it becomes a prestige issue to see that it is implemented.
Q: But the Government of India is insisting that there should be a resolution first. And now it looks like that the resolution may not happen at all.
A: No, the Government of India has never insisted on a resolution; it is just trying to follow certain democratic norms, to get some consensus. Government of India is only trying to ensure that there are no problems in the future, no misunderstanding.
Q: But in this state of chaos, you know that even the Congress is divided into camps - some people are probably trying to dislodge the current chief minister. Are you apprehensive there could be President's rule?
A: You see, Andhra MLAs can resign but not Telangana MLAs. How do we resign? The people of this region will target us. The situation has come to a level that nobody can stop the formation of Telangana. The protests are actually funded by those with long-term motives, bad motives.
Q: By vested interests? Whose?
A: Vested interests of those who have an investment or business or some benami lands in and around Hyderabad.
Q: You are saying the land lobby is driving the anti-Telangana protests?
A: Those who flouted the rules during the allotment of Benami lands drive them; those people, those lobbies are pumping this. These are artificial agitations. See, I have been planning this agitation for the last decade and this agitation was there for the last 50 years. Why wasn't there a single voice from Andhra or Rayalaseema? For any demand for a state in the whole country, there should be some moral ethical base.
Q: But what will happen to Hyderabad? Will it go with Telangana?
A: Hyderabad attracts the whole world. People love to live in Hyderabad. A classical example is the former Election Commisioner of India Mr Lyngdoh, who is from the North East. The place to which he belongs is far away from Hyderabad, but he came back after retirement.
Q: But people like him and people of Andhra Region are worried that if there is a separate Telangana state, you will make Andhraites leave Hyderabad?
A: No, not at all. Hyderabad has such a good society - very affectionate, very kind-hearted - that it allows everybody, and absorbs everybody into its lap. But Andhraites have always used their political power to exploit everything - like river water, employment opportunities, education opportunities, etc. Our people would ultimately leave for the Gulf countries. And today, 35 thousand Telangana people are in jail in Gulf countries.
Q: Those are good points...
A: See, why should Telangana suffer? And Hyderabad city? We had an airport even in the early days. Even the railway stations in Hyderabad today were constructed by the Nizam - as were the hospitals and educational institutions like Osmania University. Andhra people say we have invested in Hyderabad, and we are the reason behind its growth. I say Hyderabad has been India's 5th largest city for 50 years now; it has never come to the rank of number 2 or 3. So, if anyone believes demographic expansion of a city is growth, it is foolishness.
Q: Fair enough.
A: Demographic expansion has taken place everywhere. Delhi has expanded, Chennai has expanded, Bangalore has expanded. Whether vertically or horizontally, even Mumbai has expanded. Small towns have become cities now. So, demographic expansion cannot be considered development, and creation of infrastructure also cannot be considered. In India, political leaders are short-sighted.
Q: So this is not genuine development. What about the proposal for a Chandigarh-type analogy, a shared capital? Can you consider that?
A: The population of recently formed Greater Hyderabad is more than a crore. Of this, Telangana people comprise 95 per cent; Andhra people account for just five per cent. How can they claim Hyderabad? Does it make any sense? Secondly, Chandigarh and Hyderabad can never be compared because the geographical situation there was different; that was a newly bifurcated state. In this case, it is not a new bifurcation because Telangana and Andhra used to exist as separate states with their own capitals - Kurnool and Hyderabad respectively. Also, the Andhra region begins more than 100 km beyond Hyderabad. So how can we have a Chandigarh type situation?
Q: In this present situation of complete political crisis in the state, what would be your party's next move?
A: I don't consider this a crisis because it is artificial, and promoted by certain vested interests.
Q: Do you think it will die down on its own?
A: It has to, it has to.
Q: And you think a resolution will come soon?
A: A resolution hardly matters. According to the Constitution of India, Andhra Assembly's endorsement is just a formality for the Government of India. The government needs to keep the state Assembly informed just as a matter of formality.
Q: But how long will you wait? Suppose the government does nothing i.e in order to raise consensus and calm down temperature, it does nothing?
A: I have lot of faith in Soniaji and Dr Manmohan Singhji. I think they are ready to solve the issue. They have invited me to Delhi for talks as soon as I recover - a week or 10 days from now. Right now, I cannot leave my residence. Despite the thousands who are coming, all I could manage was to go up to the balcony to wave. I didn't talk or speak. It is always better to the leaders of Andhra to concede the request of Mrs Gandhi. Once the arrow of Telangana has been shot out, it can't be taken back.
Q: So, no going back on Telangana?
A: That question does not arise.