Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy continues to be confident of romping home comfortably for a second consecutive term in Andhra Pradesh and also contributing more than two dozen lawmakers to the UPA's kitty, though the independent surveys and assessments suggest that picture is not so rosy.
The Grand Alliance comprising Telugu Desam Party, Telanagana Rashtra Samiti, Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist are giving him a tough competition at least in the first phase of polling in Telangana and north coastal Andhra regions -- both on account of their combined strength and the attractive promises of cash transfer and the free televisions.
YSR, who was making a last minute dash form constituency to constituency wooing the masses, told rediff.com in an exclusive interview with Mohammed Siddique that in the final analysis people will vote for a government that has credibility and has kept its word during last five years.
You are asking people to vote for Congress for yet another term. Why?
Only Congress can serve the poor, the farmers and the weaker sections in a meaningful way. We have proved this during the last five years. People's lives have improved to a large extent across the state. They are economically in a comfortable position. Farmers are a happier lot and there have not been suicides. This is a complete reverse of the TDP's dark era.
On the other hand why should people not vote for TDP? Because (TDP chief) Chandrababu Naidu cheated and betrayed the poor by scrapping policies like Rs 2 per kg rice and cheap electricity to the farmers. Because he caused economic hardship and broke farmers' back by not giving them minimum support price, neglected irrigation sector and pushed them to commit suicide.
Congress, on the basis of its record of performance, is enjoying high popularity ratings. We are going to get more than 50% of popular votes.
How do you look at the contest?
The fight is between a government, which has strong credibility and the faith of the people, and an opportunistic alliance of opposition, which is discredited. Naidu has no credibility for the way he broke his promises during his nine year rule. He will not be able to come back to power because people don't have faith in him.
The Grand Alliance is going all out to woo the masses by offering cast transfer scheme and colour TV sets.
This shows their bankruptcy of ideas. This is not the way to develop a state and help the people. We will not indulge in such gimmicks. We will do what can help the poor and the farmers in the long run by improving their economic conditions. That is why we are giving free electricity to the farmers, cheap rice and free health insurance, free higher education. This is what the people want and need.
What about Grand Alliance?
It is not Mahakutami (Grand Alliance), it is Maya-Kutami (a myth). How ridiculous can they get? Left parties, who had condemned Chandrababu as the agent of the World Bank and taunted him for dancing to its tunes, has now joined hands with him. There are so many inherent contradictions in the alliance that it cannot work and people will not support it.
How do you assess your chances of retaining power?
Excellent. We are going to get an overwhelming majority and win more than 230 assembly seats and 36 parliamentary seats.
On what basis have you made that assessment?
There is no anti incumbency against our government. Whatever little unhappiness remains is being divided between two opponents in three cornered fights.
Do you think Chiranjeevi's magic is going to work?
Not to such a big extent as is being made out. He will eat into the anti-Congress votes. That is all.
But the turnout at his meetings is huge
They are coming to see a film star to get free entertainment. NT Rama Rao's era was completely different and we are in a completely different situation.
The Opposition has been saying that saying there is 'match fixing' between you and Chiranjeevi.
Chiranjeevi is saying there is a match fixing between Naidu and us. I don't know who is correct.