'I have nothing against Jagan or anyone else'
Nevertheless, the septuagenarian leader, who says that the Congress high command is his godfather, is settling down in the new position even as his Cabinet colleagues and party leaders continue their campaign to anoint YSR’s son, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, as chief minister.
“It is true that quite a number of legislators and ministers are wishing to see Jagan as the CM and successor of YSR. It does not mean that it is a problem for me. I am not against Jagan or anyone in the Congress,” Rosaiah says. The political career of 75-year-old Rosaiah is spread over 58 years.
He served four Congress chief ministers and holds a national record of presenting 15 Budgets as state finance minister. He was elected to the Legislative Council and hence did not contest the 2009 Assembly elections. “I am not bothered how long I will continue as Chief Minister,” Rosaiah says in a candid interview with Ch Prashanth Reddy. Excerpts:
There is a perception that you are not a mass leader like former chief minister, YS Rajasekhara Reddy.
Yes. I am not a mass leader like YSR. Every leader will have his own qualities. That way, I am a different man. The late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were mass leaders whereas Manmohan Singh is not. But Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister twice.
Does the political uncertainty bother you? There is a campaign within your party to anoint YSR’s son YS Jagan Mohan Reddy as the next chief minister. Does it not affect you?
It is true that quite a number of legislators and ministers are wishing to see Jagan as the CM and a successor to YSR. It does not mean that it is a problem for me. I am not against Jagan or anyone else in the Congress party. I am a soldier of Congress and during my 58-year long career, I always took the national leadership’s views as Veda. Even now, as desired by the national leadership of our party, I have taken the oath as CM and functioning to the best of my abilities in this position.
Many see you as a stop-gap arrangement?
In the Constitution, there is no provision for a caretaker chief minister. I am not bothered how long I continue as CM. For 17 years, I have been the office bearer of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC). I have been the PCC chief twice. In the party, I worked as a soldier. Similarly, I am working as a disciplined soldier in the government.
Do you expect the Congress high command to clear the air soon?
Congress leadership would not like this uncertainty to continue for a long time, which is detrimental to the development of the state. As CM, I do not want this uncertainty to continue. But, these are all emotional feelings one has to understand. The high command will take care of these things.
There was a lull in the administration after YSR's death. Has it come back to normal?
YSR was very dear not only to Congress workers but also to the people of the state and the entire population went into a shock. The administration also felt the same for a couple of days. Slowly it started functioning normally. As CM, I have been continuously reviewing different subjects and issuing instructions. I am sparing enough time to clear the pending files. I need another couple of days to clear the backlog. Nobody can say that there is lull in the administration. It is a functioning government.
There are reports of non-cooperation by several ministers as they are pitching for making Jagan the next chief minister?
There is nothing like that. The ministers were in a mourning mood. It took some time for them to come out of it.
How do you feel when you find that your ministerial colleagues are holding discussions with KVP Ramachandra Rao (close aide and adviser to YSR) before attending the Cabinet meeting?
There is nothing wrong in ministers, who have a close association with KVP, meeting him. Problems will crop up only when such things lead to interference in administration.
While being an adviser to the state government, KVP is pitching for Jagan as CM. What do you say about this?
As an adviser, KVP’s role is different. However, he can air his views in his individual capacity.
Does KVP continue to be the state government adviser?
We are consulting each other on phone on various issues. KVP has not yet recovered from the shock of YSR's death. It is to be ascertained whether he is continuing as the government adviser.
Every chief minister would like to choose his own Cabinet. So, is there any Cabinet reshuffle on the cards?
I am not planning anything. If the party leadership wants me to do it, I will do so. I will not take any decisions independently.
When are you going to Delhi?
I will tell mediapersons before going to Delhi.
There is a speculation that Jagan will be accommodated in the central Cabinet.
I have also read in newspapers. The high command will find a way out. The party had faced many challenges in the past and compared to them, this is not a major issue. Jagan is a young and enthusiastic man. He was elected to Parliament with a good majority. These things will be considered by the high command, which will take an appropriate decision.
In the event of the party choosing Jagan for CM’s post, will you continue in his Cabinet?
This is a hypothetical question. Let us hear what they say.
Do you want people to see you as YSR’s successor?
I will considered as YSR’s friend and an active Congress worker. I do not have any coterie or group. I am a common man.
Who is your Godfather?
Congress high command.
When will the meeting of Congress Legislature Party be convened?
Our party will advise me on this. There is time up to six months for this. I also propose to convene Assembly session to pass condolence motion.
How difficult is the state's financial situation?
It is not unmanageable. I agree there is stress on finances but we are managing. Resource mobilisation is not according to the original estimate. There is a shortfall on account of global financial meltdown, slump in real estate sector and slowdown in the IT sector. We are finding ways to bridge the gap and increasing the government spending on infrastructure and other sectors.
The central government has increased the borrowing limit for states to four percent of the GSDP. It has been quite liberal with us and we are expecting liberal grant of funds under various central-sponsored schemes like NREGP, JNNURM, Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, Rajiv Swagruha, PM Rozgar Yojana and Indira Avas Yojna. The Centre is also extending support for industrial development.
The opposition parties are saying that the state is slipping into a debt trap due to financial mismanagement. What do you have to say?
It was during the previous TDP regime that the state was pushed into a debt trap. There was not a single year when the government did not go for overdraft. The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act came into force from 2005. Before that, the TDP government was borrowing without any restrictions. We did not approach the RBI even for a single rupee under ways and means advance. There is no doubt debt is mounting but we should also look at the growing income levels.