Shivaji Raju Pothuri, Hyderabad, AP – Interview

Leaders like Shivaji Raju exemplify Lok Satta’s commitment to honest and nepotism-free politics. Shivaji Raju joined the Lok Satta party as a commoner without any influential background in 2009, and by 2010 he was heading the entire team of Vidyarthi Satta. Today, aged only 29, he is the State President for Yuva Satta and a member of several decision making committees within Lok Satta. As he himself asks, “Is this even possible in most other parties?”. Outside of Lok Satta, Shivaji Raju gained state-wide recognition after he and his team exposed the 42 crore scam in the AP government’s ‘Rajiv Yuva Kiranalu’ scheme. He is currently leading campaigns to promote the involvement of youth in politics.

Shivaji Raju can be reached via email and Facebook. Find out more about him and his work through this interview by Sravanthi Yalamanchili.

Sravanthi: Shivaji garu, Tell us about your background and why did you join Lok Satta?

Shivaji: I was born and brought up in Hyderabad. I finished my degree from Wesley College. During my student days, I used to volunteer for Akhila Bharata Vidhya Parishad ( ABVP), a student wing of BJP . Slowly, I realized it is no different from a typical political party whose motive is power and money. So, I went into inactive mode after college. In 2009, I happened to listen to a speech of JP garu in Quthbullapur Constituency. I was in fact travelling in a bus and got down to see what’s going on. That speech of JP garu and ideologies laid out by him inspired me very much. So, I joined the Lok Satta Party as a volunteer and later as a paid member.

Sravanthi: How was your experience like after joining Lok Satta? Was it similar or different from your experience as a student volunteer of BJP?

Shivaji: I found a huge difference. For example, BJP and other parties use students and youth only to shoulder party flags around and probably organize small scale events. They do not have a defined vision. Lok Satta party, on the other hand, has a defined vision and follows complete democracy. Even the party’s president has to be elected through a fair election process. This impressed me a lot because, in most political parties, one has to be a son, daughter, nephew or a relative of an influential person to even grow as a youth leader. I was a commoner with no influential background when I joined Lok Satta in 2009. Still, Lok Satta presented me several opportunities to lead and become a part of decision making committees. Would this be possible in any other party ?

Sravanthi: Can you brief us on the activities you are a part of or lead?

Shivaji: After joining Lok Satta in 2009, I started working along with Nandipeta Ravinder garu who was then the President of Greater Hyderabad. I used to take active part in all the activities conducted by Lok Satta in Jeedimetla division like organizing events, conducting awareness campaigns, and training the youth.

In Jan 2009, I was elected as the in charge of Yuva Satta, Jeedimetla division.

In June 2009, I organized an event in Quthbullapur where around 800 students attended. The meeting was a huge success and in less than 15 days, I was made the in charge of Yuva Satta, Quthbullapur Constituency.

I worked on Kurnool Flood Relief Efforts initiated by Lok Satta. We adopted 3 villages – Poolathota ( Kurnool), Kesavaram (Mahbubnagar) and Matlam (Krishna). In Kesavaram village, the government school was completely destroyed by floods. So, Raghava Raju garu and I led a project to re-build the school. Loksatta Party funded 2.5 Lakhs and we roped in sponsors like Nagarjuna Cement for raw materials. We worked rigorously and finished the project in less than a month . Dr JP inaugurated the new building on the 30th day.

My next major activity was ‘Madhya Niyantarana Chaitanya Yatra’ in July 2010. We organized rallies in and around Hyderabad against liquor auctions and unlicensed belt shops.

Next major event organized by me was ‘Walk with JP’ . It was a campaign against corruption where 1400-1500 students participated in the Rally held at Necklace Road. This event got me good recognition as a leader and in November 2010, I was elected as the State President of Vidhyarthi Satta.

The first event I led as the State President of Vidhyarthi Satta was an anti-corruption event on Dec 9 2010, at R.K Beach , Vizag where approximately 8000 students attended. Towards the end of Dec 2010, about 3 months before Dr. JP’s “Lokpal Prachara Yatra”, we organized state wide committees in 12 districts as a part of this, we created Anti-Corruption & Jan Lokpal awareness. I toured 8 of 12 districts. Wherever there was a Yatra or a public meeting, I would go to the mandal/district/constituency about a week before to work with the ground team and help with co-ordinating the program to make it a success. I did this almost for 1 year.

On Sept 9 2011, I was elected as the State President of Yuva Satta. As the President of Yuva Satta, the first event I led was a state wide ‘ Youth Assembly’ with students and youth starting from Srikakulam district. Through this event, we created a discussion forum to listen to the opinions and pulse of the youth, their expectations and how far the government schemes like ‘Rajiv Yuva Kiranalu’ are helping them. We have implemented this in 6 districts so far and others are in progress.

Sravanthi: Exposing the irregularities of ‘Rajiv Yuva Kiranalu’ Scheme was one of the major achievements of Yuva Satta. In fact, it drew state wide attention. Can you tell us about it.

Shivaji: Sure. First, Our team comprising of Ravi Kiran, Prasad, Ram Sasidhar, Ajith, Chaithanya, Mithun and myself, did a small survey in 3 districts – Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam to find out if the unemployed are really benefiting from the Rajiv Yuva Kiranalu Scheme introduced by the State Government. In this survey, we found huge gaps between the government records and actual data. For example, in Vishakapatnam, the government records showed 7,500 unemployed youth got benefited through this scheme. However, in reality, only 500 of them were given training and 7,000 were bogus claims! We then took this survey state wide and submitted results in the form of a report to our our Chief Minister Mr. Kiran Kumar Reddy on Dec 19th 2011. As a result, the government released a statement acknowledging the irregularities and that they will be corrected. However, nothing happened until today. The government is now aware that at least Rs. 42 Crores of funds have been misused. But, it is not able to expose it for obvious reasons. In the correction report, they also said that all training and job details will be put up on the Internet. That too did not happen as the actual number of jobs are clearly less than 20,000 while the number in books is 1 Lakh. Interestingly, not a single political party, other than Lok Satta, came forward to speak against this irregularity.

Sravanthi: How are you planning to take this forward?

Shivaji: We are not done yet, We are following up through a state wide RTI.

Sravanthi: Excellent Shivaji garu, Are there any other such surveys in planning ?

Shivaji: Yes, indeed. Yuva Satta is in the process of studying other government schemes to expose corruption and show how people’s money is being misused. For example, the Government has been training the unemployed youth under the following schemes for the last 3-4 years:
– EGMM Employment Generation and Marketing Machine
– MEPMA Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Area &
– DRDA District Rural Development Agency
The training given under these schemes is ineffective because it lacks quality and the kind of jobs that trainees are being offered only fetch Rs. 2000-3000 per month.

We also want to spread awareness about these schemes to rural youth starting with Amudalavalasa in Srikakulam.

Sravanthi: You previously mentioned about re-building the school in Kesavaram. It was a big success for Lok Satta. Building a school right from scratch in 30 days that too with limited resources is not an easy task. It in fact requires great determination in addition to sound leadership capabilities. However, in the recent 2012 by-elections, Lok Satta only gained 450 votes in Mahbubnagar. What went wrong ? Why did Lok Satta fail in Mahbubnagar despite these efforts ?

Shivaji: Firstly, we did not publicize our efforts in Kesavaram like we should have. Only a few people with in the party and those who are following the Facebook and other forums closely, are aware of this project. This is definitely a drawback. Secondly, implementing good projects, even though they are directly benefiting people, are not enough to win elections. We need local leaders for every ward and in every constituency. This is the reason why Lok Satta is urging people to come and take leadership. Youth, women and farmers in villages must especially come forward and engage themselves in politics if they want to see change. Yuva Satta is in the process of launching a state wide movement to bring this awareness.

Sravanthi: Tell us about the Yuva Satta team.

Shivaji: We have strong teams in 12 districts. The committees that were formed in 2006, have been dissolved and we formed a single state wide committee that comprises of myself – the President for YuvaSatta, Dosapati Ramu – General Secretary, Panchadi Rambabu and Veluru Ashok – Vice Presidents. Our plan is to expand the committee to 26 members. One of the main agendas of Yuva Satta is to encourage young leaders with potential. So, after every event, we try to followup with the volunteers, organizers, and interested youth to identify leaders. Those who continue to work for the party like taking up tasks proactively will be encouraged and promoted as second level leaders within Yuva Satta.

Sravanthi: Apart from participating in awareness events like Lokpal or anti-corruption, how ready are youth to be aligned with a political party?

Shivaji: Today, youth are more politically aware than ever before. They are showing good response to our political campaigns and awareness programs too. Some are even seeking leadership opportunities which is an excellent development. We are able to form strong teams and are able to continuously engage youth in regions of Vishakapatnam, Vizianagaram, Ongole, Srikakulam ,Karimnagar, Warangal, East Godavari, Kadapa, Kurnool, Prakasam, Nellore, Ranga Reddy, hyderabad, Nalgonda and Medak.

Sravanthi: What percentage of seats are allocated for Yuva Satta ?

Shivaji: Lok Satta is a party that wants to encourage young leadership. It is ready to allocate 100% seats to young leaders with good potential. For the past few months, Yuva Satta too has been an important player in all Lok Satta events and campaigns. We are targeting to fill at least 40% of the seats in the coming 2014 elections.

Sravanthi: Thanks Shivaji garu for your time. We wish good luck in all the future endeavours of Yuva Satta.

Shivaji: Thank you.

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