Y.D. Ramarao, Kakinada, East Godavari – Interview

ydramaraoY.D. Rama Rao is the Vice-President of the AP State unit of Lok Satta Party. He was interviewed by Amarendra Sagila.

Amar: How did you get interested in politics and public service?

YDR: Basically, I hail from a family with a communist background. My father was a communist. Naturally, I developed social awareness right from childhood and used to follow politics and current affairs regularly. I used to observe the lives of people from the lower and middle classes and the trials and tribulations they faced in their daily lives. I imbibed leadership qualities right from childhood. I was the class pupil leader and school pupil leader in school and worked as Secretary of the students union in college. I used to participate actively in debates and quiz competitions.

At the time of Emergency (1975-77), I was doing my Post Graduation in M.com in Chirala College, which was affiliated to Andhra University. We opposed the Congress party and supported the Janata Party. After my Post Graduation, I did PG Diploma in Business Management and joined Sri Ramdas Motor Transport (SRMT) as an executive in 1979. For almost 10-20 years, SRMT played a big role in the politics of East Godavari. In 1982, municipal elections were conducted in Kakinada and candidates supported by SRMT were contesting. I was looking after the public relations of the company and so I ran the campaign and participated in political organizing.

In June 1982, NTR established TDP. While still working with SRMT, I joined TDP due to my interest in politics and public affairs. In the 1983 Assembly elections, I ran the campaign in support of the TDP candidate for the constituency of Kakinada (which is now divided into two – rural and city). Our candidate was Sri Muttha Gopalakrishna. We won the constituency with a majority of 64,600 votes, the highest in AP. I was very interested in electioneering and from 1982 until now, I have handled several elections.

From the beginning, I wanted to participate in politics to work for the good of the society. After the Emergency and failure of the Janata government, the arrival of NTR garu into politics appeared as a ray of hope. As SRMT management was related to NTR by kinship, the company supported TDP. I, therefore, joined the party and worked for the party both from my individual potential as well as on behalf of the company. Almost until 1988-89, my association with TDP continued and so did that of SRMT.

In 1986, I was elected as Chairman of Superbazaar, Kakinada. I was in that position for 14 years, getting elected successively, unanimously. Superbazaar is a consumer cooperative. I helped the Kakinada Superbazaar become the best Superbazaar in AP and brought recognition to it at the national level. All along, I was working with SRMT as a transport manager.

SRMT was playing a key role in the politics of the district and I was the main person looking after the public relations and political affairs of the company. I was very close to my Chairman and he had a lot of confidence in me. During my association with TDP during 1982-1989, I was in the district committee of the party and was playing a key role in the politics of East Godavari. However, after 1989, our company decided to maintain distance from TDP and started maintaining good relations with whoever was in power.

Amar: How did you join Lok Satta?

YDR: In 1988-89, Dr. JP came to East Godavari as the District Collector. My association with him started from that time. After my interaction with Dr. JP, my outlook towards politics changed gradually. Slowly, I realized that current day politics was not sufficient to bring about a positive change.

When Dr.JP started the Lok Satta Movement, I was associated right from the beginning. I was there at the first meeting, held near the Birla Planetarium in Hyderabad.

Because I was associated with SRMT, I did not take up any formal leadership role in the movement. I was actively associated with all the activities though, including the One-Crore Signature campaign in support of strong local governments. I was a permanent invitee to the East Godavari chapter of the Movement. I continued my interaction and relationship with Dr. JP since 1988.

In the year 2000, I resigned from SRMT as well as the chairman of Superbazaar. I started my own construction business in Kakinada and Hyderabad. I became independent and since the year 2000, I started participating actively with the Lok Satta Movement. We were organizing meetings and I was attending meetings held in Hyderabad as well. However, still I did not take up any formal leadership role in the district as I wanted to concentrate more on my business and my children, for a few years.

In 2006, when Lok Satta Party came into being, I attended the meeting at the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram and the Public Gardens. Dr.JP spoke to me at that time and it was almost like an invitation to join the party. He knew that my ideas, thinking, and capabilities suit Lok Satta Party. He telephoned me one day and asked me to take up an active role in the party – as I already had wide exposure to the politics of East Godavari district and well known among the political circles of the district, and also my knowledge and study on politics would help the party.

I started in LSP as State Committee member. My first assignment was as in-charge of three districts, to look after the party activities in Guntur, Prakasam, and Nellore. Since then, I was given assignments in almost all the districts of AP. Whatever assignments were given to me, I tried my best to fulfill my responsibility. I am now continuing as the Vice President of the party, since the 2009 general elections. I am looking after the party’s rural activities – strengthening the party in rural areas.

I was associated with almost all the activities of the party since its inception – barring the period of three-four months initially when I was unavailable because of my elder daughter’s wedding in January 2007 and another two-three months when I went to the US to visit my daughter. Rest of the time, I have been giving much of my time for the party. I have reduced my personal business activities for the last four-five years as I had to spend 15-20 days in a month when I was in-charge of districts that are far away from my home.

I was associated with nearly 25-30 organizations in East Godavari, particularly Kakinada. I continue my association with them even now. They are non-governmental organizations working for the welfare of the public, like the Rotary Club, Red Cross society, and Exhibition Society.

Amar: Were you disappointed with TDP?

YDR: It started with very good ideas, but slowly became almost similar to the Congress party. Also, our company and myself have decided not be involved in direct politics. I was Chairman of Superbazaar not on behalf of any party. I was elected unanimously for 14 years through the tenures of different governments.

Amar: Did you participate in politics during your student days?

YDR: Yes. During the Emergency. In Cheerala, we worked against the Emergency. We attended the meeting of Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy garu. From the beginning, I was working against the Congress because of my father’s communist leanings. But when in the beginning, Indira Gandhi abolished royal entitlements and privy purses, nationalized banks, and took up the slogan Gharibi Hatao, I had respect for her. But with the announcement of Emergency, I had lost all respect for her. I was studying my post graduation in Cheerala. When Jagarlamudi Chandramouli garu stood for the Parliament from Cheerala, we took up his election campaign.

Amar: Were you disappointed with the Janata experiment?

YDR: Yes. I was very disappointed. I had great respect for Morarji Desai. Many stalwarts were part of his Cabinet. The anti-Emergency Movement and the Janata government were supported by Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan. I was sad when the government fell through. The developments after the 1979 elections – like Indira Gandhi sweeping back to power – were disappointing. However, in Andhra Pradesh, I believe that the gap formed between the people and the Congress party was well utilized to help NTR ride on to power. There was no alternative for Congress in AP until then. The outrage against the Emergency felicitated NTR to fill the gap in AP.

Amar: You are the President of East Godavari District Olympic Association and Vice-President of AP Chess Association and President of the district wing. Please elaborate on your association with such cultural and sports organizations.

YDR: I am 55-year-old and my educational qualification is M.Com and PG Diploma in Personnel Management and PG Diploma in Business Management. I was elected unanimously as Chairman of Superbazaar for 14 straight years from 1986 until I resigned on 27th of January 2000. I was elected as Director, South India for the National Co-operative Consumer Federation (NCCF), New Delhi. I was the youngest and the first person from AP elected to the post. I have represented NCCF on the General Body of National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI) which is the highest body of the Co-operative Movement of India. I was unanimously elected in 2006 as the Director of the East Godavari district Co-operative Marketing Society in which position I still continue, for the third term. I am the Director of East Godavari District Cooperative Central Bank. I was nominated as a member of the think-tank committee by the department of cooperatives. I was in that post for two years, advising them on re-organization of primary cooperative societies. These are my assignments in the Cooperative Movement.

As a co-operator, my achievements are, when I took charge as the chairman of Superbazaar, the turnover was Rs. 1.5 crore per year. When I was leaving, it was Rs. 5.5 crore per year. I had constructed an infrastructure worth Rs. 1 crore – a big commercial complex – at that time. It has already yielded Rs. 2.5 crore rental income till now. It is a very modern super bazaar, like the ones currently run by retail giants. I started them long back in Kakinada.

I am a veteran cooperative. My association with cooperatives would be 25 years long by 12th January, 2011. I constructed very important and useful buildings for the society.

Amar: It seems you have played a very strong and active role in the Cooperative Movement. Can you tell us about your motivation for such strong participation?

YDR: In Kakinada, people believe that if I am given a particular assignment, I do full justice to it with complete commitment and integrity. I have constructed several buildings as President of Buildings Construction Committee in Kakinada. I have always kept myself away from handling of the finances in the construction. I collect and give it to the committee. That is the reason I have a lot of credibility in Kakinada. Whatever work I take up, I definitely complete it and with very less cost.

When I was elected as Chairman, Superbazaar, I did not know much about cooperatives. But, once I stepped into it, I understood the importance of cooperatives – in both public and private sectors. Cooperatives, as an institution, play a very important role and form a key link in the economy. Wherever cooperatives are successful, people benefit from it. Wherever there are strong individuals, cooperatives have become successful. For example, Dr. Verghese Kurien (credited with the Milk/White Revolution). He had established the system there.

Amar: Did you participate in the cooperative movement of farmers?

YDR: I participated mostly in consumer cooperatives because I represented the Superbazaar. But as director of District Cooperative Marketing Society (DCMS) and District Cooperative Central Bank (for which I was the first Director), I tried my level best to do some good for the farmers – sanctioning loans etc. As a member of LSP, I have participated actively in taking up issues of East Godavari farmers.

Cooperative super bazaars buy directly from the producer and sell to the consumer, cutting down the role of middlemen, to the advantage of the farmer and the consumer. Consumer gets the benefit of quality and quantity. But like any good public institution, with the interference of politicians, 90-95% of super bazaars have vanished. Very few – like the one in Kakinada – are running, though, only because of the infrastructure constructed during my tenure and assured rents every year.

Amar: It is said that Chandra Babu Naidu destroyed milk cooperatives for the benefit of his company, Heritage, in Chittoor.

YDR: Chandrababu Naidu never had a good opinion on cooperatives. He believed that the Cooperative Movement ran its course and are irreparable, not only milk cooperatives. He wanted to close all cooperatives except credit cooperatives. Perhaps if he was elected instead of YSR in 2004, most of the cooperatives would have been closed. As he had sold cooperative sugar factories – like the Bodhan unit of Nizam Sugars Factory was sold to Sri Gokaraju Rangaraju, the sugar factory near Hanuman Junction, and the one near Bhimavaram, and so many others. At that time, they were thought of as white elephants, eating into the budget of AP. Unable to manage them efficiently, he simply wanted to get rid of them. Credit cooperatives were not closed as they are meant for farmers and a huge structure is in place in their support which is not easy to dismantle.

One good thing done during the TDP government (during NTR’s tenure) was the introduction of a Single Window co-operative credit structure in 1994. But due to inadequate understanding, cooperatives, like some other useful institutions, are being done away with.

Amar: Your roles and responsibilities in Lok Satta Party and your association with it.

YDR: Currently, because Kakinada is my base, I co-ordinate the party affairs of the East Godavari wing, though I do not interfere in the day-to-day affairs. Because Dr. Aluri Vijaya Lakshmi took back her responsibilities as President of the district wing, I provide only guidance and advice. I am coordinating the party Rural Affairs sub-committee and I am looking after the party promotion activities in the rural areas of four districts – from East Godavari to Srikakulam.

I handle whatever task is assigned to me by the party State leadership. I was away for the first 3-4 months of inception of the party due to my daughter’s wedding, but after that I have been actively involved in all the activities of the party. I never asked the party for any specific designation or activity. The party always assigned me tasks that are suitable for me. I take up any task assigned to me with full commitment. I try to take into confidence all the members without giving scope for any friction. I take care that no new problems crop up because of me.

Amar: You have been with the Lok Satta party since its inception. In these 5 years as a political party, what kind of impact has it made? What are its primary achievements?

YDR: When the party was started, many saw it as a promising political alternative and joined the party. The party brought with it a New Political Culture, new ideas, and provided clarity on what needs to be done to change the status quo. Some people came forward with a lot of energy in the initial days, but their enthusiasm dipped slowly after the first few months. But those who have assimilated the ideology of the party continue to stick with the party. Those who joined the party hoping for personal short-term goals like becoming an MLA or gaining an influential position, or people who thought it would be a cake-walk in politics or in a newly formed party like LSP, were disappointed and left. But, we continue to have the same credibility we had on the first day of formation of the party.

But the problem is, those who are attracted to our ideology and principles belong to an age group when they cannot afford to spend much time for the party. They have to take care of their education, career and family responsibilities. Though they have the zeal and intentions to take up activities with full vigor, because they have to attend to their day-to-day obligations, they are not able to give much importance to party’s activities. For this reason we are not moving ahead with the pace that we want to.

Definitely, we showed an impact in the politics of AP. However, the advent of PRP deviated the attention of some youth and this adversely affected our party.

Amar: What are the major achievements of the party so far?

YDR: We have proved that it is possible to compete in elections without spending crores of rupees – distributing money and liquor to voters and using muscle power. During our NGO days, when we said it is possible, many sneered and said that only if one contests elections does one come to know that it is impossible without indulging in these practices. But we have proved that it is very much possible.

In Kakinada Rural, I secured around 6000 votes which proves that those people had faith in us. Though we have only one member in the Assembly, he continues to preach and follow the same principles that we did before the elections. We showed that we are a party with strong foundations of ideology and principles and we are here to stay. It is only a matter of time before we show a much wider and powerful impact. People continue to hold the same respect and faith towards LSP.

Amar: Excellent! On the other hand, what are the main challenges faced by the party?

YDR: We have been hoping that more people with leadership skills, having recognition and credibility in society, and having resources at their disposal will join our ranks and strengthen us. Unfortunately, most people are waiting for opportunities to be created rather than themselves creating opportunities.

The media or political parties raise some or other issue from time to time and people fall into the trap and lose their senses in meaningless discussions. We have been trying hard to break this trend, but have not been able to find a proper lever so far. We have been thinking hard about this and are hopeful that we will find this missing link.

Amar: In your speech in the party’s fifth anniversary function, you said that a target has been set to organizationally strengthen the party in rural areas – 100 Mandals by December 2011. What steps are we taking to achieve the target? What is the strategy we are following to win the hearts of farmers and other rural folk?

YDR: Due to the current uncertainty in Telangana, we are not sure, but in the rest of the State, we have enough ability to form committees in 100 Mandals. We have tried to highlight the problems faced by farmers.

In the state-level meeting held in Kakinada, it was decided that we should specifically concentrate on issues that affect farmers and youth, and take up the cause of liquor control strongly. Workshops are going to be conducted so that members of the core group of the party are on the same page on the important issues.

Amar: Tell us about your work and team in East Godavari. Could you name some members with good leadership qualities and commitment? Tell us about your major achievements so far in organizing activities for LSP in East Godavari/Kakinada.

YDR: We have a strong membership base in East Godavari. In support of Dr. JP’s efforts to highlight farmers’ issues, we have organized successful meetings with farmers at six places in Kakinada. During the crop holiday recently, we expressed our solidarity and support. When crops were lost due to excessive rains, we have taken up their cause at the State level to ensure that farmers are provided relief in the form of compensation for crop loss. Our party is very active in the municipalities of Kakinada, Rajahmundry, and Mandapeta.

Apart from Vijaya Lakshmi garu, from Kakinada, there is Srinivas, Kishore, Raju, Subba Rao garu, and a group of ex-service men. In Rajahmundry, we have Chandra Kala, Ravi, Dr. Rama Rao garu, and Murthy garu. In Mandapeta, we have Ramakrishna Rao garu, Chandra Mouli garu, and Ratthiah garu.

Amar: What are the challenges faced by you and your team?

YDR: Our party members have good commitment and are capable, but they are not financially strong. They have to fend for themselves and their family and can only spend their spare time for the party.

At the village and Mandal level, both the traditional parties have strong leaders. Our members are soft-natured and it is difficult for them to stand up against strong local leaders – armed with muscle and financial power – and conduct our programmes and form committees.

Amar: You contested as the LSP candidate for the Kakinada Rural Assembly seat in the 2009 elections. How did people receive Lok Satta? How was the experience? What are the lessons learnt?

YDR: I was in the party headquarters until the last day of nomination, participating in the candidate selection process and handing out B-forms. Only on the last day did I come to the constituency and file my nomination after Dr.JP said that leaders with some stature locally should contest. That is how I and Dr. Vijayalakshmi contested in the rural constituencies. We would have got more votes if one of us stood in the Kakinada Urban constituency as that is where we are recognized more.

I organized a very good election campaign in Kakinada Rural constituency where I stood for Assembly in 2009. We got around 6000 votes there, which is the most for a rural constituency for LSP.

In Kakinada town, the Kakinada Rural Assembly constituency has five divisions and out of the 14000 votes polled, we got 1400, which is 10%. This can be termed as a good showing and it is because of my recognition among people due to 30 years of service in Kakinada, the respect towards the party, and the campaign I ran. We touched almost every household of those five divisions. Our campaign was as strong as was run by the two big parties. My campaign expenditure reached the limit of Rs. 10 lacs. I did this not because we had strong hopes of winning, but because when running for an election, the candidate and the party should reach out to the voters in an election – that is the least a candidate should do.

Amar: You are known for managing successful election campaigns before and had a reputation of never facing defeat. This stands testimony to your organizational abilities. How should an ideal election campaign be run? What are the bloopers that happen during a campaign and how to correct and overcome them?

YDR: Those politics are different. I came to LSP because I did not like the ways of traditional parties. It needs scheming and financial power.

One should properly plan a campaign and start well ahead. Campaigning furiously in the last two weeks does not work. There is no need to overstep expenditure limits like the big parties do or distribute money and liquor. We can organize an effective campaign within the limits of our ideals. Most importantly, we should select candidates who have recognition and credibility in society, and have resources at their disposal.

In the 2009 elections, many of our candidates filed their nominations and ran a nominal campaign. Many ran their whole campaign just with an auto and a few party flags. They had no idea how to run an election campaign. Many did not even know how to file a nomination.

Many were so immature politically that one candidate thought that he was going to win. He told me that counting would be over by 1 pm and he will take the afternoon flight and come to Hyderabad as an MLA. This shows their lack of judgement and understanding, and failure to read the pulse of the masses.

In the campaign, the people we meet invariably praise our party and tell us that they will vote for us. We cannot take it as a sign of winning and celebrate. We campaigned for a councilor seat in Tenali when I was in-charge for the Guntur district. Seeing that people were coming out of their homes and showing interest, our members thought we were getting tremendous response. Our leaders did not know that they would react the same way for all the parties as they were hoping that they would be distributed money if they show their voter slips.

When a meeting is conducted, some of our leaders say that it was a huge success. But one should look at how big the turnout was and how good was the people’s response. I spend most of my time during meetings amongst the public, trying to read people’s reactions. I only go on to the stage when Dr.JP calls me and come back immediately.

Dr.JP has good faith in my assessment and reading of people’s pulse.

Amar: You organized the 63-km padayatra in Guntur as part of the liquor control movement. Can you recount more such successes in your capacity as a state Vice-President and as a member of the core committee.

YDR: I believe that we should plan and keep such activities in our mind to execute it at the appropriate time. I and Iramamurthy garu planned and executed the padayatra.

During the general elections in 2009, we had decided to contest in most of the seats as it might help us in getting the mandatory 6% votes required to get the status of a recognized party, and be given a permanent symbol. To the extent possible, I did my bit in selecting worthy candidates and not hand tickets to any nameless person that drops by.

Also, in meetings, I try to ensure that as a party, we did not speak in haste and expressed opinion only on issues relevant to us, in an unambiguous manner and take decisions that are grounded in reality.

And as I said before, whatever assignments are given to me, I tried my best to fulfill my responsibility. Be it selecting candidates for the Divisions in Kukatpally for GHMC elections or any other. Also, I ensure that no additional problems arise because of me. If any problems are already there, I solve them after taking everyone into confidence. It should not be like because of Rama Rao garu there are now two groups in the district or any such issue arose because of me. If any problem is there, I try to solve it and not create new issues.

Amar: There is a fierce debate going on regarding FDI in retail. What is your opinion on the issue?

YDR: I discussed the issue with Dr. JP recently and he supports the move to allow FDI.

I feel that if we are able to control, there is no reason to stop FDI. I don’t think we had that ability before, but now our government has the economic, judgemental, and market controlling abilities. There is no need to fear that foreign companies will capture our markets or do anything damaging.

Even if there is a negative impact, I believe we have the controlling ability to avert any such impact. We should also make systemic arrangements to be able to control in case of any such negative impact.

For example, previously in India, the edible oil market was always managed by a lobby. They hike the rates from time to time. The same happens with onions or pulses. The lobbies swing the market and earn huge profits by hoarding and cashing in due to the price fluctuations. But now, the prices can be controlled by taking such measures as importing at the right time.

Therefore, we should try to acquire such power to control rather than stop outsiders from coming in. As we have been opening up most of our markets, there is no need to close this particular market.

Amar: There is this opinion that mom and pop shops and small businessmen lose out, but the farmers stand to gain. What is your opinion on this?

YDR: There might be a little impact, but I don’t think it makes much difference. For instance, in the olden days, some professions were taken up exclusively by some castes. But now, every profession is open to everyone. Saloons or footwear shops are not run by a particular caste now. It does not mean that others are encroaching and grabbing those professions. The society changes according to times. Everyone need not invariably take up their own caste profession. People take up professions that are profitable.

Measures should be taken to control any negative effects that may arise. The system automatically changes according to changing circumstances.

Amar: LSP is facing challenges from many sides – apart from Congress and TDP, YSR Congress in Seemandhra and TRS in Telangana. They are trying to attract people with their own strategies and lures. How are we going to face it and strengthen the party?

YDR: We are facing a difficult situation. In Telangana, things will get better for us only after the focus is shifted from the separate statehood issue. However, there is no opposition to the issues that we take up. When Dr.JP took up farmers’ issues, he did not face much opposition in Telangana. When we took up the sugarcane farmers’ issue, most of the farmers who supported and attended our meetings were from Telangana.

In the Seemandhra region, we did not lose any ground and our support base is intact. However, some youth might have left us to join YSRCP, but that party might weaken in the near future.

We are searching for ways to go aggressively. In the State Working Committee meeting or in the recent meeting, we have been brainstorming on the same issue. Our strategy and participation in the by-polls is also one thing that we have been thinking on.

I feel that the State bifurcation issue will influence the future political developments to a large extent. The coming by-polls will provide some clarity in the current scenario. The strength of YSRCP will be known. If that party is weakened, who stands to benefit is a question. However, two years is a long time in politics. Today’s assessment may not hold good tomorrow. But, the results may help us in our strategizing.

We have been following our own path irrespective of other developments, but we need to find the missing link that will help us attract more people and penetrate into the masses. We are unable to understand what we should do to gain strength, without resorting to old tactics.

Amar: You acted as advisor to Yuva Satta for a while. What qualities would you identify as leadership qualities in youth?

YDR: I was handling that responsibility three years ago. Young leaders should have the zeal and initiative. In our party, they should have complete understanding of our ideology and principles. They should have the charisma to attract people. Wherever they go, they should be able to influence the people they get in touch with, with regards to our ideology. If we have 10-15 such youth, we can do wonders. The same problem that afflicts Lok Satta afflicts Yuva Satta as well.

Amar: Is there a mechanism in place in Yuva Satta and Lok Satta to identify youth with the right qualities and encourage them appropriately?

YDR: If there is anyone with the spark and outstanding abilities, there is nothing in our party that stops that person from being recognized and encouraged.

Amar: Can you name a few young leaders whom you have observed as able leaders?

YDR: It has been a while since somebody else has taken over the responsibility of Adviser to Yuva Satta.

During my time, youth like Rammohan who used to work in Bangalore and Shiva Kumar came forward and we have given them opportunities as well. However, youth in that age have such obstacles as family responsibilities or career and may not be able to fully utilize the opportunities we have given them. They may have the fire and ability and the party might have given them opportunities, both in Yuva Satta and Lok Satta. But at that age they have certain obligations that make it difficult for them to continue sparing time for the party.

Amar: People are in awe of Dr. JP because of him being a former IAS officer. It is the pinnacle of success in the eyes of the households in AP and India. Is there a tendency in the party to recognize and encourage individuals/leaders with similar achievements, like IIT/IIM/US Returned?

YDR: Ordinary people do not have the tendency. If leaders are well educated and handled a prestigious position, it may make a positive impression on them. For the masses, I don’t think it is a significant criterion. However, among the educated and people from the upper middle class, we can say that such tendency to support is there.

Amar: What is your view on the stigma of the white collar approach/concentration/orientation? How do we get rid of that image?

YDR: It is natural for such impression as the party was started by highly educated individuals and intellectuals. However, for the past year-and-a-half, we have been taking up issues that affect farmers. They now have a good opinion on the party, though we can’t say they are ready to join our party. We should take up more activities to get closer to them and should be able to attract leaders among them. Most of the leaders we meet from the farming community too are well educated though, with many of them being graduates. Such leaders will become the party’s link with the masses. We may then lose this stigma of a white collar party.

Amar: Your view and estimate about people’s response towards LSP in 2014.

YDR: We did not lose much ground after 2009. That is not to say we gained significantly. Our credibility is intact, until now. I believe, we will get more support from the youth.

Generally, all buzz and activity will be during the elections. We need to identify the core issues that we need to take up and strategize to take them more into the masses. Last gasp campaigns won’t be enough and we need to plan our campaigns well ahead.

Amar: Your message to leaders and volunteers from PFL.

YDR: They are doing a great job. Many are supporting our party in the constituencies where they have their roots. At the same time, they should help us identify candidates with potential who understand our ideology and who believe that LSP alone can save the country. PFL can also help us introduce NRIs who are returning to India and are interested in our party. They have seen development and know how a country can be developed. If PFL can help us identify 50-60 such candidates who can start work in the constituencies from now, it will help us field strong candidates in the 294 Assembly and 42 Parliament constituencies.

The problem is, many of our members think that they are entitled to party ticket as they have been with the party since its inception. For instance, a youth has been an active member and is keen to contest on the party ticket. However, he wants the party to bear his daily expenses. He will be hurt if we ask him how he can contest an Assembly election if he cannot even take care of his own expenditure. He may blame us saying that the party gives tickets only to rich individuals.

But it is difficult for the party to reach its goals while carrying on its shoulders someone who does not have resources at disposal. PFL can help us here.

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