TRS MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha interview in New Indian Express

By any measure, she wants to be the right model for anyone aspiring to be an MP. “It’s the highest panchayat of the country,” she says about Parliament. It is perhaps this forthrightness which sets Kalvakuntla Kavitha apart from her peers. As one is irresistibly drawn to her candid observations, one cannot brush aside her quest to unravel the parliamentary systems. That she is also a continuous learner was evident from the classes she attended to hone her skills on various topics. In a free-wheeling chat with Express team, Kavitha outlines her priorities as a first-time MP and her goal-oriented approach to resolve issues.Kalvakuntla-Kavitha-002

So, how was the first session of Parliament for the first-time MP?

Very good. Exhilarating in a way. The first time I entered Parliament, I felt very patriotic. Probably never in my life, I felt so. That was when I understood why Modiji bowed when he stepped into the portals of Parliament. The whole session went off quite well and also helped break some myths I had. When you talk of Parliament sessions, we used to only remember visuals of MPs sleeping. But, this House is completely different and probably it has to do with a large number of first-time MPs, a majority of them very serious and conscious of the huge responsibility people vested in them. In fact, it was more like a classroom – vibrant MPs listening intently and writing down notes. Overall, I felt good being there.

How did you grab opportunities to speak?

Initially, it was a bit difficult. We were told that we would get only 7-8 minutes because our party has fewer MPs. Everything is decided on numbers. But, then we went through orientation sessions where we were explained how to identify subjects to speak and create an impact when we speak. Overall, I think I spoke more than 10 times, participated in four debates one of which was initiated by me. Not only me. Almost all of our party MPs spoke on different issues and on different occasions and made a mark of their own.

What impressed me most was the way seniors appreciated us whenever we spoke well. It makes a lot of difference. When I spoke about the problems of Kashmiri Pandits, I had received almost 20 notes appreciating the points raised by me. It could be a simple appreciation but goes a long way in boosting our confidence. I was touched when Advaniji complimented me for my speech on Kashmiri Pandits. We don’t see this kind of culture – praising a fellow member cutting across party lines — in the Assembly, of late. I prepared late into the night the day before because I was keen that nothing I say in the House should be misread, particularly in the context of the controversy that has been generated over my remarks on Kashmir a few days before.

So, how do you look at the controversy your remarks kicked up?

Well, If not anything else, I understood how not to get into a controversy.

Were you nervous when you spoke for the first time in the House?

I was not afraid, but certainly nervous. Because from the time you aspire to become MP, you keep thinking/saying, “agar my MP banoongi, to my aise boloongi.” So, it is all over your head. But, in the end, I think, I managed a decent speech.

How is the approach of seniors towards first-time MPs?

They are generally very cooperative. I have not seen any senior snub a junior. They are friendly and not overbearing. In the Central hall, even senior Ministers come and interact with junior MPs over a cup of coffee or tea. In a way, it is like a college where everyone interacts with everyone.

Could you make new friends among MPs?

Of course. I knew some of them in the past. But I have made many more friends in the last two months. They are from different states and different parties.

Is language a barrier?

It is mostly English. Probably, because a lot of MPs this time round are relatively young and educated. We also converse in Hindi. But, my Hindi is a bit like Urdu and not quite palatable to the Delhi crowd. I manage, though, to speak in a Hindi that they are comfortable with.

How do find the other MPs? Are they really serious about what they are?

Yes, almost all of them. To be honest, I did not have a great impression about parliamentarians in the past. You got to see only a few emerge as leaders. But, to my surprise, most of new MPs are pretty serious about the profession they have chosen and are committed. They take notes, prepare well. Especially, until the lunch time, the House is almost jampacked.

What about the women MPs?

We bonded very well. There are many of them and quite a few first-timers. There was this second-time MP from Gujarat who came up to me and said: “You spoke well. Even if you are not from my party, I want to appreciate you. Keep it up” And, then she said: “Jab bhi koyi ladki baat karti hai, mujhe accha lagti hai.”

Being daughter of a Chief Minister, does it make a difference?

I don’t know. I myself never tell anyone that I am daughter of a Chief Minister because it leads to unnecessary barriers. A few of them came up to me and asked “Kya yaar, you never told us you are daughter of CM” and my reply was “Kyaa bolna, iske baare me.” It is not that I want to hide it but somehow we were never used to that. Even before, when my father was an MLA or a Minister, and I was in college, I never used to use the family name consciously. My father too never encouraged it. He never dropped us to the school/college in his car. We used to take the bus except during the last two years of my engineering when he gave me a car. But, if one looks at my nose, they make out that I am KCR’s daughter. That gives me away.

We learn that you are taking classes from professionals?

Yes, I did. Especially on two subjects – budget and foreign policy – the ones that I am interested in. It is good to take professional help as it helps widen one’s horizon. And, it is because of their briefing that I could understand the nuances of the Budget when Mr Arun Jaitley presented it in the House. If I understand it properly, then I could either appreciate a particular aspect of the budget or say something better could have been done.

But, why foreign policy?

I feel it is important in the context of world becoming a global village. In fact, I feel it is my basic responsibility as an MP to understand India’s position vis-a-vis other countries as it has a significant bearing on the overall progress of our nation.

How do see the equations between the TRS government in the State and the BJP-led regime at the Centre?

Good, I would say. There are no serious issues to fight with each other. The BJP was a part of the JAC. Modiji said that the first four years should be devoted to work – doing good to the people. KCR too said the same thing. Now, it is time for governance rather than politics. There are a few irritants, though, like the Polavaram issue and the proposal to vest Governor with powers over law and order in Hyderabad. They are saying that whatever is being proposed is in accordance with the AP Reorganisation Act – they are acting as per the Act. And, what we are saying is that the Act cannot override the Constitution. I am sure the Centre will understand that it is not in the interests of fostering federal spirit.

How is it like balancing between political and personal life?

It is tough. Two young school-going kids. I miss them the most and the younger one is particularly affected. I have become a sort of consultant to them – going off on Monday and returning on Fridays. They will slowly get used it, I suppose.

Going abroad?

I am supposed to travel to Australia for Batukamma in October. In the meantime, the Yale University offered me a 10-day programme. So, I am contemplating which one to take.

The Prime Minister emphasised on building toilets and wanted MPLAD funds for the purpose. Will you consider it?

It is no doubt a good idea. But, my view is that building toilets alone will not help. They need to be maintained. My experience suggests that a lot of toilets are wasted for want of maintenance. If we build toilets in schools or for use of general public, someone in the village/mandal should be vested with the responsibility to maintain them. It has to be paid for. More importantly, water facility should be mandatorily provided for if they are to serve the purpose. The campaign should not fail. So, the loose ends need to be tied up.

The other idea of PM that I liked was that every MP should adopt a village and the Centre will facilitate it. It is a good move. I think the same should be done by every MLA and the State government should play the role of a facilitator.

What about the priorities for your constituency?

There are many promises. Getting the Turmeric Board is my top priority. I have been speaking to many people on this. Luckily, I have become a member of the MPs’ committee concerning Commere Ministry. So, I get more opportunities to irritate the Minister, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman. She is a nice woman and I hope someday she will give in to my pressure. She asked me to “justify my case” by providing more data and I am in the process of gathering the same.

There are several other issues – drinking water facilities, setting up of skill development centres to generate a few hundred jobs if not thousands and linking the Telangana University with vocational centres in Germany and Japan.

Finally, how do see Modi government calling off talks with Pakistan?

It was a bold, good step. You can’t be playing a double game – talking with the government and also the separatist groups. I think the previous governments did not send a stiff enough message. I am proud of what the PM did.

K Kavitha