V V Lakshmi Narayana is best known for his seven-year long stint as Joint Director of the CBI in Hyderabad when he handled several high-profile cases including the Satyam scam and Jaganmohan Reddy cases. A Maharashtra cadre IPS officer, he took voluntary retirement last year following which he started touring Andhra Pradesh. With much speculation that he will either float his own party or join the Telugu Desam, he finally came together with Pawan Kalyan to become a Jana Sainik.
Lakshmi Narayana is the Jana Sena candidate from the Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha constituency. He spoke to T S Sudhir of UmaSudhir.com in the midst of his election campaign in Vizag on his decision to join Jana Sena, his image as an officer who went after Jagan and what he thinks will happen on 23 May. Lakshmi Narayana turned 54 on 3 April when this interview was conducted.
TSS : Happy birthday to you. My greetings and best wishes.
VVL : Thankyou.
TSS : You joined the Jana Sena on 17 March. How has the switch from policing to politics been in the last couple of weeks?
VVL : I was doing service while I was in the police. It is the same in politics. So there has not been much difficulty in making the transition from policing to politics. That is why I say I am still in the IPS. This is the Indian People Service.
TSS : Oh, I thought this IPS will expand to Indian Political Service.
VVL : (Laughs) You could say that as well.
TSS : Why I asked you about the transition specifically was because in the police force, you would have been used to a particular discipline. Here you have joined a party whose middle name is frenzy and a lot of enthusiasm.
VVL : No, no, this party has a structure, it has a lot of people, there is a thought process, there are many with service background. There is a lot of freedom, you are allowed to express your ideas. In the police, we are mostly reacting to a situation, here it is about establishing an overall policy.
TSS : What has been the biggest learning so far?
VVL : I have been touring extensively in the last 8 to 9 months, understanding the problems of people. By the time I joined the Jana Sena, its manifesto was prepared and I found that most of the issues I heard of, were addressed in it. In fact, one of the reasons I joined Jana Sena was because I liked its manifesto. It was finding my own self in the party manifesto.
TSS : I find that even on the campaign trail you are referred to as JD Lakshmi Narayana. Even your own twitter handle says “JD Lakshmi Narayana”. I wonder if people know that JD is a reference to the post of Joint Director that you held in the CBI and that you are actually VV Lakshmi Narayana.
VVL : I am still JD Lakshmi Narayana. But this JD means Janata Dost. (laughs).
TSS : (laughs) I am wondering if this is Lakshmi Narayana in the Venkaiah Naidu or Narendra Modi mould, playing around with acronyms.
VVL : (laughs) This is the people’s version of Lakshmi Narayana.
TSS : Since we touched upon the JD part of Lakshmi Narayana, do people in Visakhapatnam or elsewhere immediately associate you with the Jaganmohan Reddy case since you handled the investigation. After all, he is one of Jana Sena’s principal political opponents in Andhra Pradesh.
VVL : In my police career, I carried out several investigations. The Jagan case was one case that I supervised. In fact, more than the Jagan case, I get more feedback about my role as a mentor for the youth through my motivational talks that I did through the Lead India Foundation. Even elderly people have come to me, appreciating my videos. So they are familiar with me in a role different to that of a police officer. I have had people tell me that when they were feeling depressed, they heard my talk on video and got out of that negative frame of mind. That kind of feedback to me is immensely satisfying.
TSS : But politically speaking, your presence in the electoral fray also puts the spotlight on corruption. Especially since the Telugu Desam under Chandrababu Naidu has been targeting Jagan over his cases in court.
VVL : Yes corruption is an issue here. But it is also about the ruling party. The corruption in the Janmabhoomi committees, land and sand mafia, encroachers also are a point of discussion. Both Naidu and Jagan are blaming each other over corruption. Which is why people see us in Jana Sena as an alternative. We give them hope and the promise of a corruption-free government. We have a lot of following among the youth and the women.
TSS : So you are saying that Naidu and Jagan accusing each other of corruption is a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
VVL : Yes. Both of them. Whereas Pawan Kalyan is committed to zero budget politics. For instance, our spending during the election campaign is within the limit imposed by the Election Commission.
TSS : The impression I get from following your party campaign is that your focus is only on north coastal Andhra Pradesh, stretching from Srikakulam to West Godavari district. Is it strategic to put all the Jana Sena eggs in this limited basket of constituencies?
VVL : No, not like that. We are contesting the elections along with BSP, CPI and CPM. Out of 175 assembly seats, we are contesting 140 while 35 have been left to the three parties. We have given tickets to people from different walks of life. Pawan is getting attached to people. To answer your question, no, we are not concentrating only on this one patch.
TSS : The YSR Congress accuses the Jana Sena of being in league with the TDP, that you will only split the anti-TDP vote to benefit Chandrababu Naidu.
VVL : When the fear of getting defeated creeps in, they play mindgames to divert the attention of people. Jana Sena is on its own, there is no collusion with anyone. We are not anyone’s Team B.
TSS : Do you realistically see Jana Sena winning 90-odd seats out of 175 to form the government in Andhra Pradesh. Mayawati at her press conference in Visakhapatnam spoke in terms of Pawan Kalyan as next CM of Andhra Pradesh if you get the numbers.
VVL : Yes, we will form the next government and Pawan Kalyan will be chief minister.
TSS : What about Lok Sabha seats? What is your expectation?
VVL : We will win at least 15 seats out of 25.
TSS : Do you plan to shift full time to Vizag if you win from this Lok Sabha constituency?
VVL : I have already shifted. I am staying at a relative’s place now but I am searching for a house for myself here.
TSS : And what happens if you lose the election. Will it be then goodbye to politics?
VVL : Not at all. That question will not arise because I am winning.