Dr Naramalli Sivaprasad, two-time Member of Parliament from Chittoor constituency is seeking a third term. A theatre artist turned politician, Dr Siva Prasad of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is more famous for his costumes and theatrics in Parliament, as he has been seen dressed up as various mythological and historical characters. His whirlwind campaign across Chittoor district drew a significant crowd, which both applauded and criticised his theatrics in Parliament.
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At the end of one such crowd pulling campaign, we met MP Sivaprasad for a chat on his plans for Chittoor city and where he wants to see it after five years.
Do you have a separate manifesto or a roadmap for Chittoor? What are your plans for the city?
Chittoor is an important city that connects Chennai and Bengaluru. But it is underdeveloped, with substandard roads and traffic congestion. The crux of our manifesto is to ensure steady growth in Chittoor. It is for that reason that we are pushing for the speedy completion of the Bangalore-Chennai expressway, via Chittoor.
Secondly, the existing four-lane road from Chittoor to Naidupeta via Tirupathi is being expanded into a six-lane one to enhance trade prospects for the district. Beautification of water bodies in Chittoor and construction of Reverse Osmosis plants is also among the top priorities.
Why has there been so much delay in the completion of the Bangalore-Chennai expressway?
The expressway is being done in two phases — Ranipeta to Bangarupalyam and Bangarupalyam to Bangalore. There has been a delay due to logistical issues. The expressway should be completed in the next three months, as speedy work is underway.
Chittoor is also very poorly connected on the rail network — there is no direct train to Chennai…
I bring up this issue in the budget session every year. However, the centre is not keen on double tracking Chittoor rail network. They say citizens can use the Katpadi railway station (in Vellore) that is an hour away from Chittoor. However, I will continue to push for it.
During the 2014 polls, TDP had promised to convert Chittoor into a manufacturing hub. However, not much seems to have worked out…
Developing industry requires coordination. Various factors thwart schemes. Development has been centred in Tirupati, as the city has an airport. But as growth in Tirupati is nearing saturation and the Bangalore Chennai expressway is close to completion, Chittoor may emerge as an industrial hotspot.
What are the key projects you have taken up locally during your tenure?
I have put MPLAD funds to the maximum use. I allocated funds for Reverse Osmosis plant construction in 150 village Panchayats (in two terms) and providing television sets to Anganwadi centers. I have also allocated funds for construction of bus shelters and provision of water filters in the social welfare hostels of Chittoor.
But there are complaints that these water filters in the hostels are not in working condition?
My intention is to provide clean water for students. But it saddens me that the students have not been responsible enough to repair the facility. It was not brought to my notice either. And although it is not within the range of my powers to look into repairs, I will speak to the concerned department to ensure functionality.
One personal question. There has been a steep increase in your immovable assets from 2009 to 2014. Your assets have increased from 60 lakh in 2009 to 1.4 crores in 2014, whereas you have been mostly involved in political and social work; would it be wrong to question that?
I have two properties in Tirupati. The land value has increased remarkably in the area and so has the value of my assets. It is a good idea to invest here (chuckles). Also, the Election Commission of India insists on submission of market rates for the assets. Hence, the appreciation in asset value.
Your attendance in Lok Sabha is just 45%, way less than the state (Andhra Pradesh) average of 76%. Any particular reasons?
First, I was occupied in fighting for a united Andhra Pradesh and then for accordance of special status for the state. I had an accident and was suggested complete rest for three months. There were many times where I attended the parliament sessions, but forgot to sign attendance.
But do you not have to sign before entering the house?
I must have been preoccupied.
In the five years of your Lok Sabha tenure, you did not participate in a single debate and asked relatively far fewer questions than other MPs from the state. Does that bother you now?
I am not concerned about my performance in the Lok Sabha, as I am always on the ground. Whatever I do, I do it outside the house. I am not the conventional leader who focuses only on proceedings in the house, my aim is to engage with people at the grassroots. People receive me with a lot of warmth, admiring my determination to get special status for Andhra Pradesh. MPs who are keen on just attendance miss the love of the people. Also, many MPs such as Jaydev and Rammohan showed academic interest in the house and I let them participate in the debates and discussions.
You are known for your appearance in various costumes and roles during parliament sessions. What is the idea behind it?
There are many ways to protest. I can hold placards to protest for special status for Andhra Pradesh. But I am an artist and I should be creative. Playing the role of powerful people such as M G Ramachandran will take the issue to the hearts of people. In doing so, I have never hurt the sentiments of anyone.
Beyond the novel protests, as an MP, do you have a special strategy to secure special status for Andhra Pradesh?
I have been fighting for it. Even though nothing solid has come out of it, I have created awareness among the people about the need for such special status.
If you win this time, will you make yourself more available and accessible to residents of Chittoor? People are disappointed that you choose to live in Tirupati, the neighbouring constituency.
I have been living on K T Road in Tirupati because it is my native place. But, citizens should know that my home is just a ten-minute drive from the Chittoor parliamentary constituency. Padmavathy Nagar and Vidya Nagar that are part of Chittoor constituency is barely a ten-minute drive from my house.