Bengaluru: With the Karnataka Assembly election slated for 12 May, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is angling to wrest power from Congress in the southern state where 224 seats are up for grabs. Apart from Punjab, Karnataka is the only major state where Congress is in power. BJP, which lost Karnataka to Congress in 2013, is confident of winning it back this time around. The saffron party saw significant wins in 2017 and also entrenched its foot in the North East earlier this year.
In the run-up to the polls, BJP has tried every trick in the book in its no-holds-barred campaign in Karnataka — from roping in many of its national leaders for campaigning to visiting mutts and temples, to wooing the Mysuru Wadiyar royal family. It even brought out a 'chargesheet' against the ruling Congress government, listing its alleged failures in law and order, agriculture, and ignoring Bengaluru.
State BJP president and chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa undertook a 75-day Parivartana Yatra covering a distance of around 6,000 kilometres to strengthen the party’s support base across the state. He was the first chief minister of Karnataka to spent 25 days in prison for corruption. However, he is confident of returning to power by winning 150 seats in the Assembly polls and plans to send Congress leaders to jail for corruption.
Yeddyurappa spoke with Firstpost about the ensuing Assembly election in Karnataka and why he thinks BJP stands a chance to win the southern state. Excerpts:
How confident are you of coming back to power in Karnataka?
We are 100 percent confident about coming to power. We will form the government on our own strength. There is no doubt about it.
What do you think are the factors that will help your party assume power?
There are two factors. One positive and another negative. The positive factor that works in BJP’s favour is that the people (of Karnataka) want to jump onto the developmental bandwagon being driven by the dynamic and visionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They don’t want to be left behind. They too want the return of BJP’s development agenda in Karnataka. The Congress government has pushed the state backward by 10 years.
The negative factor that will work in favour of BJP is the miserable performance of the Congress government led by Siddaramaiah. There is no semblance of governance; there is all-round chaos. Law and order is in the doldrums. Infrastructure is crumbling in Bengaluru and all over the state. People are waiting for the earliest available opportunity to throw out this government, lock, stock and barrel.
C-Fore has projected only 70 seats for your party. It is half of the BJP’s projection. What’s your opinion on this?
I would not like to comment on the survey report. With due respect to those who have done this survey and the report, I would like to humbly say that BJP will win with a comfortable majority and form the government. Our assessment of the ground situation is totally different from that of others.
It seems that the BJP leadership has a soft corner towards JD(S). No BJP leader is criticising JD(S). Does it indicate a plan for a post-election alliance?
JD(S) is not a ruling party. We are fighting against the ruling party, which is Congress. Fighting against JD(S) is meaningless. There is no question of a post-poll alliance with JD(S). As I said earlier, BJP will win a comfortable majority so as to form the government on its own.
BJP is strong in the coastal belt and in Bengaluru. What is your strategy to win as many seats as possible in that region and also to make inroads into the Old Mysore region?
BJP’s strength is evenly spread — both socially and geographically. Yes, of course, BJP has taken strong roots in most of the state when compared to some parts of the Old Mysore region. But even in Old Mysore, we will have an impressive performance. Our leaders as well the rank and file of the party have been striving hard in that region. You will be surprised to see BJP’s impressive show in Old Mysore. In so far as your question about strategy is concerned, strategies are not to be revealed or discussed in the media. The overall objective of the party is to get a comfortable majority and form the government on its own.
Do you think that a separate religion status for the Lingayat community will help BJP?
BJP has never used religion or caste to win elections. We believe in nationalism. For us, everyone is a proud child of Mother India. About this Lingayat-Veerashaiva issue, BJP’s consistent stand has been that the Akhila Bharatha Veerashaiva Mahasabha, the apex body of the entire community, should guide the society. We will go by that.
Rahul Gandhi is also drawing large crowds to his meetings. Do you think this will bring in votes for Congress candidates?
Every political party and their leaders are free to canvas for their respective parties. I would not like to comment on the tour of Rahul Gandhi. BJP is placed in an advantageous position. I am confident of our victory. I have answered your question.
What prompted you to move the high court against some Congress leaders and media houses to restrain them from making ‘defamatory remarks’ against you?
I have nothing against the media. I have the highest respect for the fourth estate. In fact, I was a MISA detenu in Central Jail during the Emergency when I fought for the freedom of the press, Fundamental Rights, and freedom of speech. But the shameless Congress leaders have been uttering lies day in and day out over my previous cases.
I have been honourably acquitted of all the charges by the highest court of the land after a due and rigorous trial. By repeatedly referring to those politically motivated and cooked-up charges, the unscrupulous Congress leaders have not only been spreading lies but also insulting the judiciary. Hence, I had to recourse to this.
Will you utilise the services of SM Krishna and Srinivasa Prasad in the forthcoming election?
Yes, of Course. Both SM Krishna and Srinivasa Prasad are our respected leaders. Both have clout, reach, and influence over the electorate. The party’s election campaigners are working on the ways and means to utilise the knowledge and experience of both Krishna as well as Prasad.
Recently, KS Eshwarappa described you as Rama and himself as Lakshmana. Your comment on this.
What he has said is both the truth as well as a fact.
Congress is putting up a tough fight with it social media campaigns. How do you plan to tackle that?
BJP is far ahead in all sorts of campaigning — be it conventional door-to-door campaigning, or social media, or organising mass public meetings. Our social media reach, clout, and penetration is phenomenal. When we have Modi, who is the most tech-savvy and acknowledged as number one in the world, how can we be weak in social media? And the second thing is, our social media army consists of genuine activists who are either party supporters or admirers of Modi. There is no such thing as fake campaigners.
Don’t you think the Lingayat votes will now go in the favour of Congress?
Congress will taste a lesson of a lifetime for its misadventure in this religious issue. The anger and resentment of the people throughout the state is intense and widespread. Even ardent supporters of Congress are angry and want to teach Siddaramaiah a lesson for interfering in religious affairs. Nobody tolerates dividing the society. BJP draws strength and support from all religious denominations cutting across caste and creed and all rungs of the society.
Be it the Cauvery issue, the Mahadayi river water issue, or managing the farm crisis, Congress seems to have gained with its decisions over the years. How will you gain the trust of Karnataka's farmers?
Farmers have now realised that Congress has taken them for a ride. In so far as Mahadayi is concerned, BJP successfully got a letter of "in-principle acceptance" from Goa. But Congress in Goa opposed it. Siddaramaiah ought to have convinced his party leaders in Goa. The double standards of Congress have been witnessed by the farmers and the people. This will prove costly to Congress.
BJP is the only party that has the wherewithal to solve the inter-state dispute. We will take up the issue on a top priority after forming the government. This includes Cauvery also.
There are internal fights for tickets within BJP in many districts. On what criterion will the party allocate tickets?
I don’t think there is any fight. Healthy competition is not ruled out in a party that believes in true democracy. BJP is the only party where opportunities are given to workers to voice their opinion. Divergent views should not be considered as differences. It is the sign of healthy competition and of a vibrant internal democracy. Tickets will be decided on the basis of the survey report conducted in the Assembly constituency. Party workers will also have their say.
The corruption charges against you seem to have given an edge to Congress. Why do you think people should vote for you in the state?
All the charges against me have been quashed by the highest court of the land after a rigorous trial and after following the due process of law. Those charges were politically-motivated. It has been proved beyond doubt that I have been declared innocent.
On the other hand, Congress recently admitted two leaders who are still tainted and are facing probe. Moreover, the Congress president and his mother are on bail in the case related to National Herald case. So, let the Congress party not point its dirty finger towards BJP. It is a travesty of truth that Congress leaders are calling me corrupt even though I have been honourably acquitted. In fact, this amounts to insulting the judiciary.
Y Maheshwara Reddy is a Bengaluru-based freelance journalist and a member of 101reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters
Updated Date: Apr 06, 2018 11:26 AM