Bengaluru: Ahead of the crucial 12 May Assembly elections in Karnataka, opinion polls suggest that all the three major parties in the fray — Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) — will fall short of the majority. If that's the case, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s JD(S) will hold the key. If Congress and JD(S) form a post-poll alliance, experts suggest water resources minister MB Patil will most likely become the deputy chief minister. However, Patil, who championed the Lingayat community’s separate religious status, claims Congress will form the government on its own and there won’t be a need to form an alliance.
In an exclusive interview, Patil, also the Bijapur district in-charge minister, asserts that BJP is only using chief ministerial aspirant BS Yeddyurappa and that he will be dumped after the elections. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
You led the movement for minority status for the Lingayat community. Now, after seeing the reactions from various circles, do you think the move has backfired?
The movement has not backfired. Veerashaiva Lingayats are hardly 5 percent (of Lingayats). So, 95 percent people appreciate the stand of Siddaramaiah. All our candidates, not just Lingayat candidates, will see an increase of a minimum of 15-20 percent votes compared to the last time. Yeddyurappa couldn't get a nomination for his son even, so it is Ananth Kumar, (RSS functionary) BL Santosh and all these people who are taking the calls. There was one minister (Davangere MP) GM Siddeshwara in the Union government who has been removed. There are all Brahmins now. There is no Lingayat in the central cabinet. Everybody knows BJP’s agenda. But let me tell you, we are not using Lingayats. Lingayat is our identity. I’m campaigning on development. But some religious leaders, Veerashaivas, are trying to campaign against me. Still, I don’t ask for votes for the Lingayat movement. We are not using it politically. Once the results come, everyone will know that the move didn’t backfire at all. All the opinion polls except one suggest we are ahead.
BJP claims they have a Lingayat leader as CM aspirant and hence Lingayat votes would go to them. What do you think?
So what? The CM candidate’s son was also denied a ticket, so how powerful is the Lingayat leader? They will not make him the chief minister.
But they have projected him as their CM candidate, what about that?
They have projected him, but they are dropping his son’s name on one side and the central minister (Siddeshwara) is dropped on the other side. It is just a game plan and now the Lingayats have understood. Now, I see the reaction everywhere. They have come to the conclusion that they will not make him the chief minister. They are just using him. They will dump him on the age factor. They will say he is above 75 and they have not made anybody who is above that age the chief minister. They are going to dump Yeddyurappa. Lingayats are not going to vote for BJP because of the treatment meted out to Yeddyurappa.
You won the last election by a margin of 4,355 votes against Vijugouda Patil. The fight this time is also going to be tough. Are you nervous?
In Babaleshwar, I have done a lot of work, even in Bijapur district and North Karnataka in general. It is my development work which will make me win. I'll win by more than 25,000 votes. These Veerashaiva swamijis are trying to campaign against me and trying to do some damage. But I don’t think any of it will have any effect.
In case of a post-poll alliance, do you see yourself being the deputy CM?
Our party will get a clear-cut majority; Siddaramaiah will become the chief minister of the state. There is no question of any alliance with any party. We will get a majority on our own because we have done so much of good work and people have seen five years of misrule (during the BJP’s tenure), jail-bail-jail-bail, that’s what happened, one was coming out and another was going inside.
How many seats do you see Congress getting?
We will get a majority of our own. We will get a minimum of 125-130 seats.
You have been on the forefront of water issues in the state, be it Mahadayi or Cauvery. Where has the Centre lapsed? If you were a central minister, what decision would you have taken in both the cases?
In case of Mahadayi, talks should have been held. The prime minister should have called all the parties involved — Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra — like Indira Gandhi did in case of Krishna water dispute. She intervened, got 15 tmc ft of water for Madras, now Chennai, and got water for Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra too. She also gave water to Rajasthan, which was not a riparian state. So, she made everybody agree to give water to Rajasthan. That’s the political will required. That’s how a prime minister should act. We went to meet him (Prime Minister Narendra Modi). He behaved like a political party head. He is the head of the nation. So, in the case of Mahadayi, people clearly know that BJP has failed. They engaged in drama, saying a letter was written by Goa CM Parrikar to Yeddyurappa, not to the constitutional head, made a big fuss in the Parivartana rally. It was all a farce. Now, we still expect prime minister to do justice, intervene, and call a meeting. But anyhow, in August, the Mahadayi verdict will come. Like Cauvery, it will also come in our favour.
Do you think the Cauvery Management Board should be formed after elections?
There is no question of Cauvery board. The Cauvery board was suggested by the tribunal, but the Supreme Court has not mentioned it. It (the apex court) has said a scheme under section 6(A) has to be formed. They have not mentioned the Cauvery Management Board. They have not accepted the proposal of Cauvery Management Board. They said a dispute resolution body has to be formed and it has to be under section 6(A). So it is under the government of India’s power, they will decide how it has to be done and will do it.
What's your vision for Bijapur?
It is a drought area. I’m converting it to an area full of water with 15 lakh acres of irrigation projects, 200 tanks to be filled up. I want to see Bijapur as one of the richest districts in the next three years in the nation.
Is it realistic that the Election Commission of India caps elections expenditure at Rs 28 lakh? Is that practical and do people follow it?
I’m going to follow it. So I did a simple nomination process, I did not gather people and do all that. I can’t comment on others.
How do we reduce the role of money and muscle power in elections?
It has to be debated. It cannot be done in one day, in one interview. Everybody has to sit together, discuss various mechanisms and a consensus has to be built up and everyone has to come together and do it. It takes time.
Any message for Yeddyurappa who says Congress tried its best to divide Lingayats?
Yeddyurappa, poor person, I wish him all the best for his health. He is being misused by BJP. He had also signed for the separate religious status of Veerashaiva-Lingayats once. The RSS people are using him and they are making him a scapegoat. So, Yeddyurappa should think now, and it was good that he had formed the KJP (Karnataka Janata Paksha). In fact, if he had continued in KJP, today he would have been leading the Lingayat movement.
(Tamanna Naseer is a Bijapur-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)
Updated Date: Apr 28, 2018 11:49:08 IST