Hubli: Five-time MLA Jagadish Shettar is fighting elections once again from Hubli city in Karnataka. He dismisses allegations of taking down banners of the Aam Aadmi Party in his constituency and says that they tried to defame him.
The former chief minister says he doesn't have personal political desires and fully supports the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) decision to project fellow Lingayat figure BS Yeddyurappa as the chief ministerial candidate.
Ahead of the crucial polls, he spoke to Firstpost about his party's chances, saying it is united and will win over 150 seats – unlike in 2013 elections when it won 40 seats and forfeited deposits in 110. Edited excerpts follow:
You have been elected five times from the Hubli constituency. You are going to contest for the sixth time. How prepared are you?
We have invited all national leaders. Booth level campaigning has been completed. Home visits have been going on. We have planned campaigns from all angles. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari and other leaders will participate in them.
Did you get a political boost from LK Advani's rath yatra in 1990?
I am from a political family. I had been very active in political issues and protests against social injustice since college days. I used to take responsibilities related to my father's corporation election. In 1991, I successfully organised Advani's rath yatra. Elders of the party observed my active participation and gave me an opportunity to contest in the Lok Sabha election from Dharwad constituency.
In the eleventh hour, I was to sacrifice the opportunity because Chandrakant Bellad was invited in from the Janata Dal. Then the party gave me an opportunity to contest from Hubli in 1994. I have been serving as Hubli MLA since then. It has been a reason to enjoy so many positions in the party.
Did the Idgah Maidan flag hosting issue help you unify Hindu voters in Hubli?
This is not a matter of unifying the Hindu voters. It was a question of the nation. I worked for the nation and for the national flag. So, it showcased our patriotism.
Why did your followers try to remove AAP banners in Hubli?
My followers did not remove any banners. But we lodged a complaint against the one who tried to defame my name on the banners. Corporation took action against them. We have the right to showcase our plans in the banners, but we should not hurt others. They used my name to defame me, so we lodged a complaint against them.
You are a senior leader of BJP. People say because of Shettar, Hubli has not seen development? Have you met voters' expectations?
I am blessed by the Hubli people and have won five times from the constituency. I took all elections seriously. When I was the chief minister, I was not able to concentrate on my constituency. This time, I am busy in the campaign. I have the vision to elevate the commercial city into a modern city. BRTS between Hubli-Dharwad, the flyover for Channamma Circle, Tender SURE road, international airport, traffic-free ring road and the 24X7 drinking water project are some of my major contributions to Hubli.
Do you feel that your soft-spoken personality did not help reach a 'logical end' to issues you raised in the Assembly as Opposition party leader?
I find comfort in simplicity. It is helpful for people to meet me. As an Opposition leader, I should not speak unnecessarily. I speak logically. It is my nature. I know how to oppose the government for the public grievances.
In my tenure, a number of scams were handed over to the CBI. I was successful in getting the resignation from minister Roshan Baig. In the Congress government, I was successful in getting the resignation from the then home minister. I protested against the government both inside and outside the Assembly.
As an Opposition leader and earlier as chief minister, did you fight for the farmers?
As chief minister, I waived farm loans up to the Rs 25,000. Then, I raised farmer suicide issues in the Assembly and I put pressure on the chief minister to waive farmers' loans up to Rs 50,000. Our party also gave priority to agriculture in the budget.
What is the BJP's stand in the Kalasa-Banduri project? Is this on your party's agenda?
We support the Kalasa-Banduri project. We tried to solve the problem by approaching Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar. But some vested interests are not supporting it. We also tried to convince Goa and Maharashtra chief ministers.
BJP president Shah tried to speak with the states. But the state leaders of Congress did not try to convince the Opposition party leaders in Goa. The Congress president did not try to solve the problem. The issue is before the tribunal that has to solve it. We could not interfere.
Was BJP insulted by the u-turn after Parrikar's letter to Yeddyurappa, saying Goa will consider on humanitarian grounds Karnataka's demand for drinking water?
No, the BJP is not insulted. We put an effort to solve the issue on humanitarian grounds. Yeddyurappa was successful in convincing the Goa chief minister. But Congress did not show interest to solve the issue. If the issue was solved, the credit would have gone to BJP. The Congress bothers about the credit more than to solve the issue. They only had to convince Opposition party leaders in Goa but they did not speak with them. Unnecessarily, they point fingers at BJP.
What about the case regarding the murder of Dharwad Zila Parishad member Yogesh Gowda? You were unsuccessful in keeping his wife in the party...
Our party lost a good party worker. We gave moral support to the family. I raised the issue in the Assembly. We alleged district in-charge minister Vinay Kulkarni was involved in the murder. We protested in front of the DC office. Instead of seeking resignation from the minister, Congress announced a team to probe the case and the audio tapes. His mother and brother are fighting the case in court. We assured to give justice to his wife but she joined Congress. It was her own step. We tried to retain her in our party.
What about the investigations in MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh murder cases?
It is the duty of the state government. We protested to put pressure on the state government. Law & order in the state has completely collapsed. It failed to give security to the intellectuals.
Do you have groups within your party? Are Eshwarappa, Ananth Kumar and Yeddyurappa united?
All are united. There is no groupism. Our party has no rifts. We are all united. We are all countering the election by unifying. There are no differences between Yeddyurappa, Kumar and Eshwarappa. We have chosen Yeddyurappa as the chief ministerial candidate.
You think you can be a more dynamic chief minister than Yeddyurappa?
You don't try to compare the personalities. Yeddyurappa is a mass leader. He could unify all the communities. Shettar is different and Yeddyurappa is different. All BJP chief ministers are committed to the party's principles and development.
So, you don't want to become chief minister of Karnataka again?
I have no dreams in my political career. Since the beginning, I did not have any political desires. I do not wish any position. Everything came by unexpectedly, so I enjoyed it. I am just a party worker.
What is your party's target in the upcoming election? Do you think you'll get a full majority?
We will win 150 plus seats in the election. Our party will come to power.
The author is a Hubli-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.
Updated Date: Apr 24, 2018 13:59 PM