A chief minister should wipe the tears of people, says Karnataka Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao

Congress chief in Karnataka Dinesh Gundu Rao spoke to Hindustan Times about the challenges ahead, Lok Sabha polls and managing the state’s coalition government.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2018 08:26 IST
Vikram Gopal and Venkatesha Babu
Vikram Gopal and Venkatesha Babu
Bengaluru, Hindustan Times
Dinesh Gundu Rao,Karnataka Congress chief,Karnataka
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee working president Dinesh Gundu Rao. (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

Dinesh Gundu Rao, 48, took over as the Congress chief in Karnataka on July 4, over a month after the party formed a coalition government with the Janata Dal (Secular) in the state. He spoke to Hindustan Times about the challenges ahead, Lok Sabha polls and managing the state’s coalition government. Edited excerpts:

What is the biggest challenge you face ahead of the Lok Sabha polls?

We do not know exactly when it (Lok Sabha polls) is going to come. There is a lot of speculation because the Narendra Modi government is worried about its performance. So, there is a possibility that it may happen in December. Keeping that in mind, we have to reorganise the party, revamp it and see that everything is functioning actively. We have to look at how we can increase the numbers in Lok Sabha... the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has got more seats than us (in Karnataka) in the last three-four general elections.

Has the party taken a stock of the reasons for its poor performance in the recent state elections?

We are receiving reports from every assembly constituency from our observers. And generally, we have had some discussions, but no formal committee has looked into this. We know generally what went wrong.

Does this include an acknowledgement that the Lingayat separate religion issue did not play out as anticipated?

The Congress is not against any religion or caste, but the Lingayat issue did affect us to some extent. It was never a party issue, it was what the community requested the (former) chief minister (Siddaramaiah) to do. (Siddaramaiah recommended that the influential Lingayat community be recognised a separate, minority religion.)

Was it a mistake?

I would not say that. It was misrepresented to the community that we were out to divide them when the claim to have a separate religion tag has been going on for many decades with leaders of all political parties having been a part of it. But the BJP used it very effectively to say that we were trying to divide the community, which was not true. Similarly, Hindutva in the coastal belt affected us where again false propaganda was used. Basically, emotional issues took over. We gave a stable, scandal-free government… But those issues went onto the backburner.

Siddaramaiah hinted the BJP’s pannah pramukh (booth-level worker) strategy worked. How do you propose to counter this?

We have booth-level workers as well. We have to make them a little bit more ideologically oriented.

The problem is our stand is less emotional. An emotional issue tends to make people feel more committed to the cause. We will use our cadre now to expose the truth behind what BJP is trying to do.

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy broke down recently in the backdrop of farm loan waiver saying he knew the pain of running a coalition government. Has it created an apprehension in minds of Congress leaders that one party in the coalition government will take the credit for the waiver?

We spoke to Kumaraswamy. Maybe it was because he was under pressure or what was being said by media. That is what he told me.

Is there any pressure from the Congress on him?

The chief minister’s job is always with pressure, from your own party, coalition partners and people. (Kumaraswamy) told me that the main reason was the negativity on the social media. And added to this was the media highlighting only the negative aspects. I do not think a chief minister should do that. He is the leader of the state and he is the person who should wipe other people’s tears.

Is Siddaramaiah emerging as a parallel force, a “super CM”?

Siddaramaiah remains a top leader in the state. He is now the Congress legislature party leader, coordination committee chairman, so definitely he has a role to play. The people of Karnataka and Congress leaders have a lot of trust and faith in him.

First Published: Jul 26, 2018 06:39 IST