Congress-JDS coalition will not last long, says former Karnataka CM YeddyurappaUpdated: Oct 23, 2018 15:03 IST
BS Yeddyurappa, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Karnataka unit, is busy preparing for the November 3 byelections to three Lok Sabha seats – Shimoga, Bellary and Mandya -- and the assembly seats of Ramanagara and Jamakhandi. In an interview to Vikram Gopal, the former chief minister says the BJP is open to dissidents from the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition contesting on its ticket in southern Karnataka. Edited excerpts:
Q. How many of the five seats do you feel you can win?
In two Lok Sabha seats, my son BY Raghavendra, a former MP, and J Shanta, B Sreeramulu’s sister and also a former MP, will contest. In Jamakhandi, we have decided to field a former MLA. So, we will win these three definitely. In Ramanagara, chief minister HD Kumaraswamy’s wife Anita will contest and they are yet to name a candidate for the Mandya Lok Sabha constituency. Many leaders from the coalition partners have expressed an interest in joining the party. So, we are confident that we can put up a strong fight in these two seats as well. Secondly, differences within the Congress and JD(S) are emerging already. Their local workers don’t like the coalition and are openly opposing candidates. This will help us.
Q. Many leaders have expressed dissatisfaction over holding Lok Sabha bypolls now. What is your opinion?
I don’t think they should be held. This is because those who win will not be MPs for even six months and can at best attend one session of Parliament. Under these circumstances, the Election Commission should have thought carefully. Even if they say that polls should be held within six months of a vacancy arising, there was an opportunity to not do so. Legal experts have said that these polls should not have been held. So, I feel it isn’t right to hold elections.
Q. Your son and Sreeramulu’s sister have been named as candidates. Isn’t this also family politics, which you criticise the Congress and JD(S) of practising?
This doesn’t apply to us because Raghavendra has been an MP and MLA in the past. Shanta, too, has been an MP and we needed a strong candidate. I have never criticised parties for fielding family members of leaders as candidates.
Q. You’ve not named candidates for Mandya and Ramanagara. Are any coalition leaders in touch with you?
Yes, some are in touch with us, which is why we have taken an additional three days to decide on candidates for these seats. We have some aspirants in our party as well, but if someone who has a very good chance of winning approaches us, we have no problem in fielding them.
Q. Will this not spark dissent within your party?
No. Everybody is agreed that we should field a strong candidate. Our problem is that people join and leave the party if they lose, they don’t help build the party in Mandya. This time we will provide an opportunity to any candidate who is willing to build the party in that region.
Q. There is national interest in the coalition’s chances of dealing a blow to the BJP. Are you worried?
I feel the coalition will not last long and you will see that as early as these bypolls. No matter how many times they say they will campaign together, you can see for yourself the dissent brewing already.
Q. If you win in Jamakhandi, your tally in the assembly will be 105, just eight short of a majority. Does this mean you will try to form a government?
We have never announced that we will form the government. We are only interested in increasing our numbers. We have to win this election to strengthen the party. Also, we have never done anything to destabilise this party. All reports suggesting as much are instances of rumour-mongering by the media.
However, if the government falls by itself because of the differences among the parties, we will take a call on whether to stake claim. But there have not been any attempts to poach their MLAs.
Q. But the Congress had released audio clips purportedly of you asking its MLA, BC Patil, to join you?
Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy approached our MLA, Subhash Guttedar, to switch over to the JD(S), when he met him. If the chief minister, whose coalition is governing the state, invites a BJP MLA to defect, there is no meaning in accusing us of anything.
Q. But have you not approached any MLAs?
No, I have never spoken to anybody.
Q. Coming to the Lok Sabha polls next year, there is speculation that Narendra Modi might contest from Karnataka. Have such discussions been held?
We will welcome him if he does decide to contest from here. He can stand from anywhere and we will ensure his victory. But no such discussion has taken place yet.
Q. The opposition is attacking the central government on the increase in fuel prices. Do you see this affecting your party’s prospects?
Prices have increased internationally and it is natural that it would affect us as well. For this reason, the Centre recently decreased prices and our state governments have followed suit everywhere.
Q. You set a record of sorts by becoming the person who had the shortest stint as chief minister of Karnataka, when you resigned after three days…
I was given 15 days’ time by the governor. For the first time in our history, the Supreme Court heard such a case at midnight because of pressure from the Congress. It ordered us to prove our strength within a day. There were many Congress and JD(S) leaders who were willing to join us but we couldn’t even contact them. If not for their assurance, I wouldn’t have bothered to stake claim.