Siddaramaiah and I have different roles that should not be seen as our differences: G Parameshwara
The Karnataka Congress president G Parameshwara was confident of the party coming back with a majority. Assembly elections in Karnataka are likely to take place in May.india Updated: Jan 13, 2018 18:44 IST
Heading into the Karnataka assembly elections, state Congress president G Parameshwara in an interview to Vikram Gopal said that his party is all set to sail through in the polls as the opposition BJP was left only with the communal pitch. Edited excerpts from the interview:
Q. How is the Congress campaign coming along?
A. We strategised to push programmes that were successfully implemented with the chief minister on one side and the state unit on the other. We have done this consciously and it is not true that we are divided and launched two yatras. The chief minister is going to the 125 constituencies where government programmes have to be launched, foundations laid. I am going to the constituencies where we lost last time. We have good chances of winning back a majority of those seats.
Q. There have been frequent reports of differences of opinion between you and Siddaramaiah…
A. That is not true. He is the chief minister and I am the PCC president and we have different roles to play. And those roles should not be seen as our differences.
Q. Since 1985, no incumbent government has returned to power in the state. What is your projection for this election?
A. I am confident that we will come back with a majority. This is backed by assessments. People want development. They want roads, drinking water, toilets, houses and these kinds of facilities. According to me, in a majority of the 224 constituencies we have provided the basic necessities that they want, which is why I am confident that we will come back.
Q. Some leaders in your party have criticised the induction of Janata Dal (Secular) rebels. What is your view on this?
A. In every election throughout the country, you have seen people joining and leaving. Obviously, everybody wants to get into power. This time, some JD(S) friends wanted to join. They might feel comfortable with the Congress. Even Siddaramaiah joined Congress [in 2006] and is a chief minister now. If you have merit, quality and capability, the Congress will definitely encourage you.
Q. Has the party accepted Siddaramaiah as a Congressman?
A. The day he joined Congress he stopped being a JD(S) member. He may have a different personality, which is true. That doesn’t mean he is anti-Congress. Once he is in the Congress we treat him like a Congressman. He may have opposed the Congress and its ideology when he was in JD(S), but after joining the Congress he has integrated with the Congress ideology and people.
Q. Senior Congressman and former chief minister SM Krishna was your mentor. His joining the BJP must have come as a big blow to you?
A. It was really disturbing for me personally and for the party because many looked up to him as a decent and cultured person who had given good governance. He encouraged younger leaders. It was disappointing for me because I looked to him as a mentor and role model. But life moves on and you can’t keep thinking about it.
Q. With elections around the corner, communal tensions are on the rise in coastal Karnataka. How will the Congress address this?
A. We knew this was coming because the BJP did nothing worthwhile when in power. I have been watching the Parivartana Yatra [of former CM and state BJP president BS Yeddyurappa] very closely. I have not heard either Yeddyurappa or any other leader of the BJP set out an agenda of what they will do. On top of that, instead of a developmental agenda they are trying to go with the communal card. A chief minister like Yogi Adityanath comes here and makes a statement of Hindutva. We are all Hindus, 80 per cent of the Congressmen are Hindus. Who has made [BJP] the custodians of Hindus? Maybe you don’t like Muslims, Christians, Jains, and Sikhs, but you cannot say only you are a Hindu. I don’t think it will work in Karnataka. People here are development oriented, they are not into petty religious politics.
Q. What would be the role of Rahul Gandhi in this campaign?
A. He will address rallies and enthuse the younger generation. He is a hope for the younger generations because there is a lot of difference between Modi and him. Modi may say many things in his speeches but he may not be able to connect with the younger generation like Rahul Gandhi does.
Q. Some reports suggest Gandhi will tour temples in Karnataka. Is the Congress banking on soft Hindutva?
A. [Jawaharlal] Nehru, Indira Gandhi, [Lal Bahadur] Shastri used to visit temples. And all our senior-most leaders who were the faces of Congress visited temples. Only if I was never practicising Hinduism and have started now can you say that I am practicising soft Hindutva.
Q. Your party leadership has said Siddaramaiah will lead the poll campaign. If your party wins, would you be a CM candidate again?
A. In the Congress, at least in Karnataka, never has a CM candidate been announced. The Congress Legislature Party will take a decision in the presence of central observers. If need be, they will also conduct an election. Last time also, when Siddaramaiah was elected, there was a vote. Why then have we made him the leader for these elections? Because he is the chief minister. He is a face of the campaign.
Q. You have said that the Congress is planning to give only one ticket per family…
A. I said the high command will issue guidelines on whether to issue one ticket per family. These guidelines will come to us during the elections.
Q. But what is your opinion on this matter, considering the Congress is accused of being dynastic?
A. It is a time-tested party, whether you call it dynastic or something else. Why would Yeddyurappa bring his son into politics? Why has [former prime minister HD] Deve Gowda brought his sons and grandson into politics?