The outcome of the coming Assembly elections in Karnataka will herald a beginning and open the door for the Congress in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, says the party’s State unit chief D K Shivakumar. In an interview with PTI, he sounded upbeat about the party’s prospects in the May ten polls to the 224-member Assembly, saying it would win 141 seats.
The ruling BJP was deploying its entire central leadership for campaigning in the State out of fear of losing the May 10 polls, he said and asserted the ‘Modi factor’ will not work in the southern State, where people are purely focused on local and developmental issues.
Shivakumar said there is no tussle between him and Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah over the Chief Minister’s post, and that the only aim now was to defeat the BJP at the hustings and ensure that the Congress comes to power. In the event of the party winning, the high command, ”on its own electoral process,” will take a call on the CM, he said. Siddaramaiah had also made a similar statement last week in an interview to PTI.
The 60-year-old Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President (KPCC) said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are ”disturbed” by the poll ”guarantees” announced by his party as ”they could not deliver what they promised”.
Following are the excerpts from the interview:
Q. Whether the Assembly polls are only on local issues or there is also going to be a Modi versus Rahul contest?
A. No, it is in no way connected to Modi or any other national leaders, it is connected to the administration of Karnataka, how Karnataka government has failed, what Congress party can do. This is a very peace-loving state, people of Karnataka are highly mature. Karnataka is the gateway for the economic development of this country. They (BJP) are raising emotional issues, we want to concentrate on development issues. Price rise is affecting every common man, we want to help them out. For three-and-half years there was BJP’s ”double engine” government, which has completely failed. There was Global Investors’ Meet, government claimed there were investment proposals worth Rs 10 lakh crore, but in places where BJP is strong like Malnad or coastal region, not even a single investor has gone to create jobs; unemployment is high. Karnataka is also the knowledge capital and after unwarranted emotive issues such as hijab and halal played out, I think people are afraid. Such things are creating problems for the development of the state.
Q. On the importance of Karnataka election outcome for the revival of the Congress party nationally.
A. Definitely it will open the doors, it is the beginning. It will be the beginning for the unity at the national level, and for the Congress party for 2024. Karnataka people will give a message to the country. Earlier also at the time of Devraj Urs (former CM), when Janata Party was in power at the national level, Karnataka had opened the door for Congress, now again Karnataka will play its role.
Q. On Congress’ prospects in the polls.
A. I still stand by number 141, on the basis of surveys, my big political experience –as I have been in the Assembly for the last 35 years, I have contested eight elections, lost one, won in seven– I know political arithmetic and social engineering. We will get through with a big number.
Q. On the ‘tussle’ between him and Siddaramaiah for the CM’s post.
A. Where is the tussle? you show me one example, one incident, one small difference in anything. I haven’t cried like (BJP leader B S) Yediyurappa did for the post. We have stood united we have worked unitedly, we are fighting unitedly. Our main aim is to see to it that BJP is defeated and Congress party comes to power.
Q. On whether this is the best chance for him to become the CM, since he is the KPCC President.
A. It is not me, which is the issue today, it is the Congress party. The Congress party has to come to power. The Chief Minister will be decided after the election by the Congress party high command on its own electoral process.
Q. On PM Narendra Modi criticising the Congress on its poll guarantees, and Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman saying it will require Rs one lakh crore for their implementation every year.
A. Prime Minister and Finance Minister are very much disturbed, because they could not deliver what they promised. You take their earlier manifesto, they had promised ten hours of power, why didn’t they give? They had promised Rs one lakh loan waiver to the farmers, they had promised 2 crore jobs, they had promised to double the (farm) income, they could not do it. Congress guarantees are not like that. We stand by whatever we promise, we are in the land of Basavanna (12th century social reformer), we will deliver whatever we have said.
Q. On the entire BJP leadership being deployed in Karnataka for campaigning.
A. They are in fear, they have lost their face. Under them Karnataka has become the corruption capital of the country. PayCM, PayMinister, every post or position in Karnataka is up for sale. Media has come out with a rate card, like a hotel menu card, regarding the money to be paid for appointments to various government posts like- ACP, Circle Inspector, Tahsildar among others. Everything is for sale, that is the state of affairs.
Q. On the impact of ”Modi factor and Modi magic” in this election.
A. Nothing will work, no central leader’s magic will work. Only if you have filled the stomach (of the people), if you have given good governance, people will think about you, nothing else will work. In Tamil Nadu or Kerala or West Bengal, where did it (Modi factor) work ? It did not work, the same thing will happen here too.