Given all the dissidence since the good showing in the urban local body polls,do you see the wind still blowing in the Congresss favour?
See,one thing is certain. The people of this state want a change. But how that change is going to take place whether it is going to be the KJP,the JDS or the Congress that takes advantage of this is the question. Now the JDS has a presence but not the strength to form a government at this stage. If you see surveys,they show the JDS will get 15 to 20 seats or a maximum of 30. If you take the KJP then it is an offshoot of the BJP,same leadership,same ideology in fact no ideology. So there is no confidence about the KJP coming to power on its own. The BJP is a rejected party and I am not considering it at all. Then which other party? The natural choice is going to be the Congress. The dissidence over selection of candidates will die down.
The Congress strategy seems focused on building on its traditional base of SCs,OBCs and minorities,with prominent Lingayat and Vokkaliga leaders ignored. Isnt their support key to winning?
This is a transition phase. New leadership is emerging in every community… (Among) Vokkaliga leaders,we do have S M Krishna,we do have D K Shivakumar and second-line leaders and they certainly matter. In case of Lingayats we had 16 MLAs out of the 43 seats we gave. So it is not that there is no leadership from the major communities; a new crop is taking over. Take my own case. We had Basavalingappa,K H Ranganath,Kharge… after that I came into the picture from among the Dalit leadership and now I am slowly taking over.
Amid talk about the Congress thinking of a possible SC chief minister,do you see yourself as the frontrunner?
See,the party is an inclusive party. We want to take everybody together. At different points of time different leaders from different communities have emerged. It is true that there is an aspiration that a Dalit should become the chief minister,not necessarily in Karnataka but anywhere else. Now it is an opportunity in Karnataka because there is an election and there are X,Y,Z candidates who are at that level,and it is up to the high command to take note of this and decide. We are at the moment not working on those lines. The mandate I got from the Congress as president is to bring back the party. I am going with that. Once that happens,it is up to them.
As a candidate,you appeared to show a little insecurity when you wrote to the Congress president asking that a man from your constituency,Tumkur,be given the ticket to a constituency in Bangalore,otherwise it might affect your own prospects. That has not worked out,but what happens now?
That was just one of the factors saying that there is someone who belongs to a particular community who may feel that his community has been let down. It was with that feeling that I wrote the letter,not with anything like I was weak and depending totally on him.
In Mandya,under pressure from actor M H Ambareesh,you changed a candidate loyal to S M Krishna. What made you to make changes at the last minute in some constituencies?
These are all equations. Ambareesh is a known person in Mandya. His contention was that the person whom we had considered had worked against the official Congress candidate in three elections. Ambareeshs contention was,let there be a cooling period. The high command took note of that.
Will the presence of B S Yeddyurappas KJP benefit the Congress,as predicted,by splitting the Lingayat votes,especially in the Mumbai-Karnataka area?
They will certainly make inroads into the BJP vote base but how it will benefit the Congress we will have to wait and see. Their votes will not be transferred to us the BJP will take its votes,the KJP will take some of the BJP votes.
Is the Congress in a position to stage a comeback in coastal Karnataka,once a Congress bastion,but now a BJP stronghold and a sort of lab for Hindutva experiments?
See,the coastal Karnataka region is very sensitive. We used to win all seats but somewhere maybe we neglected the region,maybe we did not do the right politics,and the BJP took over using peoples sentiments,they played the Hindutva card. This time I think it is going to change people have realised that they want a peaceful region.
You have been one of the few politicians to turn to the Internet and the social media with your campaigns,despite your own constituency being a rural one.
We in the Congress have the legacy of promoting the IT industry revolution in Karnataka. After doing that the Congress never made use of that corporate IT world to our advantage. We never told the IT,corporate world that we are the ones who brought in this revolution,who promoted this industry,and now we realise that we cannot stay out of reach of the IT world. We felt that we must tell those knowledgeable people that it is the Congress that is important to give good leadership and good governance… Knowing computer technology a bit myself,I thought I will reach out to youngsters and say the Congress is going to come back.
What according to you are the most pressing issues the new government will have to address?
The first thing to be done is to rebuild the confidence of the people in the government (with) a cleaner,able,stable leadership. In that sense people must give us a mandate for a stable government. Everything else will follow: investments will come,projects will take off.