Amit Shah says that the Lingayat demand for a separate religion, the support for the primacy of Kannada over Hindi, and the demand for a Kannada flag are all part of your political game.
It is not a political game. Shamanur Shivashankarappa, the president of the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, requested to me that Veerashaiva Lingayats be made a separate religion. (Spiritual leader) Mathe Mahadevi said in a letter that Basavanna started this Lingayat religion. Some others have also made representations. I said you all must come together and the government will consider the request in the light of the Constitution.
And the emphasis on use of Kannada?
I have written a letter to the Centre that Hindi cannot be imposed on southern states because people are not ready to accept it, whether Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana or Karnataka. According to me, Hindi is not a national language, just one of the official languages.
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Aren’t you also encouraging divisive politics, like Hindutva, which you say you oppose…?
The BJP has always been a divisive force. That is what they did in UP. Here too they are trying, but it is not possible.
You appear to have gained much confidence over the last year. What would you say has changed?
In the last four years, we have fulfilled a majority of the promises we made. This is why we won the by-elections at Nanjangud and Gundlupet. There is no anti-incumbency factor against us, and that is why I am confident the Congress will come back to power… We have lived up to the expectations of the people, we have provided good governance, the law and order situation has been good, the investment climate has been very good. Karnataka stands at number one as far as investments are concerned.
However, the bypolls were won with the tacit support of the JD(S), which did not field candidates.
To a certain extent, the JD(S) helped… but they have a presence only in Nanjangud and not Gundlupet. We would have won even otherwise.
Your politics of ‘social justice’ is similar to that of another former Congress chief minister, Devaraj Urs, who was in the end defeated because the dominant communities went against him. Do you fear going the way of Urs?
In Karnataka, it is not just backward communities who get the benefits of reservation. People from poorer sections of other communities too benefit.
You ordered a socio-economic census of castes to enable planning of policies for weaker sections three years ago, but the results are yet to be made public.
Since 1931, a socio-economic caste census has not taken place. When I was the deputy chief minister in 2004, I announced it. After the Congress came to power in 2013, we got the census done. It is almost complete and will be released shortly.
You enjoy the confidence of the Congress national leadership, unlike any other regional leader of the party. Is it because Karnataka is one of the last big states ruled by the Congress?
The Congress has always encouraged regional leaders.