Last year, when Lok Sabha polls were held, your government had already initiated its social justice agenda through benefits for backward classes, Dalits and minorities. Still, Congress did not do well in Karnataka. Do you consider the upcoming panchayat polls as the true test of your policies?
The issues in parliamentary elections are different from the issues in assembly and gram panchayat polls. People are intelligent. Last year, they decided to change the government at the Centre and did it. As for the gram panchayat elections, we will win most seats.
Has the country’s political scenario changed since the Lok Sabha elections?
Congress was in power for 10 years at the Centre so people decided to go for a change. This does not mean that the BJP government is popular. The popularity graph of Modi is slowly coming down. In Delhi poll, BJP suffered a great setback.
You have embarked on a policy of huge budgetary grants to your social justice programme. How sustainable is such a programme?
The Constitution emphasises that we must bring economic and social changes for the benefit of the weaker sections. We have to give equal opportunity to all. For that, we have to protect the interests of the vulnerable sections. There is a disparity between rich and poor. To bring the poor to mainstream, we have to bring these types of programmes.
These incentives are being given at a time of negative agricultural and industrial growth in Karnataka.
Agriculture sector is our priority. So are industries, irrigation, roads and power generation. Social sector is equally important.
Your social justice policies seem to have alienated majority communities like the Vokkaligas and Lingayats from Congress.
It is not correct to say that our incentives are directed only at the backward classes, Dalits and minorities. We are giving rice at Re 1 to families below the poverty line. This scheme does not cover only SCs, minorities and backward classes. The poor from all communities— be it Vokkaliga, Lingayat or Brahmin — are benefitting from the scheme.
After 85 years, your government has conducted a castewise survey of socio-educational status of the people in the state. What is the thinking behind this?
Whenever matters relating to social justice come up before the high court or the Supreme Court, judges tend to ask for authenticated information about castes. The Permanent Backward Classes Commission has also recommended the census.
Observing the Congress politics in the state indicates that somewhere down the line the party is thinking of a Dalit CM for Karnataka. Do you feel your tenure is going to be curtailed? You said recently that you are also a Dalit.
This matter has not been discussed in the party forum. Some people and organisations that have nothing to do with Congress have made it an issue. We are not bothered about such things. My government is committed to the uplift of the SC/STs.
Bureaucrats say the unavailability of land is a major hurdle to the growth of industry in Karnataka. What is being done to solve this problem?
There is no problem. Land is available. We have created a land bank. More than 20,000 acres are available. In fact, in two years we have cleared proposals of new industries to the tune of Rs 95,959 crore with the potential of creating 2.27 lakh jobs. Karnataka is a most preferred destination. Our new industrial policy has been appreciated.