Former chief minister and BJP rebel B S Yeddyurappa has travelled across 50 constituencies in the last 10 days,a campaign schedule outmatched by any other leader. His Karnataka Janata Party is expected to divide the BJPs Lingayat vote base in the Mumbai-Karnataka and central Karnataka regions,which would benefit the Congress,while also bagging seats in other places such as Haveri district where five of the six BJP candidates have jumped boat.
On Monday night,at an election rally in Shiggaon (the exception among the six seats),the Lingayat strongman recounted the story of his betrayal by the BJP,and for the first time attacked the BJPs Shiggaon candidate,his one-time close aide and minister Basavaraj Bommai. He blamed Bommai for driving a wedge between him and the BJP. On Tuesday,Yeddyurappa told The Indian Express,I am sorry,I was really upset and I lost my head. This was in Hubli,the stronghold of current BJP chief minister Jagadish Shettar,Yeddyurappas aide-turned-Lingayat rival Jagadish Shettar.
In the course of an interview,Yeddyurappa discussed how he expects the polls to unfold:
What kind of response have you seen for the Karnataka Janata Party in the course of your campaign?
In the last one week,the campaign has been going beyond our expectations. There is no question of suffering a setback in any of the constituencies I have travelled to… more than 10,000 to 20,000 people have gathered for every rally. Every day,there is a growing demand for me to campaign in new constituencies. Yesterday I covered nine constituencies,today I will cover eight. When national leaders of other parties are offering to campaign,people are not as interested. I am tired because of the amount of travelling I have done.
The KJP has been labelled the B-team to the Congress by BJP leaders such as Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar. What do you have to say?
Jagadish Shettar is still the chief minister; he should not talk irresponsibly it does not show him in good light. My candidates will defeat top leaders of the Congress such as Siddaramaiah and G Parameshwara. It is the BJP that has a pre-poll alliance,with the Janata Dal (Secular). Eshwarappa (former state BJP president) has already said they will form an alliance with the JDS and form a government… Look at Shettars situation as a chief minister: what is his status? Why do you think the national leaders of his party are making so many visits? It is because that is a sinking ship. If the BJP gets more than 50 seats after all this campaigning by the national leaders,then I will listen to whatever Shettar has to say. From 121 seats they are going to win only 50,a reflection of the leadership of that man. He is in a situation where he is likely to lose all respect.
Are you looking only at a specific number of seats,especially in the Lingayat belt,while looking at dividing BJP votes in others?
I will tell you two things. Without me no one can form the next government. I have hopes of being the single largest party even if we do not get an absolute majority. You will be surprised when the results come.
The BJP has been saying the KJP will be restricted to five or six seats in the Haveri and Gadag regions.
The captains of a sinking ship are underestimating us. Like I said,I will listen to anything Jagadish Shettar says if the BJP gets more than 50. Let them talk after May 8,when all of Shettars luncheon programmes will have come to an end. Never in the lifetime of Shettar and his friends will the BJP come to power under his leadership.
Are you looking to exact electoral revenge from people who were close to you but have chosen to stay on in the BJP,such as Umesh Katti and Basavaraj Bommai?
We are not targeting anyone in particular. We want to focus on all seats equally.
You did target Bommai,formerly a close associate of yours,on Monday at Shiggaon,saying he had back-stabbed you.
The way that man has cheated is equivalent to backstabbing. He entered into an understanding with the Delhi leaders of my former party he assured them I would not leave the BJP and promised them it would be his responsibility to see that I remain. He would come back to me and say I should not stay in the BJP at any cost,that he would be with me all the way. We spoke some 50 times. He must have felt that he would have to give me funds for the new party but I told him I would generate the funds by begging before the people. Still he kept on dilly-dallying and in the end he did not come with me and did not allow others to come with me either. He ranks number one for betrayals… On Monday I went to Shiggaon and it became inevitable that I speak out.
The KJPs extensive campaign has meant that your own district of Shimoga,where it is considered a battle between Yeddyurappa and Eshwarappa,has not got attention.
We are going to win in Shimoga. There is no question about that. Eshwarappa is going to lose.
Some BJP MPs associated with the KJP,like your son B Y Raghavendra and Shivakumar Udasi,remain in the BJP despite being suspended. Why this continuance of links with the BJP when you have broken away?
Nobody is interested in remaining BJP candidates. In the parliamentary polls,they will be KJP candidates,as will many other current BJP candidates. That is a sinking ship… I will begin preparing for the Lok Sabha elections as soon as the assembly elections are over. My target is to win 10 to 12 seats in Parliament. My future aim is the Lok Sabha. The BJP is using my programmes to campaign,and this will remind people that it was under Yeddyurappas leadership that the BJP government was formed,that the programmes were created,that 19 seats in Parliament were won,that local body elections were won. Everyone knows what happened in the recent urban local body polls Shettar could not deliver.
How do you respond to feelers from the BJP seeking your return? The other day,Uma Bharti said you must shed your ego and return to the BJP.
I am grateful for her respect towards me but there is no question of going back. When my own party is getting a good response,even from minorities,I would not like to betray that trust. I have decided there is no question of joining hands with my former party. I would prefer to sit in opposition if such a situation arises,rather than join hands with them.