At 75, B S Yeddyurappa has seen enough ups and downs in his political life in the last 10 years or so to last a lifetime. Denied his term as Karnataka chief minister by JD(S)’s H D Kumaraswamy in October 2007, the withdrew support to the government. This was followed by a brief patch-up, making Yeddurappa Karnataka’s first BJP CM in November 2007. But it was to last only for days, as Kumaraswamy refused to support the government. He led the BJP to victory in the 2008 elections and became the CM, but was forced to resign within three years after being indicted by the Lokayukta in corruption cases. He spent a few days in jail. He quit the BJP and formed his own party, only to merge it with the BJP just before 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He became an MP. Having received a new lease of political life under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah, he became the party’s CM candidate for this month’s Assembly polls.
Yeddyurappa spoke with Johnson T A at his hotel in Mysuru ahead of receiving Modi in Chamarajnagar for the Prime Minister’s first campaign rally on Tuesday, Excerpts:
Why is Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the BJP campaign in Karnataka from Chamarajnagar/ Mysuru, a region where the BJP is not strong?
He has come to Mysuru a couple of times in the past. The Chamarajnagar district is important to us. It is a central location and that is why he is launching the campaign from here. If possible, he will back for a second round to Mysuru as well.
Why are you, as the BJP’s chief minister candidate, not a part of all rallies with the Prime Minister?
The directions that I have been given is to travel separately. This is the wish of the Prime Minister and Amit Shah. Over the last two days I have visited six constituencies a day. I traversed three constituencies in Mysuru yesterday. Next I am going to Hassan. We don’t have time – there are only 10 days to the election – and we want to cover a maximum number of constituencies. So the Prime Minister is traveling separately, Amit Shah is traveling separately, and I am travelling separately.Ananth Kumar is (also) traveling separately. They (party leadership) have asked us not to go in groups.
Many surveys are now projecting the possibility of a hung Assembly. What is your assessment?
I do not agree with any of the surveys because we know from experience — like in Uttar Pradesh, where we got an absolute majority, contrary to projections. We are going to get absolute majority here as well. I have already fixed up the date for my swearing-in ceremony in as chief minister — May 17.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said the the BJP has entered a into secret pact with the JD(S).
We are contesting all 224 seats. He (Siddaramaiah) is saying these things in desperation… because he is afraid of losing in Chamundeshwari. We have also put a very good candidate in Badami in the form of Sreeramulu, and Sreeramulu is going to win there.
Your son Vijayendra was dropped as candidate from the Varuna seat against Siddaramaiah’s son at the last moment. It was a surprise to most people in Mysuru since your son seemed to be in with a chance. What happened?
Vijayendra remains in Mysuru/Chamarajnagar even after what happened because he is building the party in the region. He is running around on behalf of the BJP candidates. Since he is working for the party, the dissatisfaction has become (turned to) satisfaction.
What according to you are the biggest issues in Karnataka?
In my view, the biggest burning problem in Karnataka is that of irrigation projects. This is why I am promising to provide more than Rs 1 lakh crore for irrigation projects. We are also considering waiving off loans from nationalised banks.
How much we will waive off we will decide on May 3 or 4 in consultation with Amit-bhai and the Prime Minister. Our election manifesto itself will raise about 3-4 per cent votes for the party.
On the Mahadayi river water issue, farmers in that region are angry that no positive step has been taken by the BJP to resolve the issue. Instead you have said that it will be solved if the BJP is voted to power…
If we are elected we will resolve the issue in six months, we have said. We will definitely resolve it.
The decision of the Congress government to recommend minority religion status to Lingayats seems to have dented the BJP vote base among the community. What is your position on separate religion status since you have supported it in the past?
I would not like to comment about this. When the demand was made earlier, it was rejected by the UPA government. That is all I can say.
The decision to bring back the Reddy brothers in mainstream politics by giving them prime positions in these polls has created a negative perception about the BJP. Was this necessary?
There is nothing negative…. It was cleared by our national president Amit Shah. Some of the Reddy brothers are contesting the polls but we have not given a ticket to Janardhan Reddy. If they work for the BJP, it will be beneficial for the party. This was the view, and it was accepted by the party leadership.
On your personal front it seems like you are concentrating on the rest of Karnataka and ignoring your own seat of Shikharipura in Shimoga…..
There is no problem for me in Shikharipura. I will win by a margin of 40000 to 50000. I will go there whenever I get some free time from campaigning. I will go again this week and cover some talks in Shimoga.
After being active for four decades as a BJP politician in Karnataka how do you view these forthcoming elections?
There are a lot changes that have happened. I will tell you one important thing – in 2008 when we won 110 seats there was no Modi and there was no central government and we did not have the support of anyone. At that time we won 110 seats. Now we have the backing of the prime minister, all central ministers, we have the backing of all chief ministers of BJP ruled states and that is a big change and this is happening for the first time for the party.
How do you compare this election to the 2013 one where you floated the KJP after leaving the BJP?
Leave that alone. I don’t want to go back to those old things.
How tough is this election in your assessment for the BJP?
According to me it is a very easy election for us. It is the easiest election we have faced and we are going to cross 140 seats. I can give you a list of the candidates who will win right now. All these surveys will be proven wrong.
How do you cope with the intensity of electioneering at your age?
I have no problems. Over the last two years since I took over as the president of the party I have done three rounds of the state. Every day I cover around six to seven assembly constituencies. When I am in the midst of people I get enthused. I wake up at six am and work till 12 midnight every day.