Congress leader and Kanakapura MLA D K Shivakumar, who spearheaded the operation to keep their MLAs together, still has work to do. Ahead of the swearing-in of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and the floor test, Shivakumar speaks to Apurva about allying with opponents, his future in politics and the challenges for the coalition government in Karnataka.
How hard has it been for the past 4-5 days?
We could not get a clear mandate for the Congress. It was Rahul Gandhi who triggered this entire operation. He gave a direction: plan A, B and C. We wanted a secular government and keep the BJP out… It was a team effort. And the JD(S) was gracious to accept our offer. They were also under a lot of pressure. In the national interest, both parties decided to have a secular government.
One point of time, the Honourable Prime Minister himself went on record to say he will not allow this Congress-JD(S) government to come together. He is the PM, he should be above all this… When we did not have numbers in Gujarat, we walked out. When he tried to do whatever he could do in Goa, we accepted it. But the same law, the same judgment could not be applied here… There was no option, we had to go to court. Immediately, we had to keep our flock together, their families were under pressure, MLAs were under pressure, they offered a lot of things. Some of this was released on audio and video. We are grateful for the court’s directions. Ultimately, they could kidnap only two. We were tracking them.
The next step is swearing-in on Wednesday and a floor test. Do you foresee problems again?
They may attempt… They are least bothered about the country, image… The image of the BJP at the national level after they tried to block this government has come down and ultimately, all Opposition parties are uniting. N Chandrababu Naidu wants to participate in the swearing-in. Mamata madam, Sharad Pawarji… and Mayawati are part of this alliance.
You kept the MLAs in Eagleton first, then in Hyderabad, will this be necessary until the trust vote?
(Laughs) Yes, yes, definitely.
The JD(S)-Congress alliance has a history. It became an issue in 2006 when the alliance fell. How will the party handle this?
We have to go by the present situation. I am a strong opponent of the JD(S). But when Rahul Gandhi has taken a decision in the interest of the party, we have to swallow bitterness. It is the collective country’s interest that is important rather than individual interest.
The JD(S) has done well in Old Mysuru region. Did the Congress expect this?
Whether Congress expected it or not, I was expecting it. I informed this to my party bosses in Delhi. Once I was not declared PCC (Karnataka) president, I knew this would happen. There was a little uneasiness. In politics, we have to share and care.
With an alliance government, and CM-designate H D Kumaraswamy being a big south Karnataka leader, what is in store for your career?
I have left it to the party leadership. I believe they will give me some justice for my hard work. Because a lot of people are watching me also… All of you are watching me and my actions. If Congress does not look at this (pauses)… I have trust in the Gandhi family… They won’t let me down.
How difficult will it be to hold this alliance together? Last time, the JD(S) pulled out and formed a government with the BJP.
It will not be a problem. We will not keep the MLAs in hotels forever. We have to learn lessons from our past experiences.
How will you keep Congress MLAs together after forming the government?
They know the reality. They want a Congress government. They don’t care whether they get power or not. They also know that everyone cannot get power. I want a very smooth government. We will take it forward.
There are elections to three Assembly seats coming up — RR Nagar, Ramnagaram and Jayanagar. Will there be an alliance?
In a day or two, we will come to an understanding, we will send a message. We will take a political call. Before the elections, we will have to give a message to keep the BJP out, our numbers are very important.
Do you believe this alliance will affect the 2019 Lok Sabha elections?
Definitely. On this issue, the entire opposition is united. All the secular forces are united. National Conference leaders, Chandrababu Naidu, TRS, Lalu Prasad, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee… all the southern Chief Ministers called and extended their support. They want to be part of this big alliance and we are calling them. Already H D Kumaraswamy is in touch with those leaders. Mr Gowda is a smart player.
Is there a possibility that the Congress and JD(S) will go together in 2019?
Some discussions have taken place. The party will announce it at the right time. We want to keep the BJP out. When we are running the government, we cannot ask our workers to fight each other.
The Congress was confident going into this election. What went wrong?
Destiny went wrong… I admit we have failed. We will sit together and discuss and see that the problem does not happen in future. For us, the next Parliamentary election is important and all Parliament by-elections are there — Sriramulu’s election, Yeddyurappa’s election and in Mandya. Then Assembly elections are a big challenge.
How difficult was it to convince JD(S)?
It was not so difficult. Mr Gowda had earlier told his son that at no point of time should we have such issues.
You were vocal about the JD(S) and Kumaraswamy and Deve Gowda.
Politics is an art of possibility… Anything may happen. No individual things. We should forget our individual issues.
Were there any demands made during talks with the JD(S)? Did the Congress initially want to give only outside support?
No. That was not the point, otherwise the government would not be stable. We were always going to be part of the government.