Many parts of the constituency you are fighting from, Tumkur, are hit by agricultural distress. How are you addressing the issue?
In Arsikere, Kadur, Chitradurga and parts of Davangere, the coconut crop is completely gone. We took pictures and went to the Prime Minister. We sought compensation saying it has been given in the past in Kerala. No reaction. We have promised Rs 500 compensation for every failed coconut tree. In an acre there may be 40 trees… Already Rs 150 crore has been released by the H D Kumaraswamy government to compensate for coconut crop losses. The Prime Minister only indulges in empty talk. We sent a letter to the Union Agriculture Minister, who said there is some merit in the letter. But in the end, he sent a letter saying that the issue should be handled under the drought relief assessments. They granted Rs 1,700 crore for drought relief but not a rupee for coconut losses. Under the MGNREGA, they have released only Rs 1,500 crore and the state government is struggling to make payments.
I do not want to discuss the BJP. I do not want to react to whatever charges may be brought against me. It is below my dignity to use unparliamentary words. I am only concerned with what I am going say to the electorate… Even after the elections, I am committed to doing what I have promised, irrespective of the results.
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There has been a lot of confusion in the Congress-JD(S) coalition over seats. Are the parties now working together?
There is no problem in the coalition in Karnataka. The coalition is working honestly and sincerely to defeat the BJP and reduce its strength. There are some small issues, some ministers are not yet fully committed, the matter has been left to the Congress high command. As for the JD(S), there are no doubts.
In the case of Mysore, there is no reason for doubting us — I have taken the responsibility as well as Kumaraswamy. The point is that Siddaramaiah (Congress leader and former CM) wanted Mysore… The state Congress initially wanted to give us only five seats. I told Rahul Gandhi to clarify. I told him to give us eight seats which the Congress had lost last time, apart from Hassan and Mandy, which we had won… The state Congress began bargaining from five seats but Rahul Gandhi was perturbed and he… decided to give us eight seats. Among the eight was Mysore. Siddaramaiah however said Mysore is his region and that he will lose control if it is given away. So we agreed to let it go. In response, they themselves gave Tumkur to the JD(S). Congress leader and Deputy CM Parameshwara and MP Hanume Gowda came and asked me to contest from Tumkur.
At the national level, do you see the loose coalition of opposition parties playing a role in the next government? PM Modi calls the alliance a Mahamilavat (grand adulteration).
At the national level, the Congress lost power in 19 states in four years. This sent Modi to the sky. He has remained in the sky and has not touched the earth. I thought about this and decided that a solution is needed. I began working with all opposition parties. When we were offered a coalition by the Congress in 2018, I held consultations with six opposition chief ministers and then a coalition began gaining traction. The BJP subsequently lost 11 by-elections in the country.
I do not believe Modi will return to power easily. Neither of the two groups will get a clear majority… there will be regrouping after the polls. Mayawati is saying, ‘I am not going with the Congress or BJP’… Mamata Banerjee is also taking a hard decision. In these circumstances, they will all have to be brought together after the polls. If that is done, then the coalition will be a success.
Modi has accused CM Kumaraswamy of playing vote bank politics over the Pulwama attack and Balakot air strikes.
The issue is how did a vehicle with such a large quantity of explosives manage to slip through the security cordon and carry out an attack on a CRPF bus in Kashmir (Pulwama). Despite carrying out surgical strikes, was there no intelligence of such an attack? To cover up their own mistakes, they (the government) says ‘Go to Pakistan’ when questions are raised. These are irresponsible statements.
You have said in some of your rallies that the BJP has destroyed Kashmir with its policies. What policy do you advocate to restore peace in the region?
When I became the PM in 1996, no PM had gone to Kashmir in 10 years. I met all the groups, including Hurriyat leaders. Tourism was dead and people were in debt. When I met different groups, they said, ‘Waive off loans and help us start our lives again’. We waived off the loans. Fundamentally, we must create a means of livelihood for the people of Kashmir. We must create confidence for people to live their lives. We were able to do things because people trusted us. In Karnataka, we had given a lot of benefits to Muslims and this gave me credibility in Kashmir. Security agencies warned me against going to Kashmir but we went, and nothing happened. In a coalition of 13 parties supported by the Congress, we did all this. I created an atmosphere of confidence. The issue during the period was autonomy and the people of Kashmir were seeking control of the administration, barring defence and finance. When PM Narasimha Rao had conducted elections, only 2 per cent polling had been reported. When we conducted the polls, it rose to 58 per cent.
What message does the JD(S) Lok Sabha tickets to two of your grandsons, Nikhil Kumaraswamy and Prajwal Revanna, send to the youth?
Three years back, I had taken a decision not to contest again. Party leaders said I should contest until death. Even in Parliament I had announced. The Speaker had called me — she has also been denied a ticket by Modi — and said I am a senior leader and I must contest.