Ten years ago, a young Congress leader took on K Ananthakumar in the BJP bastion of Bangalore South — and gave him a run for his money. A decade later, Krishna Byre Gowda, 45, has been chosen as the JD(S)-Congress’s coalition candidate against Union minister and incumbent MP Sadananda Gowda in Bangalore North constituency. A minister in the H D Kumaraswamy Cabinet, KBG, as he is known, is one of the most promising Vokkaliga leaders in the Congress and its urbane, suave face. The 2009 campaign that KBG, son of Janata Dal (United) leader C Byre Gowda, ran with the help of his wife, Meenakshi, was one of the earliest social media campaigns — it featured meetings with voters, which was called Coffee With KBG. Last week, he took part in a flash mob to connect with voters.
The last Lok Sabha election you fought was Bangalore South in 2009. How was that experience?
If we can generate a good quality fight, build a campaign and a momentum in a short span, and be able to gain the confidence of a large number of a people, that’s a sign of capacity and political character. I think we brought a certain freshness and sincerity to that election, which people did respond to. I may have lost the election but I won many people… And I benefited from that experience.
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Do you see this as a similar contest?
Yes. This is Bangalore North, where my Assembly constituency is located. This is also a constituency where we are fighting in coalition. So, the combined strength of the two parties is quite formidable in this constituency.
Karnataka voters have always voted differently in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. How do you see that affecting your chances?
There are national issues at play, but there are also local issues. In this constituency, BJP has been winning but the incumbent MP has been missing in action. The promise of jobs has been shattered. Unemployment has been the highest in 45 years.
In urban constituencies, Narendra Modi remains a factor. Some BJP candidates are asking for votes in his name. And so, it becomes, say, KBG vs Modi. That is a formidable challenge.
This is a parliamentary democracy, and by turning it into a presidential sort of contest, you are not only twisting the Constitution, you are making a mockery of parliamentary democracy. Ultimately, no matter what I say, BJP has very little respect for either the Constitution or parliamentary democracy. But I don’t think it is going to work. People are not going to be fooled by this sort of a comparison.
How is the JD(S)-Congress coalition working on the ground? There have been reports of differences in many constituencies
We have problems only in one constituency, Mandya, and the media has chosen to focus only on that. I would rather talk about the 27 other constituencies where we are fighting together very well. Case in point is Bangalore North, where there is perfect coordination between the two parties.
The BJP is fighting this election on the plank of national security. You have spoken about a sense of disgruntlement in the south. Do you see the latter counteracting the former factor?
I don’t know about counteracting. All the governments that have ruled India have protected national security. Let’s be clear about that. I cannot accept the premise in the question that we have conceded the national security plank. Who is responsible for the death of 40 soldiers in Pulwama? Was it not a breach of national security? What were the intelligence agencies under the Union government doing? Why couldn’t the Union government prevent it?
Coming to the south, yes, I think there is a palpable sense of being let down by the Central government among the people of the south. In Karnataka, I will give you one example. For the recent drought relief — one of the worst in Karnataka’s history — Maharashtra gets Rs 4,700 crore and Karnataka gets Rs 949 crore. Where is the parity? The way they have changed the terms of reference of the Finance Commission is rigged against the interests of southern states.
The Congress says it is fighting the election on NYAY (the proposed income guarantee scheme). But very few people on the ground know about it.
In the remaining few days, we will do everything to communicate this to people. We have the credibility to implement such a programme, having done RTI, RTE, Aadhaar, and NREGA.
How important is social media in your campaign?
In a constituency of 28.5 lakh voters and 40 lakh people, how do you reach people? In addition to conventional outreach campaigns, in an urban constituency, we have to use all media available to reach out to people.