Yogi Adityanath Ineffective In Karnataka, Says KPCC President
Karnataka Congress chief G Parameshwara opens up about the party’s preparations for the upcoming assembly polls.
Amidst rumours of a rift in the Congress party and the emergence of two power houses within the party, former Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara has been given the charge of leading the party.
The Quint caught up with Parameshwara, who is the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, for a candid conversation on the party’s preparations ahead of the poll.
While rubbishing rumours of a rift in the party or any conflict between Siddaramaiah and him, Parameshwara said that the biggest challenge for the Congress will be countering the Hindutva politics of the BJP.
While saying Siddaramaiah may or may not be the chief ministerial candidate for the party, Parameshwara said his own candidature for the post can’t be ruled out. He said that the decision has been left to the high command.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
The Congress is conducting two parallel campaigns in the state, led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and you. Is this a sign of a rift within the party?
We have started the campaign in two directions and this is part of a strategy. The first team under leadership of Siddaramaiah will focus on the constituencies where the Congress had won in 2013, while the second team, led by me, will focus on constituencies where the Congress lost the seats.
We have done this consciously and it is not because of any differences.
There are around 28 constituencies where the margin of loss was less than 10,000 votes and 16 constituencies where the margin was less than 5,000 votes. We are putting our efforts on these areas, so that even if we lose some of the seats we are already holding, we will be able to make up for it up by getting the lost constituencies back.
Karnataka rarely votes in the same party twice, so the political trend in the state is against you this election. How is the Congress planning to counter the anti-incumbency factor?
Good governance is to deliver what people expect from a government and according to us, we have delivered on those expectations. There are only a few areas where we have not managed to leave an impact, issues like traffic and garbage problems in Bengaluru.
But if you look at the larger picture of the state, there is no feeling of anti-incumbency. The issues that needed to be addressed, may it be in housing, farmers’ issues, irrigation, infrastructure, we have delivered.
The response we have got so far for these programmes during our rallies shows that people are happy with them. These schemes will be the main thrust of our campaign.
BJP’s response to your campaign is focused primarily on the Hindutva agenda. What’s your counter strategy?
We knew this was coming.
Their previous government doesn’t have a good report card to showcase. They are still confused about what future they are promising to the people of the state. In the speeches during the BJP’s Parivarthan Yathra, their leaders have not been able to announce a single programme that gives the people hope. With no development agenda to showcase, they will have to play with people’s sentiments and resort to communal politics.
In fact, we expected the BJP to start communal politics much earlier.
We have done good work. So, we will ask the people whether they want the BJP’s polarising politics or a peaceful governance, fulfilling people’s aspirations. We believe people of Karnataka would opt for a peaceful life.
Do you think Yogi Adityanath’s campaigns could be a game-changer for the BJP?
I don’t think so.
Firstly, it is not his business to comment on the government of a different state while being a chief minister. It is against the spirit of the Constitution.
That being said, how many in Karnataka would know who Yogi Adityanath is? Maybe in the urban parts of the state, but in the other parts of the state, we believe he would make little impact.
The Congress has been accused of indulging in a ‘soft Hindutva’ approach where leaders are seen visiting temples and making statements identifying themselves as Hindu. Is that also a part of your election strategy?
I am surprised that Rahul Gandhi going to a temple is dubbed as soft Hindutva. We have been going to the temples for ages. Our leaders have visited temples, what is so great about it? We are a secular party and we want everyone with us.
Is the Congress in talks with the SDPI (the political front of the PFI, allegedly responsible for murders of BJP workers) for an alliance or to ensure they don’t take part in the elections, in order to consolidate Muslim votes in coastal Karnataka?
I want to categorically state that we don’t have an alliance with the SDPI and we don’t want to have any alliance with them either. We are not asking them to back out from the election either.
However, the minorities have come to an understanding that the minority votes being divided in Uttar Pradesh led to the BJP coming to power. They don’t want this to be repeated in Karnataka. They want to vote for a party which is secular and would protect their interests. They look up to the Congress for this. The community leaders and members of our party, who are part of the community, have resolved to come together to support the Congress.
Does that mean the SDPI will not contest the election?
It is up to them.
The BJP has announced BS Yeddyurappa as the chief ministerial candidate. Is Siddaramaiah the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate?
Maybe or may not be. It will be the decision of the Congress Legislature Party. But he has led the party during the last five years and he will be projected as the leader of the party during the campaign.
During the last elections, you were also one of the chief ministerial candidates. Are you a contender this year as well?
Last year I lost the elections, so I lost the chance. About this year, it is up to the high command.
What has the Karnataka Congress learnt from Gujarat?
One, the BJP is losing ground. It is no longer the BJP we saw in 2014. Some big changes are going to happen, because people are disappointed. People have understood that the BJP is trying to mislead people.
The programmes they have announced have not been implemented or even started. Also, Rahul Gandhi’s leadership was excellent, he was able to convince the young voters that the BJP has been lying to the people of the country.
Are GST and demonetisation important election issues for the Congress in Karnataka?
Yes, for those affected by GST, this would be an important issue and we will take it up. However, in Karnataka, the main thrust will be on the local issues concerning Karnataka.
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