Notwithstanding its rural moorings, the Janata Dal (Secular) has taken the poll battle to the very metropolitan Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) by fielding candidates in 194 out of the 198 wards. Former Chief Minister and party's State unit president H.D. Kumaraswamy led the campaign from the front by undertaking a whirlwind tour of various parts of the city in the run-up to the March 28 polls.
Taking time off his busy schedule, Mr. Kumaraswamy spoke to The Hindu and explained the reasons compelling his party to make a serious bid for power in the BBMP.
Question: The Janata Dal (S) appears quite determined to perform well in the BBMP polls.
Answer: It was during my tenure as Chief Minister that the civic body was enlarged from the erstwhile Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) to Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to provide better amenities to areas on the periphery of the city. The previous Janata Parivar governments, including the one led by H.D. Deve Gowda from 1994 to 1996, have contributed immensely to bring about civic improvements in Bangalore, which has now become an economic growth centre.
Yet, our political adversaries have been carrying out the propaganda that the Janata Dal (S) is anti-Bangalore. When we come to power, we will take up pro-people projects again to disprove them. Yes, the BBMP polls are a prestige issue for us and we take the electoral battle seriously.
How many wards do you think your party will win?
I'm optimistic about winning enough number of wards to rule the BBMP independently. There is no question of either accepting or extending support to the BJP or the Congress.
After the Janata Dal (S) and Congress entered into a seat-sharing arrangement for the recent polls to the Legislative Council, there was speculation that it would be repeated in the BBMP polls. Why did it not work?
The Congress leaders were averse to joining hands with us in the BBMP polls. Some of them even went to New Delhi to thwart the alliance. We were also wary whether such a seat-sharing arrangement would work as there was heavy demand for ticket from our own partymen.
But, is there a possibility of the Janata Dal (S) and Congress coming together in a post-poll scenario in the BBMP?
No. We prefer to sit in the Opposition if we don't win.
The row over Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project was kicked up ahead of the BBMP polls. Is it an issue?
The protests led by us against acquisition of land belonging to poor farmers — as part of the irregularities in the execution of BMIC project — is an ongoing struggle. It has nothing to do with BBMP polls. We will neither benefit nor lose because of our stand.
Can these polls be considered a referendum on performance of the BJP Government in the State?
No. Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has himself stated that they can't be considered as a barometer for his Government's performance.