Though shocked by the humiliating defeat in the byelections to the Bangalore Rural and Mandya Lok Sabha constituencies, Janata Dal(S) State president H.D. Kumaraswamy, who has offered to resign as party chief and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly owning moral responsibility for the debacle, appeared composed during an interview with The Hindu in the wake of the latest political developments in the State.
He was answering phone calls from party workers and leaders who, he said, were urging him to reconsider his decision. Refusing to attribute his party’s defeat to the tie-up he struck with the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr. Kumaraswamy said that the message, “Opposition unity to end the Congress regime”, did not reach the electorate in the din of the ruling party’s campaign against the alliance.
Similarly, he refuted the allegation that there were differences between him and his father and party national president H.D. Deve Gowda. He, however, said that there is a “generation gap”. The way he (Mr. Deve Gowda) sees politics is different from my perception, he added.
Here are the excerpts:
Q: Your party leaders are describing your decision to quit the two posts as a knee-jerk reaction to the byelection results?
A: I don’t think that it is so, as the decision was taken after carefully weighing the pros and cons. I had offered to quit as the State party president even during the run-up to the Assembly elections with a view to liberate the Janata Dal(S) from the blemish of being a “father and son party”. But, I succumbed to pressure from party leaders. I had even refused to lead the party in the Assembly after the elections, but it (the post) was imposed on me. Now, I feel that it is time to hand over the baton to capable leaders as I am pained by the blemish attached to the party.
Q: Is your decision linked to the drubbing the party received in the byelections?
A: Of course, not. It is natural for any ruling party to win in the byelections. The BJP won in every byelection it contested after coming to power. Similarly, the Congress won the byelections after coming to power in 1999. The ruling party always has an edge in the byelections. ‘Anti-incumbency’ has not percolated yet to the grassroots as the government is just three months old.
Q: But the tie-up with the BJP has been blamed for the party’s defeat in the byelections…
A: I don’t subscribe to the argument. It is difficult to attribute the party’s defeat to the tacit understanding we had with the BJP. The Congress exploited the situation by alienating the minority community from our party.
A section of the media even launched a campaign against our tie-up with the BJP. We sincerely made an attempt to consolidate the anti-Congress forces in the State and it was an experiment. But the message did not reach the electorate and the grassroots workers and leaders. Even senior BJP leaders, including that party’s State chief Pralhad Joshi, have admitted that there was no clarity about the alliance.
Q: The BJP has blamed lack of clarity between your father and you for the party’s poor performance and H.D. Deve Gowda had even clarified that he was against the tie-up…
A: Yes. My father was against our party leaders sharing the platform with the BJP. I thought of uniting the Opposition parties to end the ‘Congress Raj’ in the State. There is a generation gap between us. The way he (Mr. Deve Gowda) perceives politics is different from how I see it.
Q: Your reaction to the allegation that minority leaders in the Janata Dal(S), especially the former Minister Zameer Ahmed Khan, did not campaign for the party in byelections?
A: Though many leaders did not campaign for the party, only the absence of Mr. Zameer Ahmed Khan is being talked of. I am aware that some “overconfident leaders” in a few Assembly segments also did not campaign. There is no need to attach any importance to Mr. Khan’s absence during the campaign.
Q: What will be your future course of action?
A: This defeat in the byelections is a temporary set-back. The party will rise like a phoenix and improve its position in the general elections. I have advised the cadre that there is no reason to be demoralised. The party will bounce back.