A vote for JD(S) is a vote for Kannadigas: Kumaraswamy

Claiming that previous tie-ups with the BJP and Congress in the State were both bad experiences, the JD(S) leader, often termed a “kingmaker”, said there was no question of allying with either national party this time.

Updated - April 28, 2023 09:10 am IST

Published - April 27, 2023 09:00 pm IST - BENGALURU

Former Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy addresses a press conference in Bengaluru on April 15, 2023.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy addresses a press conference in Bengaluru on April 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

This Assembly election in Karnataka is seen by made as critical for the survival of the Janata Dal (Secular), but party leader and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy told Nistula Hebbar that the party’s strategy of starting early and focussing on constituencies where its previous margin of loss was narrow will lead them to a clear majority. He indicated that success for a regional party in the State will bolster all regional parties in alliance negotiations in the run-up to next year’s Lok Sabha poll, but refused to speculate on future tie-ups. Edited excerpts from the interview:

How far do you agree that this is an election of existential value for your party?

This election is a very challenging election for our party, individually for me too. I’m not bothered about the question of existence as very safely we are present in Karnataka. Whether we got 30, 40 or 38 seats, without JD(S) nobody can do anything else. But in this election we are planning to reach out, in a practical way, to a large number of people and win 123 seats. Wherever we failed in the previous three elections, we identified all those things. We lost more than 30 to 35 constituencies within the margin of 400 votes to 3,000 to 4,000 votes. We have identified those constituencies, where if we had identified problem areas earlier would have seen us win 60 to 70 seats comfortably. This time, we are nourishing our constituencies by identifying candidates a year earlier and making sure we don’t repeat our mistakes.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has termed your party as a kind of “B team” of the Congress?

This has been raised by both parties, BJP and Congress. According to me, I request the people of Karnataka, if you vote for Janata Dal(S), it’s a vote for Kannadigas.

Both BJP and Congress are looking to expand their bases by giving tickets to Vokkaligas (BJP) and Lingayats (Congress) as well. How much will that dent your prospects?

Whatever number they have allotted to contest from Vokkaliga or Lingayat candidates, that is not the issue, main thing is the strength of the candidate.

What do you make of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s efforts at forging opposition unity?

That is premature now. Our total concentration is to get the magic number in Karnataka with our struggle. Bringing several parties together will only start after the conclusion of these polls, according to me. Once a regional party succeeds here, that will send a message to all regional parties to sit and discuss and formulate in a proper way how to go into the elections of 2024.

But there was a show of unity after the last Karnataka polls of 2018 and at your swearing-in ceremony as Chief Minister…

Several friends had good relations with [former Prime Minister Deve Gowdaji] and that’s why they came, not to discuss a united front.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always shown great respect to Deve Gowdaji, but it also sets off speculation that the two parties are in talks for an alliance.

Because of my father’s honesty and his hard work, rising from a poor background, and the way he carried himself in his political life, he has elicited respect from many friends, including hon’ble Prime Minister.

But what about speculations of a tie-up?

He [Gowda] meets for development or problems in his constituency and State. That’s all.

You have allied with both the BJP and the Congress in the past. Which is worse? Will you repeat it?

Both were bad experiences. There is no question of allying with BJP or Congress. People will bless us with clear majority.

There was a major issue in Hassan, where one of your family members wanted a ticket and you stood firm in your refusal.

Only some sections of society created a problem. From the beginning, I said, ‘This is a family matter, we will sort it out privately’. Ultimately, this is what happened, smoothly, with a happy ending.

You have accused Union minister Prahlad Joshi of having designs on the Karnataka Chief Minister’s chair. Why did you say that?

When I raised the issue, it was something I observed; now everyone is thinking about it. I’m not against Brahmins; we respect them. The only question I raised was the particular DNA factor of those who attacked our Sringeri Mutt, that we are not in support of that DNA. Now people are looking at the developments in BJP and saying that I was right.

The BJP and Congress are approaching the polls with minutely finessed caste equations. Who plays it better?

Nobody can play the caste game. It’s not going to help anyone. The BJP also childishly raised this and now they have to repent. What they announced [the new reservation policy], they haven’t been able to implement successfully. They just went ahead with it without application of mind.

What is your view on a caste census as demanded by several parties, including the Congress?

There are certain guidelines in the Constitution and things have to be done within those guidelines.

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