Lingayats with BJP due to work of party, not because of individual leaders: Rajeev Chandrasekhar

‘In the case of Laxman Savadi and Jagadish Shettar their personal ambition was more important than what the party wanted to do. They sacrificed four decades of party ideology and jumped into Congress’, says the Union Minister

Updated - April 20, 2023 08:07 am IST

Published - April 19, 2023 08:16 pm IST

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar. File

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrashekhar speaks to Nistula Hebbar on Karnataka polls, defections and rebels, hijab, corruption allegations etc.....

BJP has been facing rebellion after the list of candidates was declared, notably by senior leaders like Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi. How do you see this and what impact will it have on the BJP’s prospects?

Our party is one that believes in giving openings and breaks to karyakartas and youngsters. In this election we are giving tickets to 74 new faces. The consequence of that vision obviously conflicts with an existing leader who wants to continue with the status quo. Usually, in the case of many senior leaders, there is understanding of the party’s vision and they step aside allowing new people to take the candidature. In the case of (Laxman) Savadi and (Jagadish) Shettar their personal ambition was more important than what the party wanted to do. They sacrificed four decades of party ideology and jumped into Congress. Jagadish Shettar in the Congress is as chalk and cheese as you can get, for example — the incident at the Idgah Maidan, the Ram Mandir issue, appeasement politics of the Congress, the promise of the Congress to roll back the reservation given to Lingayats and give it back to Muslims — how he will manage to navigate this maze of contradictions and hypocrisy he only has to answer. After all this, I can assure you we (BJP) will win Hubballi-Dharwad Central with a record margin.

Doesn’t their joining Congress somewhat ameliorate the narrative of hurt sentiments between the Lingayat community and the Congress?

With great respect, I would like to say that the trust between the Lingayat community and the BJP is because of the work done by the party for and with the community. That won’t change because two leaders are disgruntled with the leadership of the party. Our relationship with communities and people of Karnataka is deeper and built around fundamental principles of ideology and work rather than a leader saying that he is bringing 10,000 supporters to the party who leaves the party when he does as it happens with Congress. In fact, we have done a study that shows us that 80% of the contribution to a winning candidate in the Congress is his/her own efforts as an individual, in the BJP however, it is about what we represent and what we do as a party. Also, if you go back to 2018, the games that the Congress played with the Lingayat community are clear, trying to declare them a separate religion, all the games that (former Chief Minister) Siddaramaiah did and for which D.K. Shivakumar had to apologise. There is a history to what the Congress has done to the Lingayat community and a history to what the BJP has done for them and that history does not get erased just because Jagadish Shettar wants to fulfill his personal ambitions.

The campaign of the Congress around corruption is a challenge for the BJP.

It is not a challenge, the “40% sarkara” campaign is an idea of somebody like the Prashant Kishors of the world, there are many free floating advisors, one of whom has been hired by the Congress, and who believes he is cleverer than half and that the best form of defence of the Congress’ 60 years of corruption is to float this theory that there is 40% corruption in the BJP government. The fact is that no case of 40% corruption has been filed against the government despite the Chief Minister asking them to do so, secondly, the BJP government was the one that strengthened the Lokayukta, in the face of Siddaramaiah wanting to disband it and winding up the Anti-Corruption Bureau. What has been the result? Our own MLA’s son was caught by the Lokayukta. No slick twitter hashtag of “40%sarkara” created by a political consultant hired for a load of money by D.K. Shivakumar is going to fool the people. Its a nice political effort, but the poster boys of corruption are the Congress.

What is your comment on the “Milk wars”?

Look at the pattern of the Congress narrative in the last two weeks — Nandini Vs Amul, then Siddaramaiah’s letter about Hakki-Pikki tribals from Karnataka stranded in Sudan blaming the Centre for it, D.K. Shivakumar wanting to roll back Lingayat reservations restoring them for Muslims, Rahul Gandhi wanting to breach the constitutional limits to reservations with more, and today Randeep Surjewala saying that the Congress wants reservations for Lingayats and Scheduled Castes. They speak from both sides of the mouth hoping some lie will stick and this politics can be characterised as “promise and scoot” as in the case of the non-implementation of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) promised in Himachal Pradesh. Nandini today is the pride of Karnataka, farmers are making more money, Amul says they want to buy milk from Karnataka, and Congress makes it a political issue, despite the fact that Siddaramaiah was the one who gave permission to Amul in 2017 to enter Karnataka. This taking up of an issue for a span of a minute and a Twitter hashtag so that some Kazakh bots can bulk it up, is their political strategy. We on the other hand are speaking of free rations, homes built.

But you have also spoken of polarising issues like Hijab, Tipu Sultan etc.

For that Yediyurappa ji, the tallest leader in the State, has said that this is not talk for these elections, we will talk of development and roads etc.

But your State unit president Nalin Kateel said development was not important only Hindu consciousness was.

He said it in a particular context in his constituency, but if you look at our advertisements, our social media material, our television commercials, our electoral narrative is about the work of the government, otherwise Hijab etc would have reflected in our campaign material.

Do you think these issues will be deployed when the going gets really tough?

Appeasement policies of the Congress is a legitimate issue to talk about and I shall tell you why. Siddaramaiah when he was Chief Minister has a clear record of withdrawing cases against People’s Front of India and Congress has had electoral understanding with the SDPI. We will talk about that, but to say we are against any community is not correct.

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