I feel the people’s pulse, and I am sure we will come to power: Siddaramaiah

The Opposition leader of the Karnataka Assembly states that the ruling BJP government is the most corrupt government and that there is a strong anti-incumbency factor against them.

Updated - April 15, 2023 09:04 pm IST

Published - April 15, 2023 06:39 pm IST - Bengaluru

An aspirant for the Karnataka Chief Minister’s post, Siddaramaiah said the current Congress campaign will focus on addressing the problems of women, unemployed youth, farmers and price hike-related concerns. Illustration: Sebastian Francis

An aspirant for the Karnataka Chief Minister’s post, Siddaramaiah said the current Congress campaign will focus on addressing the problems of women, unemployed youth, farmers and price hike-related concerns. Illustration: Sebastian Francis

Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah firmly believes that there is strong anti-incumbency against the BJP government and that the electorate will oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Assembly election on May 10 for its non-performance and corruption. Excerpts:

Interview with former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah

What is the bigger motivation for you in this election? Is it to return as the Chief Minister or is it just that you want to see the Congress come to power?

Firstly, all my actions are aimed at bringing back the party to power. The BJP government is the most corrupt government. In order to save democracy, I am working towards bringing back Congress to power. On Chief Minister’s post, yes, I am also an aspirant to become the Chief Minister of Karnataka.

Why is Congress floating names for chief ministerial candidates so prematurely? KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar floated the name of AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge as well, while he too is an aspirant.

Elected MLAs will elect a leader of the Congress Legislature Party. Later, the high command takes a decision. That is the democratic process so far followed in Karnataka. There is nothing wrong in anyone becoming an aspirant for the post.

In a significant move, the BJP has fielded Minister and Lingayat V. Somanna against you in Varuna. How will it impact you, especially among Lingayat voters there?

I am the target of both BJP and JD(S). The ruling BJP is afraid of me. That is why they fielded a senior man against me. Somanna is not from Varuna constituency in Mysuru. His native place is Kanakapura in Bengaluru Rural district. His political activity has been in Bengaluru. They wanted me to be tied down to one constituency. But I am confident that the voters of Varuna will elect me. They have already made up their mind.

The Congress has been saying that it will get an absolute majority. What is the basis for your confidence?

There is strong anti-incumbency against the BJP; the most corrupt government Karnataka has seen. The BJP leaders have been unable to address real problems faced by the people. It’s a non-performing government. It has not fulfilled its promises made in 2018. Not even 10% of the promises were fulfilled. That’s why the people of Karnataka are fed up. I can feel the pulse of the people, and I am sure that Congress will come to power.

Poll analysts say JD(S) may well again play the kingmaker’s role and may end up supporting the BJP. In case of fractured mandate like in 2004 and 2018, will your party go again with the JD(S)?

According to my assessment, JD(S) will not cross 25 seats, while the BJP will get around 60 to 65 seats. Congress will get a comfortable majority of 130-plus seats. Congress will come to power... 100%.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known to change the mood on the ground even in Assembly elections with his visits. Uttarakhand elections last year is an example. How do you view the PM’s popularity among Karnataka voters?

I am not saying that he is an unpopular leader. But this is not a national election. People of Karnataka vote in this election on State-related issues and not on national issues. Home Minister Amit Shah, PM Modi, and BJP president J.P. Nadda have come to Karnataka several times. I don’t think their tours will impact voters who have already decided to vote against the BJP government.

What will be the focus issues for the campaign in the next few days?

We have already announced four guarantees, though we have not released the poll manifesto. Our campaign will focus on addressing the problems of women, unemployed youth, farmers and price hike. Real issues faced by the people in their daily life will be placed before the people.

Your party promised four “guarantees” for voters. What will it cost to implement these guarantees? Is it practical?

Yes, my party has already announced four “guarantees” for the welfare of the needy people. Annually, around ₹50,000 crore will be required to implement these. Karnataka is capable of meeting this expenditure. This year, the State budget touched ₹3.1 lakh crore, and every year the budget size grows by ₹25,000 crore. So, by the end of the five-year term, the budget size will be about ₹4.5 lakh crore. So, it is possible.

Why does Siddaramaiah have opponents both within the Congress and outside?

It is not true.... But yes, BJP and JD (S) are targeting me only because I have been making allegations against them based on facts and figures and taking up real issues directly related to the people.

Will the Congress undo the recently increased reservation to dominant communities and scrapping of the 4% quota of Muslims?

The BJP government has increased the quota for Veerashaiva-Lingayats from 5% to 7%, and for Vokkaligas from 4% to 6%. It has scrapped 4% reservation given to Muslims without basis in any reports or court rulings. We are not against increased reservation to any community. But they (BJP) should have amended the Indian Constitution for increasing the quota beyond the 50% ceiling fixed by the Supreme Court. Now, the reservation all put together has increased to 56% in Karnataka. It has no constitutional validity unless it is included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. They wrote to the Centre recommending it only after we raised the issue. The BJP government has no political will to increase reservation. It is just an eyewash. It should have done it in the proper manner as per the Constitution.

The Nandini versus Amul milk is an emotional issue, but will the Congress stance not create problem if Nandini wants to expand and sell in other States? Won’t Nandini’s entry to other States be opposed?

The Karnataka Milk Federation was formed to provide a market and protect the interest of our farmers. Why is Amul interfering in our market? We are telling the people not to demand Amul milk. Our Nandini brand milk is a very good product. What will happen to our farmers if there is no market for the produce? Of course, we are sending milk to Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and other States only because they wanted Nandini milk.

The party’s Udaipur declaration said 50% of posts will be for people below 50 years, but in the ticket distribution there are not many young faces. What’s the logic behind giving the ticket to old people such as Shamanuru Shivashankarappa?

Yes. It is an exceptional case. The people of the constituency are very particular that he should be given the ticket. It’s inevitable. But he is very active at this age (92). Moreover, he is the sitting MLA.

What is your view on Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha?

The Speaker’s decision to disqualify Rahul Gandhi is politically motivated. The notice issued to vacate the official residence was nothing but political vendetta. For instance, Ghulam Nabi Azad stayed in the official bungalow for one year after his retirement. Why did the Speaker allow him (Mr. Azad) to continue in the official quarters?

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