Multilingual actor Prakash Raj surprised his adversaries and his numerous fans when he announced that he would contest as an Independent candidate from Bengaluru Central Lok Sabha constituency. First off the blocks, in the past two months, Mr. Raj has criss-crossed the constituency and most of its voters. Excerpts from an interview with The Hindu :
Karnataka does not have a history of electing intellectuals, writers or actors. The State has not elected an Independent to the Lok Sabha in the past 52 years. Are you confident of breaking this norm?
People are not looking at me merely as an actor. They know me as a political activist raising basic issues, besides being an actor. The voters who are disillusioned with the political parties are looking at me.
Why specifically Bengaluru Central?
This constituency is a mini-India because of its linguistic diversity. It is from here my life took wings and I reached different horizons. I lived in Chamarajpet, Gandhi Nagar, Shanthinagar, and Sudhama Nagar during my early days.
You are being viewed as a divider of secular votes, which could ultimately benefit the BJP...
I am not working on the lines of the Congress. I have been questioning their secular credentials. Now, basic issues such as the plight of education, health, agrarian crisis, and water crisis are important; it is not a matter of secular ideology alone. Secular democratic values are under danger from both national parties. While the Congress is peddling soft Hindutva, BJP is fiercely propagating it. We have started projecting the Congress as an alternative to the BJP, but in the process compromising on secular credentials. I believe that Karnataka is gearing up for alternative politics. The time is ripe.
Do you think the Pulwama attack and the BJP’s nationalist agenda will bury the real issues?
During my visits to Assembly segments in Bengaluru Central, people in the lower strata of society are not worried about Pulwama and air strikes. They are busy collecting water for tomorrow. That is their reality. Pulwama and chest-thumping about air strikes won’t have any impact on them. Of the 2,000-odd slums, about 590 are notified. The lives of many people are miserable as they don’t have title deeds.
You have supported Mandya’s Independent candidate Sumalatha. Now, she has the BJP’s backing. Will you still support her?
Of course. She did not seek the BJP’s support. The BJP extended support and she accepted it to fight against the mighty Congress-JD(S) combine. But that does not mean she will support the BJP. I am confident of that.
You are now being accused of electoral malpractice, of having four EPICs in three States. Your answer?
It is a ploy of political parties to harass and torment me, diverting my attention from aggressive campaigning. If it were true, the Election Commission would have rejected my candidature.