The political scenario in Karnataka is poised to take an interesting turn in times to come. The appointment of BS Yeddyurappa as the State unit president of BJP has lifted the sagging morale of the party workers in Karnataka. The rise of Yeddyurappa as the State party chief for the fourth time has not only established that Yeddyurappa continues to be the face BJP is set to put its bet on but he also shows staunch loyalty for Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, vowing to make Karnataka ‘Congress-Free’. Vijay Grover spoke to him soon after his ascent to the top State party post. Excerpts:
You had to wait for quite long to become the president of the Karnataka BJP again. Can you share with us the mandate given to you as you take up the role at such a crucial time?
I will fulfil the responsibilities given to me to strengthen the BJP in Karnataka. The PM feels that there are only a few big states where the Congress is in power and these should also be made Congress free. It is my dream to fulfil the wish of the Prime Minister Modi and BJP President Amit Shah to make Karnataka Congress-free. We are well placed to form the next Government as we have a very dedicated work force right upto the booth level. All of us will work together and I am sure we can definitely win 150 seats in Karnataka and fulfil the dreams of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi.
There has been a difference of opinion between you and other senior leaders in BJP. Do you think that you will get their support?
I am happy that all the leaders of Karnataka BJP stand by me and support me in this mission. On the other hand Congress is a divided house. Their leaders don’t trust each other and there are internal conflicts as the Government has failed. This will certainly tilt the balance in our favour.
Corruption charges against you continue to be a major thing. The Lokayukta report found you guilty on several counts of corruption and nepotism. Do you think people of Karnataka have forgotten that?
I respect the judiciary. Most of the cases which were filed against me have been settled by the courts in the last few months. There are one or two cases pending in the court which I am confident of winning. People know that all these cases were politically motivated and I will prove I was innocent.
Where do you think the present Siddaramaiah Government has failed? What according to you are key things that Government has not addressed?
The severe drought in Karnataka has created an extraordinary situation. The farmers are in misery. Suicides by farmers have crossed over 1500 and the Government has not done much. In more than half the State there is a huge drinking water crisis. And the farmers have nothing to work for and nobody is concerned about them as the CM of the State and his ministers don’t have time to even think what the farmers need. None of the ministers are touring the State and the drought affected areas to know the ground situation.
What do you propose to do? As an MP you have not had much time to understand the ground level politics. Do you think you can help the people?
I may have been an MP but have not lost touch with people. I have met farmers across the State in last few months during the ‘Kisan Sammelans’. I will tour the State and meet the farmers and ensure that the Center releases the funds required for meeting the needs of drought stricken areas. Earlier also, Rs 1540 crore was released by the Centre but the State Government has failed to utilise the money for farmers welfare.
When you were Chief Minister, you had launched several populist schemes. Many of those were discontinued by your successors. What will be your appeal for vote based upon?
My Government had launched several welfare schemes and many of those have not been implemented properly. We are committed to working for the backward and the minorities to ensure that the schemes designed for them should benefit them. We failed to communicate effectively the benefits of these schemes and paid a price for it in the last election. The farmers’ suicides which have cross 1500 in the State disturbed me. It is important that we reach out to the farming community and work for their welfare. The people have expectations from us so that the inefficient and corrupt Siddharamiah Government is removed from power and I will make a sincere effort in that direction.
The BJP was reduced to 46 MLAs and has thus not been a significant Opposition party inside and outside the Assembly. Are you confident that you will be able to boost its fortunes?
My predecessor (Prahlad Joshi) and his team of office bearers have been fighting against the anti-people policies of this Government. I appreciate the work that they have done and I promise to take forward the good work done by Joshi and his team. My roadmap is very simple. I will put before the people of the State the good work that was done during the previous Government led by me. I will convey them the schemes that were launched and the benefits that they brought. I will let the people know that I mean their welfare.
The elections are still two years away, but you are gearing up as if polls are only few weeks away. Are you hinting at an early election?
No. I am not saying anything like that. I am glad that my party has given me the responsibility well in time with nearly two years to go and with no major election in between. This will give me ample time to travel to all 224 constituencies in the State so that I can get a firsthand feedback from the Karyakartas or volunteers and party workers as also from the common people.
For nearly five years you have stayed away from any major responsibility. This has been from the time you left BJP to rejoining it again in 2014. How do you see this period?
There have been many ups and downs in my life especially in the last five years but the important fact is that I have been given this responsibility on the day of Ugadi. It is a day when we traditionally taste both Bevu-Bella (Jaggery and Neem) which is sweet and bitter. This signifies the party’s faith and enthusiasm vis-à-vis me. At a personal level I have got time through the last three years to analyse what is right and what is wrong. And I am confident that hereafter I will be able to lead the BJP to power in 2018.
Will you be the Chief Ministerial candidate of the BJP?
I will be Chief Minister.