My decision to quit has nothing to do with HDK government’s functioning: N Mahesh

For him, Mission – 2019 is more important than a minister’s post and so he did not think twice when he got a message to quit and get into the act of organising the party for the crucial Lok Sabha polls. Primary and Secondary Education Minister N Mahesh, the lone Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA from the reserved Kollegal Assembly constituency in Chamarajanagar district,  spoke to Deccan Chronicle on his future course of action. Here are excerpts

What made you take the sudden decision to quit as minister? Were you not happy with the portfolio given to you? 
Let me clarify that I was neither unhappy with my portfolio nor sore with the government. I decided to resign only to involve myself in activities to strengthen the party. I got elected to the Legislative Assembly after four unsuccessful attempts. People of my constituency are so emotional that they started thinking that I was becoming distant from them after becoming minister. Even the opposition parties starting spreading canards that I spend more time in Bengaluru than in my constituency. To disprove my detractors, I resigned as minister to make myself available to people of my constituency all the time. It was sheer coincidence that I resigned at a time when the BJP is claiming it will form the government in the next two months by toppling the coalition.

There are still seven months to go for 2019 Lok Sabha polls…why did you resign so early?
Six months is too less for me to organise my party in all 28 parliamentary constituencies besides,  touring all eight assembly constituencies in  Chamarajanagar Lok Sabha constituency,  I have to tour at least 12 other constituencies where the Bahujan Samaj Party has good support. Already our party supremo and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati, has swung into action to ensure the maximum number of seats for the party. Hardly 180 days are left for the Lok Sabha polls and we have to pull up our socks to make our Behenji the next prime minister.

Getting a berth in the council of ministers is considered lucky but you resigned all of a sudden? 
From the beginning I was not attached to my post and so I have no regrets about my resignation. In fact, I was unable to mingle with my workers after becoming minister. I had told my police escort to take rest and not disturb people while going to Bengaluru or coming back to Chamarajanagar. 

Going by the history of Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka, the Bahujan Samaj Party has not made any significant impact. How can you woo Dalit voters when your party?s roots are in Uttar Pradesh? 
It’s true that my party is based in Uttar Pradesh but don't forget that Dalits are there across the country. My party is quite strong in Chamarajanagar and can impact poll fortunes in Mysuru, Mandya, Hassan, Chikkamagaluru, Tumakuru, Bidar, Kalaburagi, Raichur, Koppal,  Kolar and Chikkaballapura.  All we need is a bit of an awakening to boost the morale of our workers. 

Dalit votes are divided among Congress, BJP and JD(S), how can the BSP can get those votes?
You are right, at present Dalit votes are divided among the two national and regional parties. Now the Dalits feel the need for a party that will take care of them. They feel the Bahujan Samaj Party is the best alternative as other parties have used and dumped them all these years. In fact,  the Janata Dal (Secular) won at least a dozen seats because it had a  pre-poll alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party in the recent assembly polls. We are confident of winning the Chamarajanagar Lok Sabha  seat easily, we will also will give a tough fight in another 10-15 constituencies. A humble beginning has to be made to provide a platform for Dalits to air their grievances and stake their rights.

Will your party follow the UP strategy of wooing both Dalits and Brahmins even in Karnataka?
That will be one of our strategies to bring on board both upper castes and oppressed voters to engineer a real social change. It is still in the primary stage and will be fine-tuned in the coming days. I have held two BSP conventions in Mysuru and Chamarajanagar and similar meetings will take place in other LS constituencies. 

Do you plan to contest the 2019 LS polls?
No.I will continue as an MLA as I know how difficult it is to get re-elected to the assembly.  I will visit all Lok Sabha constituencies in the coming days. Our Behenji has already announced a tie-up with the Janata Dal (Secular) and our leaders will campaign where JD(S) has fielded its candidates and vice-versa.

Is your party financially sound to contest the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka?
The primary membership fee to join the Bahujan Samaj Party is Rs 50 unlike Re 1, Rs 2 or Rs 5 in other parties.  Our party functions on donations from people, we don't take money from capitalists. Our party workers are the source of our resources.

Did you quit because you were unhappy over the coalition government’s performance? 
Not at all. I enjoyed a good rapport with Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. My decision to quit was purely personal and has nothing to do with the government’s functioning. I am indebted to Mr Kumaraswamy for giving me an important portfolio. I am still a part of the coalition government and there is no change in our  support for the Janata Dal (Secular).

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