Q&A: Congress ‘patents’ secularism where it’s strong, says HD Kumaraswamy

Even before the two national parties could start their poll campaign, former CM and JD(S) state president H.D. Kumaraswamy had hit the road. Ten years out of power, he feels that the forthcoming election would be decisive for the future of regional parties in Karnataka.

Despite predictions by poll pundits that the JD(S) will not be able to capture power on its own, Mr Kumaraswamy feels  his party will achieve the magical number of 113, needed to form the government. In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, he says his party’s  campaign this time would be a mix of traditional methods supported by a high tech propaganda blitz through the digital media. Excerpts from the interview:

How crucial is this election for your party?
Being out of power for ten years, the election is an acid test for me.  It is difficult for any regional party to survive without power for a long time. This time, we have to come to power.

There have been many incidents in the party, leaders have migrated, looking for greener pastures. They feel the party will not come to power. There is an inevitability for us to rise above the two national parties- Congress and BJP. However, it is not confined to JD(S) alone. It is inevitable for the people of Karnataka to get out of the clutches of the national parties. Both have drifted from the track in governance. That is a positive point for us.

How are you preparing for the polls?
Before the national parties could do it, JD(S) announced the first list of its candidates and they are already at work. Even before the two parties could finalise poll strategies, I hit the road and have been touring the entire state. In the Congress and BJP, candidates are not sure about their seats, they are still lobbying for tickets.

During the previous two elections, I had committed some mistakes. After a thorough introspection and discussion with our national president Mr Deve Gowda, I have managed to correct these mistakes. Earlier, people used to gather wherever I went, but this mobilisation did not convert into votes. This time, I can see that they are turning into votes. Besides, I have got people in every constituency, who can capitalize on these crowds and convert them into votes for themselves.

Though you claim to be secular, why has the Congress intensified its attack on you?
This is basic Congress culture. It wants to have a patent for being secular and tries to impose it wherever it is strong. However, wherever it is weak, it  seeks the help of smaller or regional parties.

Take Karnataka itself. When it fell short of numbers in BBMP,  Congress leaders came to us for support. Even during the Assembly by-elections in Nanjangud and Gundlupet, KPCC president Dr Parameshwar and Mr Dinesh Gundurao came to me, pleading not to field candidates and help them win the election.
What does Mr Rahul Gandhi know about Karnataka to call us the B-team of BJP? His entire party is the B-team of Janata Parivar. 

Mr Siddaramaiah calls JD(S) leaders opportunists. Let him come out with the truth about visiting Mr LK Advani's house to join the BJP, when Mr Kharge was made opposition leader. Mr Siddaramaiah was always an opportunist, he took the help of everyone and later put them down.
These arrogant statements will prove counterproductive for the Congress not only in Karnataka, but in the entire country.

You said if you cough standing next to BJP, the Congress will be wiped out…
 I was just warning them about their plight, if I join hands with BJP again. When I had formed the government with the help of BJP(in 2006), Congress leaders used to say that they did not have a future for the next 20 years. Now, they are passing all kind of comments against our party and trying to break us by spreading rumours that we will not come back to power.

One of our leader, who quit (Zameer Ahmed) says that I have been pestering him to rejoin the party. I am not desperate. The Congress is desperate to have leaders from other parties to regain whatever they have lost. If they continue to behave like this in Karnataka, the BJP's dream of making the country Congress Mukt, will come true. This is just a warning to them.

There are rumours about several of your family members contesting the polls?
I have always maintained that only two from our family will  contest. However, party workers want some more from our family to contest, citing local reasons. In Bengaluru Rural district, I have a dream of converting Ramanagara-Chennapattana into twin towns for better development, so I have to win both seats. Since it is difficult to resolve differences among party workers in Chennapatna, party workers want either Mrs Anitha or me to contest from there. There is also a proposal that I should  contest from both constituencies. I have left the decision to people of Ramanagara.

Though you claim to be a farmers party, you are adopting modern technology.  How important is it to you?
Our agenda is not only protect  farmers, but also be a catalyst for development. When it comes to branding, this is a necessity of the changing times, so we are using Social Media and other tools to reach out to people in real time. Mr Deve Gowda still follows the traditional way of campaigning, so our method would be a mix of modern techniques and traditional experience.

After all this, if voters deliver a fractured mandate like they did in 2004, what will be your stand?
I don't believe in this theory at all. I am confident of touching the magical figure of 113 and even more. We know the pulse of people on the ground, we are not making absurd claims.

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