Q&A: Never said anything to hurt Brahmins, says Anand Nyamagouda

“Like my father, I also enjoy a good rapport with Brahmins as well as Lingayat community” Anand Nyamagouda, who belongs to the Lingayat community, has become the youngest legislator of the Congress party after he rode the sympathy factor to win the recent by-election in Jamkhandi constituency. The thirty-five year old MBA graduate has resolved to follow in the footsteps of his late father, Siddu Nyamagouda, who had pioneered the construction of the people’s barrage, Shrama Bindu Sagar which was built across Krishna river by uniting farmers. He has been serving as general secretary of Krishna Basin Farmers Association that lifts 4 tmc of water every year from Almatti dam backwaters and stores it in the barrage to provide irrigation facility to more than 60,000 acres. The association bears the electricity and other maintenance expenditure of lifting the water as it is a private barrage. Apart from maintaining good rapport with the farming community like his father, Anand serves as vice-president of South Indian Sugar Mills Association and also owns an education institution. He had recently stoked a controversy by allegedly giving a statement against Brahmins. Deccan Chronicle spoke to him about this and a lot more. Here are excerpts.

What is your vision for Jamkhandi?
I want to implement several projects conceived  by my father Siddu Nyamagouda. Setting up of a polytechnic college, digital library and multi-specialty hospital are among my top priorities. He had also brought 2-3 irrigation projects which are awaiting tenders after the government’s approval. There is also a need to develop roads in rural areas coming under my constituency. 

The recent bypoll was perceived as a Lingayat versus Brahmin contest. Lingayats  won the poll, isn’t it?
It’s not like that. People of all castes voted for me in the election that led to my victory by a whopping margin of nearly 40,000 votes. People are in deep sorrow after losing my father who had pioneered the construction of the barrage at Chikkabadasalagi by uniting farmers without depending on government assistance. The women folk had great respect for my father as they shed tears when I approached them seeking votes. Therefore, they chose to favour me in the election. Sympathy factor too played a key role in my victory. 

Many say Sangamesh Nirani would have won if he had contested on the BJP ticket instead of Shrikant Kulkarni…
I don’t think it is appropriate to react to such speculation. But, I can say with confidence that people’s respect for my father would not have become less if any other candidate had entered the fray from the BJP. Moreover, there are two groups in that party and differences led to the defeat of their candidate Shrikant Kulkarni. But top leaders of the Congress resolved the rebel factor in our party before the by-election and this facilitated an easy victory for me. 

You had banked heavily on youth in the election. What is your vision for the young generation?
I am planning to start a post-graduation centre and  higher education courses in Jamkhandi to dissuade youth from visiting far-flung areas for studies. Development of beautiful lakes and other tourist destinations will help generate 5000-6,000 jobs directly and indirectly for youth. I will also make efforts to start a training centre for them to enable them prepare for various competitive exams. 
 

Was it necessary to get embroiled in a controversy by targeting Brahmins after the bypoll?
I have never said anything that could have hurt the Brahmin community. The row erupted as the media did not telecast the entire video footage of my speech in a programme. One of the local Congress leaders drew a parallel between my first election victory and that of my father. He recollected that my father was inducted into the Union Cabinet just after defeating Brahmin community leader and former CM late Ramkrishna Hegde in 1990 in his first election as a youth leader. Likewise, I had defeated a Brahmin candidate, Shrikant Kulkarni, he said while expressing confidence that I would get a ministerial berth. Later, I clarified that my intention was not to defeat anyone, but to win the election and continue the legacy of my father as I feared that his speech would send the wrong message to the Brahmin community. I have maintained good rapport with Brahmins and attended every function organized by them like my father. I have also resolved the controversy by discussing it with leaders of that community. 

How will you handle the present row between sugar factories and farmers as an elected representative?
The fair and remunerative price (FRP) fixed by the Central government for sugarcane is justifiable. We will fight and ensure that every farmer gets this price. But, we cannot pressurize sugar mills to pay more as they have to consider profit and loss. There is no possibility of a rise in sugar price at this juncture if we look at the present market conditions. There is a chance of further fall in sugar price in the future. We have paid more price for sugarcane on earlier occasions when there was a good rate for sugar in the market. It is important to focus on survival of both factories as well as farmers. 

Most sugar factories are owned by ministers and MLAs in North Karnataka. There are allegations that their influence has stopped the government and officials from initiating action against sugar mills. What is your reaction? 
It is wrong to say officials have remained mute spectators when it comes to initiating action against sugar factories. The government had seized sugar stock during the last season and settled the pending bills of  farmers by selling it. The state government is committed to protect the interest of sugarcane growers. 

Has the Jamkhandi cycling sports event suffered a setback after the demise of your father?
Such a situation will never arise. Jamkhandi is acclaimed as the ‘Kashi of Cyclists’ as 3-4 national sports events were held with my father taking the initiative in this historic town. We will make all effort to realize his dream of organizing an international or Asian cycling event. There are many renowned cyclists who hail from our taluk and there is a lot of enthusiasm among them to conduct such an event as we have all infrastructure including a National Highway for this purpose. 

The seven decades old demand for district headquarters for Jamkhandi has not yet been fulfilled. How you will pursue it?
The state government will always follow some criteria before announcing the district headquarters. We will first focus on fulfillment of these requirements and will give more thrust to development of infrastructure. We will give top priority to construction of a well-equipped hospital, bus stand, revenue office, KSRTC division office, setting up of industries and education institutions, tourism development which are key factors before placing the demand for district headquarter status before the state government. 

The erstwhile ruler of Jamkhandi Shankar Rao Patwardhan had agreed to merge the princely state with India on the condition that the Bagalkot-Kudachi railway line would be implemented. The project going on at a snail’s pace. Why?
It requires a huge effort from all legislators from both Bagalkot and Belagavi as the long pending railway line connects both districts. The project was earlier stopped by the Union government saying it is economically unviable. Now, Jamkhandi has witnessed much growth as sugar mills, cement and lime factories have come up. The government has taken up tourism and infrastructure development that will help speed up the project. 

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