Five-time MLA and former Minister
Dinesh Gundu Rao
, 48, is the youngest leader to head the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). In an interview, Mr. Rao spoke on challenges before the party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and “failures” of the Narendra Modi government. Excerpts.
Having taken charge at a time when a coalition government is in power in Karnataka and there are umpteen issues of coordination being raised, what are the specific challenges for a KPCC president?
Since we are running a coalition government, we need to see that this coalition works effectively. The Common Minimum Programme should be implemented and any sort of disturbance within the coalition sorted out amicably. There should not be any compromise in our core ideological foundation also. The Congress believes in secularism, social justice, and free liberal thought. So, there should not be any kind of fear among community, and the law and order should be good. Some variations in some programmes are okay. Initially, there will be some hiccups because two parties fought against each other in the elections and later came together. It’s not easy to suddenly start working smoothly. We saw many contradictions in the BJP government under B.S. Yeddyurappa too.
How are you and your party getting ready to face the Lok Sabha elections?
We have to work for the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP has not been able to make a dent in any south Indian States except Karnataka. We know that the elections may be advanced to December because the BJP is now afraid of losing in three or four north Indian States. The Central government is worried about building up of anti-incumbency. We have to prepare for this possibility.
What are the issues the party will focus on during the Lok Sabha elections?
The main issue is that the NDA government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has neglected Karnataka. They have not given us anything significant. One Indian Institute of Technology (Dharwad) was given, but the State government spends more money. We have given prime land. They have not made any efforts to solve issues such as the Mahadayi water dispute.
But the BJP has done well during the last few general elections.
Traditionally, the BJP has been doing well in the last few Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka because of various reasons. But what benefit has Karnataka got by electing 17 BJP MPs in 2014? The Congress elected six MPs in 2009 and we had External Affairs Minister, Railway Minister, and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister from Karnataka. Among the BJP MPs now, only Ananth Kumar holds the Chemical and Fertilizer and Parliamentary Affairs portfolios. Prominent portfolios such as Finance, Railways, Home, and External Affairs were not given to the State MPs.
Also, today, business has not improved, jobs have not improved, dollar value against rupee has appreciated, industrial production is low, and farmers are in distress. The government did nothing for the last four-and-a-half years. Now, six months to go for the elections, the government has announced the Minimum Support Price for commodities and it’s not a very big increase. Mr. Modi promised many things such as bringing back black money, and two crore jobs a year. But all have ended up in sloganeering, event management, and inflicting fear into people who oppose. He has created an atmosphere of fear in this country.
The former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah recently said the Congress was unable to counter the BJP’s false propaganda during the Assembly elections. What is the course correction?
There is no change in our ideology. The BJP used the death of people such as Paresh Mesta and gave it a communal colour. Leaders such as Anant Kumar Hegde and Shobha Karandlaje spread all kinds of false information. They created so much of hysteria. So, the Congress was projected as anti-Hindu in some places. A false perception was created among Lingayats that the Congress is diving the community. The request for separate religion status came from the community … So efforts will be made to correct such perceptions.
M. Veerappa Moily has said the Congress will fight 18 to 20 seats in the Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka. What’s your view?
So far, no talks have held on seat sharing between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular).
The Common Minimum Programme of the coalition government should be implemented and any sort of disturbance within the coalition sorted out amicably.
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