Vijay Sankeshwar, Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Dharwad in north Karnataka, rattled it yesterday by quitting the organisation, reportedly to launch his own regional outfit.
The 53-year-old Sankeshwar, one of the bigger transport operators in the country, explained his reasons for breaking away from the BJP to M D Riti in Bangalore in a telephone interview from his residence in Hubli, Dharwad's twin town, last evening.
What prompted you to quit the BJP now?
The party has simply not been developing for the past one year in Karnataka. Elsewhere in the country, the party is doing such good work. I am proud of it. But in Karnataka, it has simply not grown.
I have no problems with the BJP. I do not want to get into any kind of confrontation with them even now. In fact, quite frankly, I do not like the idea of leaving the BJP at all!
Then why are you leaving?
Simply because if I don't act even now, and take the decision to leave this party, I will be party to pushing Karnataka into a death trap. A corrupt, poor government will come to power again in this state after the next election. I am only making this move to save my state, which I love dearly.
What, in a nutshell, do you think ails the BJP in Karnataka?
I think the party has no proper leader. It has lakhs of good workers. But there is no strong or good leadership here. The party is simply not gearing itself up to face the election next year. If it goes on like this, it will face a debacle.
And you think the solution lies in strong and desperate measures like getting out now?
I am desperate to save Karnataka from a corrupt regime in the future. That is my only desperation. I am not desperate to quit the party, but I see no other way out.
Could you not have done this from within the party?
No, this was not possible within the BJP. A viable party needs professional management, like the Telugu Desam Party has.
What, then, are your future plans?
I propose to build a new regional party in Karnataka like the AIADMK or TDP. Ever since news of my decision to quit spread, I have received telephone calls from at least 70-80 well-wishers, congratulating me on what they feel is a very good move.
How soon will you do this?
I will make my next move after 15 days, after seeing what kind of response I get from my supporters. Congratulatory calls and appreciation are all very well. But let me see how many of these calls take the shape of actual support. Many people express support, but how many actually stand by you remains to be seen.
Will you lead this new party?
Not necessarily. After some weeks, a body will be set up which will choose the right person to lead the party. We will slowly then arrive at a suitable name and symbol. Believe me, I am in no hurry for all this to happen. I do not want to be in a big hurry and end up with the wrong choice of leader!
What kind of party cadre will you build up?
I want to take youngsters who are genuinely interested in social service. I want a completely non-political cadre. Politics should be only a part-time engagement for them. It should not be their bread and butter. I do not want any more career politicians in my party.
But do you think you will succeed in your attempt to build a strong regional party in Karnataka?
Yes, I certainly hope I will. Why not?
You do realise, don't you, that many others have tried this before you, and nobody has succeeded in providing a strong regional alternative to national parties in Karnataka.
Most of the other attempts were primarily designed to defame the Congress. That's why they all failed. They had no clear independent goals or objectives. We do not want to defame anyone. And we have a clear, independent, strong vision.
But so did the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.
Well, they were too lowkey to succeed.
Even [former chief minister S] Bangarappa's attempts to start regional parties flopped badly.
Oh, his only aim was to do the Congress down every time, and wrest some seats from them. We just want to do the right thing by the people of Karnataka and offer them a party that knows this particular state well and wants to do the best by it. Neither the Congress, nor the BJP, nor the Janata [Dal] are in any position to give the people of Karnataka a good government.
So now will you form a common front with the regional parties you mentioned, like the TDP and AIADMK?
Certainly not! We are clearly focussed on Karnataka, elections to this state, and leading it with a good government. Nothing more. No alliances, nothing.
So what will you do next?
I will give you a clear picture of our plans after 15 days.