Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader B S Yediyurappa, who came close to becoming chief minister, spoke to Nistula Hebbar on his party's 20-month government in alliance with the Janata Dal-Secular.
The Janata Dal-Secular has its own take on the last 20 months. What do you feel?
The last 20 months have passed smoothly. We never had any problem with each other on issues or power sharing. Now, if we expect a senior political leader to honour his word, are we being unreasonable? Our supporters are telling us that we should have known better than to trust the JD-S, but the world runs on trust. If we cannot trust each other, where will we end up? I believe in Basavanna (a 12th century seer and founder of the Lingayat sect in Karnataka). He said we must honour our word. In your lexicon, walk the talk. That has been our expectation
When you spoke to (Chief Minister) H D Kumaraswamy, what explanation did he give for backing out of the agreement between the two parties?
Well, after being chief minister for 20 months, he suddenly tells me that his father is not agreeing (to transfer of power). We entered into the agreement with him and not his father. That time, he said he was his own man, and even if his father disagreed, he was willing to form the government. Why is the situation different now? Isn't it his responsibility to convince his father. How can the BJP convince a chief minister's father?
Even H D Deve Gowda admits the 20 months saw a good government at work
Yes, but whenever he spoke of the government, he only spoke about his son, never anything about me or any BJP minister's performance. It cannot be that only the chief minister has been working. It was a joint effort. The entire coalition government has earned goodwill from the people together. If the JD-S has done well in urban local body polls, the BJP's performance has also been very good compared with five years ago. Therefore, the mandate is for transfer of power.
Gowda now says the BJP is communal and that he cannot ally with a communal party.
The BJP is not communal. Where were these sentiments 20 months ago? We have seen an atmosphere of communal amity in Karnataka, there have been no problems with the minorities. It is clear that a vote bank is being pandered to.
What about the riots in Mangalore last year?
There was that incident, but we had worse under the Congress regime in the past. In fact, the minorities under BJP regimes fare much better than under the so-called secular parties.
There is talk that your chances have been sabotaged by your own partymen, that certain BJP leaders inimical to you had an interest that (Tourism Minister) B Sriramulu make his allegations against the chief minister on the eve of power transfer.
That is not correct. We are one in the face of this challenge. Most political parties crave power, it is only the 17 BJP ministers who selflessly resigned for the honour of the party.
Till now, we have heard only Gowda speak out against the BJP's treatment of his son. Were they very good to you?
Let me take some time. I too have a lot to say, and will reveal all soon.
Coming away from all this, your coalition government in Karnataka was perceived as being sluggish in attracting and accepting investment despite being an attractive investment destination. Why?
This is not true. We are open to investment and development, but like every state, we chose the sectors in which to accept investment. The new Bangalore airport will open on April 7 next year, global tenders have been invited for airports in smaller towns like Gulbarga, Bijapur, Hassan and Mysore. Our new industrial policy, which came out when I held the finance portfolio, is the best in the country. We have always extended concessions to investors when they have asked for it. The impression you say we give is not correct.
What would have been your thrust area as chief minister?
I really do not want to talk about it. It is not something I care to dwell on now.
I don't see how you can stop yourself from thinking about it. You must have had some ideas. After all, you were expecting to be chief minister on October 3.
I am the son of a ryot (peasant), and in my 30 years of political life, I have struggled for them. As state finance minister, most of my policies were for the rural poor. It is only in Karnataka that you get agriculture credit at 4 per cent, farmers and fishermen get loans and we have a programme called Bhagyalakshmi in which over 2.6 lakh girls have been given Rs 10,000 to encourage them to go to school. We have raised the old-age pension amount to Rs 20,000 per annum, possibly the highest in any state. These are the priorities I find the most important.
Karnataka is the only south Indian state where the BJP has become a strong political force. Why not elsewhere?
In Karnataka, the BJP has been able to connect with the people's issues in a direct way.
Do you mean to say that it has it been unable to do so in other states?
No, no, that's not what I mean. We have been a presence in Karnataka since 1983, when six MLAs from our party made it to the Vidhan Souda. We have charted an independent course here and let's face it, there have been no strong regional parties in Karnataka, unlike in Andhra Pradesh, which has the Telugu Desam Party and Tamil Nadu, which has the DMK and the AIADMK. We have had Congress or Janata Party governments, and therefore, national parties have found political space and easier expression here.
It is being said that Deve Gowda is being guided by an astrologer. Do you believe in astrology?
Yes, I do. I believe in destiny and God. I have tried to stick to my word and it is up to God to see that justice is done.