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'Modi wave much bigger than Vajpayee wave of 1999'

March 18, 2014 14:15 IST

'Modi wave much bigger than Vajpayee wave of 1999'

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Vicky Nanjappa

A surprise candidate, columnist Prathap Simha will be contesting on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket from Mysore. Barely a few weeks old in the party, his selection sparked a row causing a lot of heartburn among local leaders as he was picked over two-time Member of Parliament P CH Vijayshankar.

But the 37-year-old, who has penned Modi’s biography (Narendra Modi: The Untrodden Road), is undeterred and fairly confident of a win.

In an interview with Rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa, Simha talks about the hope that Modi brings, the Aam Aadmi Party’s negative politics, the Congress’s 'truly corrupt governance' and journalists as agents of change.  

You are up against senior Congressman H Vishwanath. Moreover, Mysore is also the hometown of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. What are your chances considering this is your first election?

Yes, there are a lot of such factors in the Mysore constituency. I have a fair chance of winning and I will ride the Narendra Modi wave.

Journalists speak about a lot about issues in elections. But the reality is that there is caste arithmetic in play. What are the caste equations in the Mysore constituency?

Although my name does not indicate so, I am from the Vokkaliga community. There are 16 lakh voters in my constituency. The Kuruba community that Vishwanath belongs to has 1.30 lakh voters and all their votes will all go to him. He will also bag the 2.5 lakh Muslim votes in the constituency.

What the BJP relies on is the 4 lakh Vokkaliga, 1.75 lakh Kodava, 1 lakh Brahmin and 2.5 lakh Lingayat votes. The Vokkaligas and the other communities are against the Congress, which has indulged in a lot of appeasement and bad mouthing in these communities.

So is caste the only deciding factor in the constituency?

No that’s not all. You must remember that out of the 16-lakh voters there are nine lakh in Mysore alone, which is an urban area. Urban areas will vote for Modi. Moreover, there are new voters who are young and who want to see Modi as the prime minister. The educated class in Mysore has always voted for the BJP. Moreover, there is not only anti-incumbency against the United Progressive Alliance but also against Vishwanath my opponent.

How would you compare the elections of 1999 and 2014?

To be very honest, the Modi wave this time is much bigger than the A B Vajpayee wave of 1999. This time there are no undecided voters. In 2009, the issues raised by the BJP were more about black money and a weak prime minister. That issue was raised at a time when Manmohan Singh was still a darling for the middle class. However, that image has changed completely today.

Today, the issues that are being raised by Modi are very relevant and it is a lot to do with a nation-building exercise, which has made the young voter especially very enthusiastic. He raises the major issue of unemployment, which is very close to the young voter’s heart. A student studies for years and is unable to find a job. This is why the issue of unemployment raised by Modi and the need to create opportunities has impressed the younger India.

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Image: A supporter of Modi during a rally in Mumbai
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters

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'Journalists want to be agents of change'

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Your candidature was surrounded by controversy. They picked you over veteran Vijayshankar, which has caused a lot of heartburn among the local leaders. How does this affect your chances?

Everything will and has already started to fall in place. There is dissidence everywhere and in everything. Isn’t there dissidence in the newsroom in which we work as well?

But the show does go on. What everyone will and has to realise is that the ultimate goal is to make Modi win. I am out here not seeking a vote for myself but for Modi. Even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, for probably the first time, has come out in the open and said Modi should be prime minister.

The other issue is that you were given a ticket before you officially joined the party…

This is not a fatal issue. Even Nandan Nilekani joined the Congress after his candidature for Bangalore South was announced. I have officially joined the party now.

There are several candidates from the journalistic background in the fray this election. Why this sudden trend?

Journalists entering politics is nothing new. There was Arun Shourie and M J Akbar too. Today, the role of a journalist is very limited considering the advent of the Internet and the social media. Information is available everywhere and the journalist hardly has any work to do when it comes to informing. We, as journalists, write about making a change. We want to be the agents of change. But then there is a limit and when we exceed this limit, the next thing to do is enter politics in a bid to further that change.

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Image: Columnist-turned-politician Prathap Simha with Modi
Photographs: Prathap Simha/Facebook

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'AAP was impressive but started practicing negative politics'

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Was it your individual decision to join politics? Why was BJP your choice and not any other party?

Many people forced me to join, especially my readers. The Congress was out of the question for truly corrupt governance. The Aam Aadmi Party did not impress me. Yes, when the AAP was launched, they spoke the right language and the slogan India against corruption was impressive.

However they started practicing negative politics. They only blatantly blame, but never show proof. They never speak about concrete plans. Modi, according to me, spoke always in the right direction and I saw him as a hope. Moreover, the BJP was looking for a young candidate with enthusiasm and hence I was picked.

How do you plan on managing a campaign, which requires quite a lot of money?

To tell you the truth, my bank balance as of today is Rs 32,000. Party funds are available and we propose to carry out a simple but effective campaign without throwing money around.

Why has the BJP re-inducted B Sriramulu? How will this impact the party?

The party has given a thought to a few aspects before this move. He is from the Nayaka community and this will help the BJP in Bellary, Raichur, Koppal, Chitradurga and Gadag.

Realistically what do you think the BJP will get in Karnataka, which has 28 parliamentary seats?

As of now, realistically I would say 16. Once the campaign gets underway, I see this major Modi undercurrent emerging. This will ensure that the BJP crosses 20 seats in Karnataka.

The Congress has only known to appease. The Lingayats and Vokkaligas are left out and sidelined by the Congress and hence there is a lot of anger among many voters. The wave for the BJP thanks to Modi will only get stronger in the days to come which will leave our opponents demoralised even further.

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Image: An AAP supporter during a protest in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters

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'I am journalist who is right and not right-wing journalist'

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Has Narendra Modi agreed to campaign for you?

Modi will address a rally at Mysore. His presence will help me a lot.

How has the reaction from the journalistic fraternity been?

Many of them are supportive and I am sure that they will help me.

You are termed as a right wing journalist. You have criticised Tippu Sultan. Will you raise these issues and try to polarise the Hindu votes?

On my profile, I had said I am a ‘right journalist’ not a right wing journalist. I meant I was right and not wrong. That was misinterpreted. My campaign will not target communities or try to beat up communal sentiments. I am here just to seek a vote for Modi. Developmental issues and unemployment is what I intent sticking to.

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