H D Kumaraswamy, former chief minister of Karnataka and Janata Dal-Secular leader, tells Rakesh Prakash he is confident of defending his political turf.
What kind of a strike rate do you expect in the Karnataka assembly elections this time?
Pre-poll surveys published in the media have restricted the JD-S to 20 seats out of the 89 assembly constituencies in the first phase. What they have deliberately forgotten is the fact the first-phase elections are being held in the Old Mysore region, which has been our stronghold. I have toured all 11 districts and I am sure of winning 40-45 seats in the first phase itself. In the second phase, we hope to get 19-22 seats and in the third phase, about 25 seats. In all, we will score a century in the 224-member assembly.
Don't you think you are overestimating your ability? You are carrying the baggage of not honouring your word and are responsible for forcing these elections.
I prefer not to underestimate our potential. I have toured the state and interacted with the people. I am confident of the JD-S bouncing back to power. But our worries at the moment are the pre-poll survey reports being published in the media. These reports, which create confusion in the minds of the voters, might affect our ability to garner more votes. I don't know why the media is so negative about us. In fact, in the last elections too, the media said we would get less than 10 seats. Now, they are again toeing the same line and it is being done systematically. Otherwise, we will comfortably get what we are aspiring for.
Won't the anti-incumbency factor affect you as nearly 98 per cent sitting MLAs have been given tickets.
I don't think so. People have confidence in me.
The Congress sees the JD-S as a synonym for political instability and the BJP views it as a betrayer. What makes you so confident of coming back to power?
Unlike the Congress or the BJP leaders, who are away from people, I am not. I mix with people and I know how they feel. That gives me an edge over the Congress and the BJP. Moreover, the sympathy wave for the BJP has lost its effect as people have got to know who the betrayer was. It was the BJP that betrayed me when one of its members made the Rs 150-crore bribery allegation against me without evidence.
What are the issues you think will work in your favour?
I was in the saddle for just 20 months and I have been admired for being the common man's chief minister. I have attended to everyone who has come to me, either during the janata darshans or during my village stays. Second, I have come out with several pro-people development programmes. Third, our manifesto does not take people for a royal ride, as other parties are doing by giving all kinds of assurances. Moreover, we have been saying, it is the regional parties that are genuinely interested in the state's development and not the national parties.
The general understanding is that regional parties lack vision and commitment.
What have the national parties done for Karnataka so far? Several long-pending demands of the state, be it infrastructure projects or development programmes, continue to remain neglected. Neither have the national parties solved the language and border issues confronting the state. On the other hand, they are only making people's life more horrifying. While the previous BJP-led NDA government facilitated rise of fuel prices, the present Congress-led UPA government is responsible for failing to check the rising prices of commodities. The JD-S, which has strong roots in Karnataka, knows the pulse of the people.
Your party has been accused of playing the urban versus rural game to score poll points.
We are neither anti-urban nor pro-rural. We know there is a gap between urban and rural areas, we are only trying to bridge it. But we are being misread.
But Bangalore, one of the country's crown jewels, suffered in terms of infrastructure development and ability to draw investments in the last four years when your party was a partner in power.
How can we be held responsible for Bangalore's problems? The Congress had its leader, Dharam Singh, as chief minister for two years. Who stopped him from working? It was the Congress that halted Bangalore's progress. When I became chief minister, I took several decisions to improve the city. It was during my time that the decision to implement TDR (transferrable development rights) scheme was taken and road-widening works started. We came down heavily on land grabbers. We take credit for chiseling Greater Bangalore.
The Congress brought back S M Krishna to leverage its pro-Bangalore image. How will that affect you?
How can Krishna take credit for what has been achieved by the IT industry? It is the industry players who took strides on their own. Those in power cannot claim credit for the growth of the IT sector.
Then why does your father H D Deve Gowda slam the IT sector?
My father was not against the industry, he only stood up against those who tried to gobble land in the name of industrial development. When he opposed these real estate players, he was branded as a villain. Unlike the manufacturing sector, which needs space to set up huge plants, why do IT industries need hundreds of acres? This is what Gowda asked and he came to be labeled as anti-urban.
The Congress has pitted the daughter of former chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde against you in your home constituency Ramanagaram. The talk in political circles is that your family loses political battles against women. That is what happened to Deve Gowda in the 2004 election.
I have not really taken this to heart. A man or a woman, a rival is a rival. I have reposed faith in Ramanagaram's voters. I have not campaigned in the constituency as I am touring other parts of the state, but I am hopeful of winning by 50,000 votes.
What if there is a hung assembly this time too?