Ahead of Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018, state Congress chief Dr G Parameswara has his job cut out. Not just galvanising members of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee but ensuring smooth assimilation of structural changes in the Congress have become his priorities. In an interview to OneIndia News, the KPCC President highlighted why he believes that a win in Karnataka meant a perceptional change for the Congress across the country and how the next Chief Minister of Karnataka will be chosen if his party comes back to power.
What makes the Congress confident of a victory in Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018?
We are very confident and I say this without any hesitation. We promised and have delivered. Not just have we announced programs but have also effectively implemented them. People are aware that there is an active government that cares. Our milk scheme, rice scheme, farm loan waivers, agricultural schemes have all reached the people.
How different is your approach to elections this time around?
There have been huge structural changes within the party. Congress can't be stuck in the 'grand old philosophy' despite being a grand old party. We have constituted booth committees and each member is allotted 15-20 houses in the booth. Their job is to reach out to the families and explain work of the Congress in the area, state as well as national level. Not just local workers, but big leaders too are made responsible for their constituency under 'My neighbourhood my responsibility'.
Will Karnataka bring change in fortunes for the Congress at the national level?
I do hope so. This country needs a government that can take care of all people and help them climb up the development pyramid. Congress is a party that can do so. A win in Karnataka polls will bring a perceptional change for the party. I think it will help the nation become competitive within Indian polity.
What was the thought behind visiting constituencies where the Congress had lost in the previous elections?
It was a conscious move to galvanise party cadres in those localities. We also wanted to reach out to people to draw a comparison of development between constituencies with a Congress MLA and others. In the last election, we have lost 16 seats with a margin below 5,000 and 26 seats with less than 10,000 margin. We may lose some of the 124 seats that we won last time according to our analysis and need to make up for the loss. We hope to win in at least 20 of the constituencies that we lost in last time to even out the possible loss.
Is a united BJP a threat to the Congress in Karnataka this time around?
That is the reason we are reaching out to seats where we lost. According to our analysis, seats, where we won with a thin margin, can go two ways- either the margin has shrunk leading to a loss or the MLA has done very well, increasing the margin ensuring a victory for us. Although there is no anti-incumbency for the government, there may be anti-incumbency at constituency level and we are trying to overcome the same.
Is the Congress being compelled to assert its Hinduness because of the BJP's Hindutva card?
Not really. We are only clarifying that we are Hindus too. 70 per cent of Congressmen are Hindus and there is no need to divide us on lines of religion. Ours is inclusive Hindutva, theirs is exclusive Hindutva. They call it Hard Hindutva and ours, in their words, is Soft Hindutva. Terminology doesn't matter, we are only telling people that we are as Hindu as BJP is.
Is appeasement the Congress' only poll plank to retain power in Karnataka?
I do not call it appeasement. The poorer sections, whether one likes it or not, largely constitute Dalits and minorities. Who should take care of them? Call it appeasement or whatever you like but we have to do it in the larger interest of the country and the society. Somebody has to do it and bring out a balance.
How does Congress view the venture of parties like All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) into Karnataka electoral fray?
BJP has always attempted to divide our votes. They are attempting this in Hyderabad Karnataka and heart of Bombay Karnataka regions. AIMIM, we suspect was funded by BJP in UP and they may try to repeat the same in Karnataka. But AIMIM won't dent Congress' prospects. The minorities are united and there is barely a presence of AIMIM.
Does S M Krishna campaigning for the BJP in old Mysuru region make the Congress uncomfortable?
It is unfortunate that a tall leader like S M Krishna, to whom the Congress gave everything, left the party. Having said that, would he be able to have the same impact like he did when he was in Congress? I don' think so. He is a different S M Krishna now whom people look at differently. I do not think he will be able to dent Congress' prospects anywhere he goes.
Has the change of leadership at the centre affected state units?
There is a tremendous transformation in the Congress in terms of the leadership itself and the way we look at politics. A new system and new ideas are emerging. Rahul Gandhi's personality is to reach out to the younger generation since they are the future. Party, at the state as well as national level, will soon be run by more than 50 per cent younger leaders. More responsibility to state leadership is also one of the changes. In this election, for example, we will take charge whether it is Amit Shah or Narendra Modi. As president of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi will address rallies and campaign but the onus lies on us.
Will the Congress project a Chief Minister face ahead of Karnataka Assembly polls?
We have never done that. The benefit of choosing a CM is given to the legislators. Siddaramaiah was also chosen through ballot papers and was elected as CM not selected. The same process will continue and if everyone feels Siddaramaiah should be reelected, then so be it.
|Karnataka Assembly Election dates|
|Date of notification||April 17|
|Last date to file nominations||April 24|
|Last date to withdraw nominations||April 27|
|Date of polling||May 12|
|Date of counting||May 15|