Gujarat is a tough election but BJP can't do a Uttar Pradesh in Karnataka, says Congress
With the Congress and BJP slated for a head-on fight in assembly elections in major states of Gujarat and Karnataka in a matter of months, both parties are working overtime. OneIndia caught up with AICC spokesperson and Karnataka Congress Working President Dinesh Gundu Rao to get a peek into the Congress' strategy to counter the BJP.
Is Congress considering the possibility of the BJP doing an Uttar Pradesh in Karnataka?
It is impossible for the BJP to do an Uttar Pradesh in Karnataka. This is a Southern state and not a Northern state. Secondly, there was anti-incumbency about different parties over the last 15 years but in Karnataka, there is no anti-incumbency. In fact, we have a lot of confidence, strength and unity within the ranks. Communal politics will not work here. We have given a government that has taken everyone along. There is no question of Uttar Pradesh repeating here.
We have a strong Chief Minister. Siddaramaiah is a very strong leader, unlike the BJP that has no leader in Karnataka. Yeddyurappa's leadership has weakened and now they are harping about Modi and Amit Shah. But our leader is more than capable of taking on the Prime Minister in this election. We know the BJP will bring its dirty tricks department to the fore to raid and detain our leaders and try to divide us. Siddaramaiah's leadership and approach will be more than a match to whatever Narendra Modi wants to do here.
What are Congress' chances of winning Gujarat assembly elections?
Gujarat will be a tough election. It is not like Karnataka and it is the home state of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi. But there is a lot of resentment against the government and its policies. There is huge disappointment among many communities in Gujarat. Dalits are being neglected, the Patidar community issues are present and traders have been affected by economy taking a beating with demonetisation and GST. Livelihoods have been affected. Where is the Gujarat model? Where is the development? There is hype. Yes, there are issues within the Congress party in Gujarat but this is the time to come together. We are confident of forming the govermment in Gujarat.
Is the Congress concerned about the BJP's Vistarak program?
Yes, they have been able to organise themselves better in recent elections. They have been able to get their members to campaign but we are also working at booth levels. Committees are being formed and we have been giving them programs to reach out to people and appraise them if the government's achievements. We have a lot to talk about and our achievements are being promoted.
The BJP does more of falsifying campaigns, using emotional issues to draw people to their side in the name of religion and communal tactic but Congress' plank is harmony and development. Our new General Secretary K C Venugopal is doing a lot, the secretaries are touring the state. Working presidents are visiting as many blocks as possible. The Congress machinery will be much ahead of the BJP machinery in terms of going to the people and ensure that the lies being spread do not work. We will ensure that facts about our work reach the people.
Are Congress and BJP building their narrative for election over Mangaluru unrest?
The BJP is trying to polarise votes. For the BJP this is an election agenda because they have nothing else to say about our performance or our government. They are trying to bring in divisive elements into the narrative. They are trying to create a Hindu-Muslim divide and are trying to polarise the voters. Provocative statements are being made not just by BJP leaders but all Sangh Parivar elements. VHP, ABVP are putting up provocative posts on social media and so are organisations like PFI. But BJP is a political party and they speak the same language. It shows that they are promoting it and this is their agenda.
The Congress wants communal harmony and peace in the district but BJP wants to provoke people and make it a state issue. They incite people to indulge in violence and are in a way responsible for the death of so many people. Now to blame it on Congress is a classic tactic ones who created trouble are now saying that the Congress is responsible.
BJP alleges that casualties have been higher on Sangh Parivar side
This is first of all false. The BJP's agenda is exposed right here. By saying this they have already taken a side. They are saying that when a Hindu dies they will raise their voice but when a Muslim dies they will remain quiet. There have been many instances of Muslims being attacked and killed by gaurakshaks and when that happens the voices are very few but when a Sangh Parivar member is killed, the voices are very loud.
Has Karnataka Congress changed under K C Venugopal?
He is a very hands-on persona and very direct. He is an experienced man who has been an MLA, MP and union minister. He comes with a lot of authority and experience. His team of four secretaries are on the ground. Nobody is camping in Bengaluru and then going back. They are visiting villages, travelling to the nook and corner of Karnataka. Definitely, it has had a very positive impact for us. There have been good interactions and exchanges. Meetings were held in the Congress office where even the Chief Minister was present to sort out district issues. His coming here has benefited the organisation.
Will there be early elections in Karnataka?
No, there won't be. We have been given a term of five years and we will complete it and elections will be held as per schedule. Whatever speculation by media or party is just that, speculation. Elections will be held sometime in April.
BJP hopes to win 150 seats in Karnataka. What is the Congress target?
BJP talks in the air. Their 'Mission 150' is no longer spoken of. BJP claimed that they will win the Gundlupet and Nanjangud bypolls and it will set the tone for the 2018 elections but after being humbled there, they are seeing what Congress has delivered. They talk without facts and figures in hand. Their mission 150 is bogus and for us, there is no such mission. We will get a majority. We will take our achievements to the people and we are confident that we will win a majority.