Bengaluru, April 23: Karnataka's grand old man, HS Doreswamy, is not known for mincing his words and he surely doesn't hold back when it comes to a certain politician who he thinks wants to kill the idea of India.
On a scorching afternoon last week, when OneIndia visited Doreswamy's residence in Jayanagar, Bengaluru, he spoke passionately about the upcoming Karnataka elections, why he and his friends started the campaign "Modi versus Karnataka", turning of Indian democracy into "demoncracy", importance of youths to take part in politics and much more.
Recuperating from old-age ailments, the freedom fighter, who recently turned 100, mostly stays at home these days. But a steady flow of visitors and friends keep him busy throughout the day. He is also inundated by a series of phone calls (well, he still uses a landline and likes to stay away from smartphones), which he answers himself every time it rings.
"Yes, a lot of friends and acquaintances come to my house to discuss politics of Karnataka and India at large. The Karnataka elections are a few weeks away. We have been talking about the need to defeat the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) in the state elections to keep Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) out of power in the next 2019 Lok Sabha elections," Doreswamy told sitting in his sparsely decorated bedroom that has the busts of Mahatma Gandhi and Buddha, two of his biggest inspirations.
Since the last few months, a group of civil society organisations have come together to start the campaign "Modi versus Karnataka". As part of the campaign, Doreswamy and others are urging voters to not vote for the BJP in the upcoming state elections. The elections to the 224-member Assembly in Karnataka are scheduled on May 12. The results will be declared on May 15.
When asked why he has taken such a firm stand against PM Modi, the centenarian who has earlier taken part in several citizen-initiative movements in Bengaluru, including preventing dumping of garbage at Mandur and ensuring housing facilities for poor, said Modi wants to "destroy the country".
"The BJP has a hidden agenda to turn the country into a Hindu rashtra (nation). We have also seen what is happening in the country since 2014. The society has been divided. The economy is in the doldrums. A lot of things are wrong. Modi has a host of bad people in his cabinet. He never takes any action against them," he said.
"Our democracy has turned into demoncracy," he added.
Talking about the importance of Karnataka elections, Doreswamy said he sees it as a prelude to the 2019 General elections. "If Karnataka defeats Modi, then he won't be able to come to power in 2019."
He, however, clarifies that when he speaks against the BJP, it does not mean he sees no vices in the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular). "They have also failed on many fronts and thus out of power. Here we have to choose the best from the worst."
Doreswamy and members of civil society groups recently met JD(S) patriarch and former PM HD Deve Gowda and asked him not to support the BJP in case there is a hung Assembly. "We want secular parties to rule Karnataka which is a very progressive state."
When asked about the role of Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the elections, he said that they are being just paraded by the big parties. "The elections are about local issues like lack of water, crisis in agriculture, bad roads and garbage, to name a few. The national leaders have little understanding about the state's problems," Doreswamy said.
The veteran freedom fighter, who had gone to jail during the freedom movement, said that small parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Swaraj Abhiyan bring hopes for alternative politics. "They need to do their spadework well before plunging into elections. Sure, they have some upright people. They have to be committed to continue being part of politics."
He urged the young voters to come out and vote because "future of the country is at stake". In the coming elections, at least 15.42 lakh first-time voters will cast their votes and young voters will play a decisive role in deciding the fate of political parties.
"The youngsters in general lack political awareness. They are too busy and caught up with their own personal lives and careers. They all aspire to go, work and settle in foreign shores. That is fine. But if they don't understand that things are in bad shape in their homes (country) all these success stories of NRIs won't fetch us anything."
What really hurts Doreswamy is the large-scale presence of poverty and hunger even in an otherwise developed state of the country. "The nation has failed its poor and the deprived. The political parties only work for the rich. The rich are becoming richer and poor poorer. It is a shame and it hurts me a lot," he said with a glum face.
Despite resentment everywhere, the centenarian insists that everyone should vote. He, however, has one last advice. "If voters feel that none of the candidates in their respective constituencies are worth voting for then they should opt for NOTA (None of the above). I went for NOTA in the 2013 Assembly elections in Karnataka," he signed off without revealing if he is planning to do so again on May 12.