‘Karnataka will be a milestone in BJP’s southern expansion’

‘How can the Chief Minister, who cannot ensure unity of secular forces in his own State, talk of national secular unity?’

BJP national general secretary and Karnataka in charge P. Muralidhar Rao has rubbished Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s claims that Karnataka will set the national agenda for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by ensuring unity of secular forces. Mr. Rao wonders how the Chief Minister can speak of national secular unity when he cannot ensure unity of secular forces in his own State by taking the Janata Dal (Secular) along. In an interview, he claims Karnataka will be a milestone in the BJP’s expansion in south India. Excerpts from the interview:

What is the main issue in the forthcoming Assembly elections?

Failure of the Siddaramaiah government on major fronts, particularly agriculture, is the main electoral issue. We have identified crucial issues and also built public mobilisation around them for the last one year. We are building a campaign on the farm sector through the mushti dhanya programme of collecting a handful of grains from farmers. Similarly, the failure of law and order situation and the mysterious death of several honest officers, including D.K. Ravi, besides corruption have already become major issues. In the coastal region, killing of Hindu activists will be an issue.

The Congress has contested Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation of the Siddaramaiah government being a “10% commission” government by saying that the BJP does not have the moral right to talk about corruption when several of its Ministers, including former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, have gone to jail on corruption charges.

Whether we are qualified or not is a different issue. But it does not eliminate the question of corruption in the Congress government. The Chief Minister’s ₹70-lakh wristwatch itself is a symbolic representation of corruption. Mr. Yeddyurappa going to jail is only an accusation as the judiciary has given him a clean chit.

The issue of providing religious minority status to Lingayat community is appearing to pose a threat for the BJP as some seers have welcomed the decision by the Congress government.

It is a ploy by Mr. Siddaramaiah who has realised that it is not possible to retain power based on his performance alone. Since the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, Mr. Yeddyurappa, is a Lingayat, Mr. Siddaramaiah is trying to divide Lingayats. But it is not easy to divide this community, which is very well networked. Some of them may be wanting such a status. But it does not mean that they have agreed with the Chief Minister’s objective.

Mr. Siddaramaiah has said that Karnataka will set the agenda for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections which would see secular forces coming together to fight against M. Modi.

Mr. Siddaramaiah has not been able to get the support of the JD(S), the main secular party, in his own State. This is despite the Congress and the JD(S) running an alliance in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike council. How can he then talk of national secular unity? … Karnataka is going to become a milestone in the BJP’s expansion in south India.

The Karnataka Assembly elections are being projected as Siddaramaiah vs. Modi battle rather than Siddaramaiah vs. Yeddyurappa?

Mr. Siddaramaiah is trying to project the Karnataka elections as a battle between himself and Mr. Modi in a bid to boost his image. It is only an artificial positioning.

But is it not true that Mr. Modi is virtually the main campaigner for the BJP in Karnataka as he is repeatedly visiting the State?

See, the present BJP leadership at the Centre takes the election fight head-on irrespective of the States where the elections are held. This is their functioning style.


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