In a no-holds-barred interview, P Muralidhar Rao opens up about the party’s election strategy, rising dissidence against Yeddyurappa and why the party is keen on holding a bike rally in Mangaluru even after normalcy has returned
Permission for BJP’s Mangaluru Chalo, a motorcycle rally, has been denied. But was it really needed when things have returned to normalcy in Mangaluru?
Rao: Yes, the answer is straight. The BJP is not protesting now; it has been protesting every time workers were targeted and murdered by radical elements. Today, there is absolutely no law-and- order in Karnataka. How long will you tolerate such attacks and inaction against such radical elements behind ghastly attacks? Our protest is against inaction and we intend to expose the failure of the government through such rallies.
Hasn’t BJP gone overboard with the idea, risking the safety of its own workers and the overall peace in Mangaluru?
Rao: The BJP is a responsible national political party, not just in Karnataka, but across the country. Being part of the ruling coalition at the Centre, we have a lot at stake when we decide on a particular programme. What happened in Mangaluru has nothing to do with Muslims or Hindus. The Congress government has not come out of its vote-bank politics and it’s trying to equate a national party like us with radical organisations such as KFD and PFI. These outfits have been using violence as a means within this peaceful society. That’s why we decided to protest.
The government says it has ensured peace in Dakshina Kannada by cracking down on anti-social elements.
Rao: Had the government cracked down on such forces, do you think 18 murders would have happened? Why are these murders happening repeatedly? Who are the culprits? Why is the government going soft on these forces? Their inaction only shows that they are not interested in isolating such radical forces. An Emergency-like situation exists there. No force can prevent the BJP from taking out the rally and protesting against the government inaction in Mangaluru.
Rao: More than the Emergency, there is more to it. Emergency was declared in 1975 to sustain power, but now it is used to defend radical forces besides trying to hold on to power. Further, it is an attempt to stop the forces that are mobilising public opinion against radical forces.
The BJP government, during its tenure, too could have prevented attacks on churches. Don’t you think the Congress government is also in a similar situation?
Rao: Please do not bring what happened five years ago. We are now discussing about what is happening in the state under the Congress government. They (Congress) have all the powers to suppress such forces. But they have proved incapable and do not want to stop such actions.
More than the rally, don’t you think there is a need to stop in-fighting in the party. Dissidence against BS Yeddyurappa’s leadership is active.
Rao: Reports of in-fight or dissidence against BSY are part of a politically motivated campaign. In a party which has been functioning democratically, you have difference of opinions. If those things are absent, then ours will not be a party, but it will become like the Congress. Do you want to see the BJP becoming like Congress? Once we settle an issue within the party fold, then everybody will work together.
BL Santosh, who allegedly fuelled the rift between BSY and Eshwarappa, has been brought back to party fold.
Rao: Santoshji is a dedicated worker of the party and he has been serving as joint general secretary (organisation) at the national level. He is not confined to any territory or state. You have to understand that he has no other responsibility other than raising the party from grassroots. He has not expressed either privately or publicly that he has any personal ambition.
The Karnataka BJP was silent for almost four years and it took national President Amit shah to come down personally and crack the whip. The leaders could not even put up a protest against DK Shivakumar.
Rao: Don’t bring in our internal issue and portray as if we have not done anything. Can you recall our fight against Arkavathy denotification?
Don’t you think you are only covering up the inaction of Opposition?
Rao: I request you to please check the facts again. What is the function of an Opposition party?
You must demand scalp of leaders who indulge in corruption.
Rao : What are we supposed to do other than protesting when Congress leaders are refusing to resign and sticking on shamelessly? Arkavathy was not the only thing in these 4.5 years. We have raised every corruption charge and fought against the government.
Modi and Shah have campaigned for clean governance. What is happening in Karnataka? Netas who had previously gone to jail, facing corruption cases, are inducted into the party?
Rao: We have not done anything in Karnataka that goes against our principles when it comes to our leadership. In a party people come and join not only in Karnataka, but in every state people are joining.
BM: So the party does not regret inducting such leaders?
Rao: My leaders are my leaders they will have to work according to principles and values of the BJP. For example if anybody in the party does anything in contrary to our principles, then the party is responsible and we will do what needs to be done. The party is responsible for good governance in future.
It’s said that some sitting MLAs may also lose tickets this time. What’s the criteria?
Rao: Don’t make our MLAs insecure by asking such questions. Having said that, the BJP is a performance-oriented party.. And we have given each person targets. Even when Amit Shah came down, he has given us targets. Everybody has been given targets.. So we will go by the performance so far.
What is your take on Lingayats’ new demand?
Rao: If they become insecure, they understand insecurity and from where it is coming, who has driven or driving it, or what is the interest of the party or person and why it’s emerging now. The BJP is not involving itself in such issues as we don’t view society through the prism of caste. The BJP is the party which has always transcended the caste barrier. Today, Siddaramaiah has become so frustrated man that he can’t win elections on the plank of development and performance. Otherwise, the issue of development and performance would have been his strategy. So that’s why he is raking up all issues just before nine months to the polls. The BJP has no stake in this. It’s the spiritual matter of Lingayats.
There are whispers that Muralidhar Rao could not control infighting and Amit Shah had to intervene.
Rao: We stand completely united and I’m representative of the party’s national president.
It’s Muraldihar Rao versus Venugopal (Congress in-charge of Karnataka), two Krishnas and what’s Kurkshetra going to be? A recent survey says Congress will win the next elections.
Rao: I have no personal grudge or enmity against Venugopal. But he is representing a bad case, a completely rotten case that’s. He is led by a leader who is not able to motivate. And we also don’t know when he abdicates, when he runs away. Rahul Gandhi is the leader of Congress and he is representing Rahul Gandhi. I represent Modi and Amit Shah here. So let me say I have a superior case.