BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao has predicted a five-year term for 74-year-old BS Yeddyurappa as the Karnataka chief minister, denying claims of the party unofficially implementing a 75-year age limit for ministerial positions. Rao, the party in-charge of Karnataka, also accused the Siddaramaiah government of being on friendly terms with anti-national outfits and favouring Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan over freedom fighters like Sardar Patel. Excerpts from an interview:
How is the BJP placed in Karnataka?
The BJP has a major advantage in Karnataka. As we have governed the state, people know what our leadership and symbol stand for. The failure of the Congress government and its leadership is working in our favour.
What are the main issues likely to be raised by the BJP in the Karnataka elections?
Over 3,000 farmers have committed suicide in Karnataka. Farmers’ woes are going to be a major issue. The law-and-order situation comes next. It has got two aspects. Radicalisation has taken place in Mangalore, Udupi, South Kannada, North Kannada and other areas adjoining Kerala probably due to vote-bank politics. Activists from the BJP and other Hindu groups have been attacked. This government has not taken any action, nor identified their financial networks. Our third issue is urban infrastructure management failure, and the fourth is corruption.
Is the BJP trying to polarise the election by raising the Hindutva issue?
It is no election issue, but one that has been there from the beginning. Twenty murders have taken place in four months. The people protest, but this government has been adopting a friendly approach towards organisations that are anti-national. It treats the BJP like an enemy. There are people who have nurtured and developed Karnataka’s culture for thousands of years, but the Congress does not celebrate their achievements with zeal. Sardar Patel is important for Telangana as well as north Karnataka, but the Congress is more interested in commemorating Tipu Sultan than him. It is all about vote-bank politics.
What is BJP’s stand on treating Lingayat as a separate religion?
The Congress has done this in Punjab and other states. What is the role of Siddaramaiah and the Congress in the Lingayat community? Don’t you think the community understands this? The BJP believes this issue concerns ashrams and saints. They should sit and resolve the issue, not politicians. Siddaramaiah is a non-Lingayat who is playing politics with the community. They want to benefit from the division of the community.
Is the BJP worried about the ongoing tussle between Yeddyurappa and others over poll tickets?
We have a well-laid out procedure. No individual in any state, not even the chief ministerial candidate, goes around declaring candidates. We have a system where the state committee recommends and the central committee takes decisions. We have created a process that decides on candidates based on surveys, winnability and (social) combinations. Yeddyurapppa himself has declared this at meetings.
Is Yeddyurappa sure to keep the party united?
We have decided (to appoint him as the chief ministerial candidate) after a lot of brainstorming and consultation. Nobody questions this decision. He is the tallest BJP leader in Karnataka right now. He wouldn’t have been able to galvanise people to such an extent on his yatras unless he enjoys overwhelming popularity and acceptability.
Yeddyurappa is 74, but the BJP has an unofficial policy of not letting anybody over 75 take up a ministerial position. Then, how will he become the chief minister if the BJP wins?
This perception of 75-76 (age limit) only exists in the media. We have not passed any resolution in this regard. The entire parliamentary board took the decision on the basis of the situation. Why should there be any doubt on account of age?
Will he be allowed to complete five years as chief minister if the BJP wins?
Why should there be any doubt about that? We have promised that he will be the chief minister for five years. He will get the mandate for the party as its leader.
Will a Congress-JD(S) alliance make the going tough for the BJP?
That will only strengthen the BJP’s scope of winning. Certain vote banks are inherently anti-Congress (and a political tie-up will not change that). The voters will not transfer their vote.