Former minister and seven-time MLA R Roshan Baig from Shivajinagar has been making headlines after he took on Congress stalwarts, K.C. Venugopal, Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundurao head-on after the party debacle in the Lok Sabha polls. The result? He has been kept under suspension. His name has also been linked to the IMA investor scam but he has taken it all in his stride and is busy meeting people in his constituency besides reading Pavan K. Varma's book, Adi Shankaracharya, Hinduism's greatest thinker. In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, he spoke for more than five minutes about Adi Shankaracharya and how Varma had given his life a different perspective. He also spoke about the IMA scam. Here are excerpts.
While attacking former CM Siddaramaiah, you said you belong to Indian National Congress and not 'Siddaramaiah Congress.' But Congress central leaders seem to be putting their weight behind Mr Siddaramaiah and the dissolution of KPCC is a case in point. In effect the Karnataka Congress unit has become Siddaramaiah Congress. What is your opinion?
I feel very sad. Central leaders were misled by AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal. That's why it happened. In the run-up to the assembly elections, he took up the Lingayat religion issue and during the election, he lampooned Vokkaliga leaders including JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda. As a result, we lost at least 25 seats. In the LS elections, we gave Tumakuru to JD (S) only because Mr Siddaramaiah wanted the Mysuru seat for his candidate (C.H. Vijayshankar). What happened in the end? If central leaders do not realize this now, the party will suffer more damage.
The party has suspended you. The coalition has only a slender majority in the assembly which is why they withdrew the suspension of Kampli MLA, J.N. Ganesh. In this context, do you think the Congress needs you more than you need the Congress to survive?
(laughs) The Congress party needs me more. In Shivajinagar too, they need me more than I need the Congress party.
KPCC president Dinesh Gundurao had said that the party had to consider the statement of Minister R.V. Deshpande about you meeting him with IMA promoter Mansoor Khan regarding a loan seriously. He had said he would recommend strong action against you.
Now that the government has constituted a SIT, I would much rather give my view to the SIT. I did meet Mr Deshpande. It is a fact but certainly not the rest which was reported in the media.
It all started with an audio in which Mansoor Khan apparently said that you were harassing him to give Rs 500 crore..
The so-called audio you mentioned is said to have been sent to the city police commissioner. The former commissioner first told me that he did not receive the audio. Later someone shared it with him. So, the genuineness of the audio itself is doubtful. Two, it was reported that Mansoor Khan would commit suicide. But what happened? He ran away. Therefore, the genuineness of the audio and the contents are questionable.
Are you saying the audio did not go straight to the commissioner of police?
You are free to ask the former city police commissioner. Why are you interrogating me?
But many Muslim leaders have launched an insinuating campaign saying that you are involved in the scam. What is the truth?
I would like to make it clear that my connection with IMA is restricted to two issues: improvement of a government school in my constituency and the IMA run advertisement business of Siyasat daily. The government school was adopted by IMA and when they renovated the school, then CM Siddaramaiah came to inaugurate it. When the Jayanagar branch of IMA Jewels was inaugurated by Ramalinga Reddy, I and Vijay Kumar, the late BJP MLA from Jayanagar were there. When we went inside, we were awe-struck seeing the gold collection. People who visited their outlets could not never imagine the IMA promoter could do this. I was also shocked and pained.
But you demanded a CBI probe…
There are two or three reasons. One, the CBI keeps handling similar financial fraud cases. They have professional teams to deal with such cases. Two, many investors are from Kurnool and other places in Andhra Pradesh and the SIT may not have the jurisdiction to conduct a proper investigation. Three, the SIT cannot probe impartially if any minister is found involved If a minister is involved, the SIT officer who, otherwise has to salute the minister as per protocol, cannot interrogate the minister. That's why I demanded a CBI probe.
There is a larger question: many ponzi schemes promoted by Muslims target poor and middle class Muslims? Why does this happen?
Poor people were misled. They were lured to invest in such schemes with the companies assuring them that these were not interest based but dividend based schemes. Some were greedy too. When a company promises 12-15 per cent returns, a person should think how it's possible? In a different case, I myself alerted the police and when an ACP level officer went to stop people from investing in a so-called company, the people shooed him away saying that they were free to do what they wanted with their money and they did not need advice from an officer. Nobody came forward to lodge a complaint.
What is the way out?
First and foremost, the government should constitute a corpus from which poor people who lost their money should be refunded. Those who invested small amounts should be compensated, not the ones who invested Rs 10 lakh or more. Two, a stringent law should be enforced to prevent such companies from rearing their heads in future. Three, in every police station limit, the SHO should be made responsible for reining in such companies. Muslims should be sensitized to be careful while investing in such companies.
Finally, with the Congress suspending you and Muslim leaders making a strong effort to finish you of politically, do you think your public life is over?
(laughs) I am a seven-time MLA. I would like to say one thing: Shivajinagar is not a Muslim constituency. No doubt, Muslims voted for me but a very large number of Hindus too supported me. If Hindus had not voted for me, I would not have won so many times. Who got direct flights in place from Bengaluru to Jeddah? I can go on and on about my achievements. There is one person who is a witness to what I told Rahul Gandhi long back about opening generic medicine outlets everywhere. Our leader H.K. Patil knows about it. I am a true liberal. I went to Sringeri Matha and these leaders launched a malicious campaign against me on a WhatsApp group in the community showing me in poor light. I was deeply influenced by Allama Iqbal. What do these people (Muslim politicians) know about books or philosophy? It is quite natural to have ups and downs in one's career. I have seen many in the past. But none can finish me as long as God and the people are with me.