Dr G. Parameshwar, the KPCC president, has completed seven years in the post. A mild-mannered and gentle politician, he has his task cut out in the coming months- bring the Congress party back to power in the state which goes to polls in April-May 2018. In a free-wheeling interview, Dr Parameshwar talks about destiny, his aspiration to become chief minister (he lost out in the race in 2013) and many more issues. Here are excerpts.
You have completed seven years as KPCC president. No one in the history of the state Congress has got such an opportunity. How was the journey so far?
I am happy with what I have done. I was able to put in place a strong organisational structure. I prepared the party for winning elections and facing political challenges. When we were in the opposition, the challenge was different: the focus was to bring the party to power. When we came to power, the task was to deliver what we promised. And now the objective is to maintain stability.
What are the high and low points of your journey?
In every political party, a president would dream of bringing the party to power. Bringing the party to power was certainly the high point of my journey. Organising the party at the grassroots was a big challenge. It is not easy to do it particularly when I faced resistance from my partymen. As party head, I am able to maintain cordial relations with the government.
It is not easy for one to be PCC president for seven long years. The party high command allowed you to continue because you had the required qualities- magnanimity, political acumen and perhaps a mass appeal. But, a few in the government and party still say you are not a mass leader. Isn’t it unfair?
I don’t claim to be a mass leader. To put it simply, I am a people’s man. I have not done anything for myself in these seven years. I am a sincere, dedicated and hard working politician. I have certain principles and I have not compromised on issues like corruption. Seeing all these qualities, the high command recognised me. This gives me tremendous satisfaction. In my 30-year long public life, I have not changed parties or my ideology.
The perception is that only mass leaders can become CM. People like you with qualities like decency and dignity, may end up playing second fiddle. Your supporters may feel sad..
(long pause) I don’t know. I believe in destiny. When and how is the question. I think destiny and hard work will take me there.
New generation political workers and leaders may not like your style. Nevertheless, do you think you can still reach your goal?
The fact that I continued to hold the PCC president post for seven years proves that I am acceptable to all. Because everyone including the CM accepted me, I remained PCC president. If my style was not acceptable, I could not have survived for so long. At one point, they conducted an exercise to appoint a new president. But there was not a single voice in the party which said Parameshwar was bad or incompetent. Why did the high command retain me? It was because, I was acceptable to all. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi reposed confidence in me.
Moving on, you said a few minutes back that everything is fine between the government and party. But many ministers and MLAs strongly opposed the implementation of Mane Manege Congress programme...
They are not used to going to the grassroots and working hard to connect with people. They believe that a wave will help them get elected. For the first time, they were made to slog. We constituted 54,000 booth committees and enrolled 6.5 lakh workers. They have to distribute 1.6 crore copies of booklets across the state. We have appointed observers to check whether they have done this or not.
During his recent US tour, AICC vice president Rahul Gandhi made an interesting observation-"Around 2012, we became arrogant". We do not really know what he meant. Here we have a Congress government which has completed four years. Have you observed traits of arrogance in the government here too?
I don’t think so. We had an objective when we got elected: To fulfil the promises we made. I think we have done it successfully. If we had not done this, then you could have said we turned arrogant. If any minister becomes lax, the chief minister will caution him in the cabinet meeting. If a minister personally does something, it does not matter. Overall, people really appreciate the performance of this government.
You said they are not arrogant but recently, a Congress MLA shouted at a senior IAS officer, then another senior officer wrote to the chief secretary saying that he tried preventing corrupt practices in his department but he was transferred. Then, former minister Shamanoor Shivashankarappa said government funds were being diverted for organising Lingayat rallies and finally, an MLA, A.S. Patil Nadahalli, who was expelled by the party, said north Karnataka was neglected. These show what you have claimed seem unrealistic.
These are isolated cases. For instance, we made a commitment to give Rs 10000 crore to irrigation projects in north Karnataka. We lived upto the promise. Moving on, when you are a ruling party MLA, you feel that officers should listen to you. Some people might have overstepped. But we correct them. We have to show restraint while taking action. We are a political party and we are not running an army to discipline people. If things go beyond a level, we will not hesitate to take action.
But the ruling party has exhibited a high degree of castiesm. One example is the Lingayat religion issue. How can the CM do this to win elections?
I will make it clear that neither the Congress nor chief minister was involved in this. We never passed a resolution in the party in this regard. The chief minister had said he personally favoured religion status for Lingayats. He did not take it up in the cabinet. And it is not the political party’s job to decide on religion status. I feel a group of people including enlightened pontiffs and historians should sit together and sort out the issue.
Considering the stand taken by your party in the K.J. George issue, you seem to have shifted from the stance you took on corruption and scandals when you were in the opposition.
Political parties when they are in the opposition, have to question everything. The BJP is doing the same. He (Mr George) gave in when the BJP demanded his resignation after the CID included him in the FIR filed in the Ganapathi suicide case. I was the home minister when the inquiry was conducted. We did not influence the investigation. Let the CBI now conduct a fair inquiry. We feel we were fair. We have not hidden anything from the people. We have answered all allegations.