He is making news for quitting the Congress and taking on JD(S) supremo, H D Deve Gowda’s grandson, Prajwal Revanna, in Hassan this Lok Sabha poll. But Mr A Manju insists he has no personal axe to grind in Hassan from where one of the youngest members of the Deve Gowda clan is attempting to find his feet in politics, although his long standing feud with it is well chronicled. Having been a bitter critic of the Gowdas’ dynastic politics in Hassan, Mr Manju contested against the former Prime Minister in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll in Hassan on a Congress ticket. Although he lost to him, he did reduce the octogenarian leader’s victory margin from 2.91 lakh in 2009 to just around one lakh. His old animosity came to the fore again when the Congress decided to give up both Hassan and Mandya to its coalition partner, the JD(S) this Lok Sabha poll and in a fit of annoyance quit the party to rejoin the BJP, which he had left in 2004 to join it. Contesting on a BJP ticket from Hassan these polls, he claims he is in the fray only to make Mr Narendra Modi Prime Minister again and not out of any personal vendetta against the Gowda clan. Excerpts from an interview with M.B. Girish.
Is the Hassan election a matter of prestige for you considering that you have been a bitter critic of Deve Gowda family over the years and his grandson, Prajwal is contesting from it these elections?
No, there is no personal or prestige issue involved in my contest. Why should there be? My fight is to give second rung leaders a chance to fight elections and to end the dynastic politics of the Deve Gowda family. Second- rung leaders of the JD(S), BJP and Congress should get a chance to be the next generation leaders. I am 60 years old now. It’s time second rung leaders made it to the frontline.
Has Hassan benefitted from the dynastic politics of the Deve Gowda family?
No other family has got as much power to serve the people like the Deve Gowda family has from the people of Hassan. Deve Gowda was a Chief Minister and Prime Minister, his son Revanna, is a minister, his other son, H.D. Kumaraswamy, is a Chief Minister and Gowda’s daughter-in-law, Bhavani, is a zilla panchayat member and his two grandsons are contesting elections to become MPs. Yet, Hassan town does not have adequate drinking water. Water shortage continues to trouble the constituency despite two rivers, the Cauvery and Hemavathy, flowing through the district. The Deve Gowda family speak volumes about farmers’ plight, but has done nothing substantial for the farming community. His son, Revanna always latches on to the PWD and energy portfolios. If he had real concern for farmers, he should have chosen to be a minister for agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry or sericulture, but why does he opt for PWD and energy always?
What did you leave the Congress and join the BJP on the eve of these elections?
I wanted either Hassan or Mandya to be given to the Congress this Lok Sabha poll, but the Congress gave up both seats to its coalition partner, the JD(S). I had also said that if Deve Gowda decided to contest from Hassan, then, Sumalatha, wife of the late actor, Ambareesh, should be given the party ticket for Mandya. But, neither of these two demands were met. I had no problem if Deve Gowda was made the consensus candidate from Hassan. But the JD(S), which won two Lok Sabha seats in 2014, was given eight seats by the Congress out of the 28 in Karnataka. Besides, Udupi-Chikkamagaluru was given to the JD(S) when the party does not have a candidate of its own and has fielded a Congress leader from it. The decision to give Hassan and Mandya to the JD(S) hurt me a lot and the party workers too were very upset. Before I quit the Congress, I consulted party workers and my supporters who backed me fully.
You have rejoined the BJP, but why did you quit it in 2004?
BB Shivappa and I from Sakleshpur, Hanume Gowda from Hassan and Puttaranganath from Belur had won these assembly seats on BJP tickets from Hassan district in 1999 when the party had 40 MLAs in the assembly. I then strongly backed Mr Shivappa for the post of leader of the opposition. But he and I were suspended from the party, which later led to my exit from it.
Congress leaders say that during your stint with it, the party did not benefit in any way.
When I became a minister, the Congress had two Zilla Panchayat members and I took the number to 16. Besides, the Congress won the MLC poll, defeating the sitting JD(S) MLC, Patel Shivaram. Didn’t the Congress gain from my stint with it?