State BJP President and former Chief Minister B.S.Yeddyu rappa seems to have ensured his stamp on the first list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka securing tickets for his loyalists including three newcomers and also making sure his protégé Shobha Karandlaje got the Udupi-Chikamaga luru ticket despite strong opposition from party core committee members. In an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle, Yeddyurappa said former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda’s love for his grandsons (they are contesting in the JD(S) strongholds-Mandya and Hassan) will prove costly for him in the Lok Sabha elections. The veteran leader who has crossed 75, also made it clear that he has no plans to retire now and will contest the next Assembly elections if health permits. He gave enough hints that the party may back Independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh in Mandya. He was sure that the party will suitably accommodate BJP patriarch L.K. Advani who has been denied a Lok Sabha ticket by getting him a berth in the Rajya Sabha. As for the candidature of Tejaswini Ananth Kumar from Bengaluru South Lok Sabha seat, the BJP leader seemed unsure if she would be given the ticket. Here are excerpts from an interview.
When will you start the election campaign in the state?
I have attended Narendra Modi’s Vijayasankalpa Yatra and toured 26 Lok Sabha constituencies. Once the second list of candidates is released in a day or two and ticket aspirants who have threatened to rebel, are pacified, I will embark on a state tour by hiring a helicopter. I will convince the ticket aspirants by talking to them individually. Besides, we have requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address four rallies in the state. He has agreed to this.
There is no clarity about the party stand with regard to the Mandya Lok Sabha seat. Your party leaders say the BJP will field a candidate in Mandya...
A serious discussion is being held regarding the fielding of a candidate in Mandya. A few leaders feel that being a national party, we should field a candidate. However the Mandya district unit has taken a stand that we should support Sumalatha Ambareesh. Even we have explained our stand before the party central leadership who will ultimately take a decision whether to field a candidate or not.
North Karnataka, Coastal and Central Karnataka regions are considered strongholds of the BJP. What is your strategy to make inroads in the Vokkaliga heartland in the old Mysuru region?
We have fielded strong candidates in old Mysuru region. Our candidates in Kolar, Hassan, Bengaluru Rural, Chamaraja nagar and Chikkaballapura constituencies are strong enough to take on the coalition candidates. We have started a campaign in Charajanagar constituency too. The JD(S) no more enjoys the invincible tag in the old Mysuru region.Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda's love for his 'Mommakkalu' has spoilt this tag. The entry of his two grandsons into the fray in Hassan and Mandya has caused immense damage to the JD(S) in old Mysuru region.
Despite strong opposition from party core committee members, you gained the upper hand making sure your supporters got tickets, is this not true?
There is no question of anyone getting an upper hand in candidate selection, the candidates were selected based on the unanimous decision of party core committee leaders. Based on our suggestions, the central leadership gave its nod to the first list. Candidates were selected based on collective decisions and we had an elaborate discussion before finalizing the candidates for all 28 Lok Sabha seats.
But you have given tickets to A.Manju, Dr. Umesh Jadhav and Devendrappa in Hassan, Kalaburagi and Ballari Lok Sabha constituencies. All these leaders defected from the Congress and joined the BJP.
Tickets have been given to newcomers based on the collective decision of party core committee leaders. Moreover, all these leaders are strong in their respective Lok Sabha constituencies. It was not my decision alone to give tickets to those who had come from the Congress, the core committee members have given their nod to the decision to give them tickets and the central election committee was convinced about our decision.
Soon after release of the first list, there is a rebellion brewing within the party with party MLAs and leaders oppo-sing the candidates selected for Chitradurga, Tumakuru, Belagavi and Vijayapura. Will it not hamper party prospects in the elections?
Before we finalized the candidates we obtained a feedback from the local BJP unit. Candidates’ names were shortlisted only after the local BJP unit sent the names of probables. If any leader is upset with the selection of candidates, I will personally discuss it with them, however it is common for ticket aspirants to vent their anger after missing the bus.
It is a big surprise that Tejaswini Ananth Kumar has not been announced as the candidate for Bengaluru South. Will she get the ticket in the second list ?
I don’t know for what reason the Central leadership withheld her name from the first list. But in a day or two, we will have a clear picture about the reasons why they did not announce her name in the first list. I still don’t know whether she will be given the ticket or not. Let us wait for the decision of the central leadership. The state BJP has sent only Tejaswini’s name to the Central election committee.
The Congress and JD(S) are aiming to garner secular votes and anti-Modi votes too, what is your counter strategy to fight this?
What strategy can they have when they are busy fighting all the time? Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is not ready to hear CM H.D.Kumaraswamy, likewise, Mr Kumaraswamy is upset with Siddaramaiah. When there is no coordination among them, what strategy can they can have in the elections? We are not worried about polarization of secular votes and anti-Modi votes. In fact the strong Modi wave in the state will neutralise all these factors and we will win 22 seats in Karnataka and cross 300 seats in the country. Based on our internal survey, tour, selection of candidates and ground level feedback from each Lok Sabha constituency, we will win 22 seats of 28.
What are the core election issue you are going to raise before voters?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s achievements in the last five years and the failure of the coalition government headed by H.D.Kumaraswamy are the main issues we will present before the public. Besides, we will highlight the achievements of the previous BJP government in Karnataka.
You have been repeatedly saying that after the Lok Sabha elections, the coalition government will collapse and the, BJP will come to power. Are you planning another round of Operation Kamala after the elections?
It is an undisputed fact that more than 20 Legislators of the Congress have openly said that they don’t want Mr. Kumara swamy to continue as the Chief Minister. They have not accepted him as the CM. Once we win 22 Lok Sabha seats, there will be fresh turmoil among the coalition partners. Anything can happen after the elections. There is no question of engaging in operation Kamala, we have not done it before, nor will we do it now or in the future. Both coalition partners are fighting each other and they are capable enough of destabilizing the government.
Despite strong opposition from party workers in Udupi-Chikamagaluru, you succeeded in getting the ticket for sitting MP Shobha Karandlaje. Was it necessary to invite the wrath of party workers just to safeguard Shobha Karandlaje’s interests?
There was absolutely no opposition to her candidature, it was a media creation. She is doing a good job as party general secretary, she is a good orator and is actively involved in party work. It is true that she had expressed her willingness to return to state politics in the middle of her tenure as MP, but we advised her to continue in national politics and asked her to contest the Lok Sabha elections.
Surprisingly the party central leadership has refused a ticket to party veteran L.K. Advani. Do you endorse the decision to deny a ticket to him?
I guess, due to his age, the party did not want him to contest. He may get a higher post in the party in future. The party may even nominate him to the Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take an appropriate decision on this issue.
# You have expressed your willingness to contest one more election in future but will your age permit you to continue in active politics?
Yes, I am in good health and would like to continue in active politics for some more years. If health permits, I will definitely contest in the next Assembly elections.