While forging an alliance with the Congress and forming a coalition government in Karnataka seven months ago, he ensured that the concept of mahagathbandhan took birth to fight the BJP at the national level. Mr Gowda knows the pulse of coalition governments and handles them with ease to his advantage. However, the present national scenario is different with too many strong players part of the mahagathbandhan.
Mr Gowda feels that the forthcoming elections will witness a close fight and the present NDA government may use the Pulwana attack to its advantage during the elections. In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, the former PM speaks about the mahagathbandhan, five years of Modi rule and the future direction of Indian politics. Here are excerpts of the interview.
While elections to the Lok Sabha are fast approaching, there seems to be no unanimity in the mahagathbandhan. What do you have to say?
The mahagathbandhan will start taking shape only after the elections are over. As a pre-poll alliance, even the BJP has allies like Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and so on. In many states like MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Punjab, the Congress will go it alone. In Karnataka, it has an alliance with us, while in Tamil Nadu, it has joined hands with DMK. In places like West Bengal, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the regional parties are going it alone and they are strong. According to me, neither will the Congress be able to form a government on its own, nor can regional parties form the government without involving the Congress.
What is your opinion on voters’ mood before the elections?
It is still evolving. In places like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it is just a 0.1 per cent jump for either party. The fight is neck and neck. The regional parties are on a strong wicket in their territory. In the North-East, which has over 27 seats, the fortunes would be divided. We have to watch and see what would be the impact of the Citizenship Bill in those areas. But, we cannot predict conclusively what will happen during elections. Most of the assumptions are based on the recent debacle the BJP faced in the Assembly elections. However, we have to remember that the BJP still rules 17 states. Besides, the BJP and Mr Modi will make the Pulwama attack a major election subject. They will use all means to whip up people's emotions and make it an election issue. I am not criticising Mr Modi, but I know for sure that he will make this an election issue. The regional parties have never expressed anything over the issue. However, the Congress and BJP are indulging in a media war over the issue. The national electronic media is giving a boost to this media war.
The BJP claims that security issues were compromised earlier...
No Prime Minister in India has ever let down the country's security. Didn't Indira Gandhi win the Bangladesh liberation war against Pakistan? Didn’t Vajpayee win the Kargil war? Show me one PM who let down the country on security issues. As Prime Minister, I ensured smooth elections in Kashmir. Nothing happened. I stayed in the disturbed North-East for seven days, when insurgency was high. I released Rs 6,000 crore for development works in the region in the supplementary budget, which ensured return of normalcy. There is no need to make anyone a hero. The media is doing that work.
There seem to be many pm contenders in the mahagathbandhan?
No... After the elections, in the best interest of the country, they will come to a consensus. The names of Ms Mamata Banerjee, Mr Chandrababu Naidu, Ms Mayawati and others will keep coming up. Mr Siddaramaiah has projected Mr Rahul Gandhi as the next Prime Minister which is also not wrong. However, the real movement and the trends will emerge only after the results are out.
The Bharatiya Janata Party may try and woo some of the mahagathbandhan partners after the elections, if they fall short of the numbers.
No. I don’t think that will happen. All political parties have seen Mr Modi’s style of functioning during the last five years. They will not like to go and fall in the trap again. If they fall short, they fall short, that's it.
The BJP plans to make stability the main election issue...
I have seen that. What Mr Modi say is that development is not possible without stability and coalition governments cannot bring stability. Dr Manmohan Singh ruled the country for 10 years, with the help of around 23 political parties. Was it not stable? Was there no development during that period? During the previous National Democratic Alliance government’s tenure, Mr Vajpayee ruled for six years presiding over a coalition government. Was there any compromise on stability or development? I headed a coalition government for ten months. I sanctioned and laid the foundation for two bridges across the Brahmaputra river, which Mr Modi inaugurated. Was it not a foundation for development? The Delhi Metro was only in the discussion stage when I signed an agreement with a Japanese company and gave it the go-ahead. Was it not under a coalition government? No one has compromised on development.
The BJP seems to be slowly gaining confidence and is still projecting Mr Modi for a second term as Prime Minister.
When I was Prime Minister, I gave importance to addressing local problems and not to going abroad and hugging people. Mr Modi has done his best. However, he takes credit for everything, which he has not done also. He is being self centric and for everything, he says ‘I did it’. If he was so confident of getting back with around 290 seats, why he is trying hard and reaching out to so many people for even single seats. He goes to the Andamans which has only one seat. The Bharatiya Janata Party ties up with the AIADMK. This behaviour is something which should be thought over.