With the state going to the polls next year and some of its seniors already leaving it, the Congress party is now doing everything it can to keep its flock together. In a pacifying gesture to former minister, Satish Jarkiholi , who was upset at being dropped from the Cabinet to make way for his brother, Ramesh, it has anointed him AICC secretary. But Mr Jarkiholi still openly admits to having differences with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on “certain matters,” although he says, he would not like to make it a "major issue." He also admits to being satisfied with his new post and says he is ready to work for the party's victory in the coming elections, burying his differences with other leaders. He opened up on this and more in an interview with Deccan Chronicle in Belagavi. Excerpts:
Are you content with the post of AICC secretary?
Obviously, I am happy with the post given to me, but I never demanded it. While offering the top post, the high command appealed to me to work actively for the party's growth in Karnataka ahead of the elections. The party top leadership is also keen on utilising my experience at the Centre in future. After AICC general secretary, Venugopal moved to the state as AICC in-charge, he had a serious discussion with the Chief Minister and KPCC president, G Parameshwar about giving me a responsible position in the party. He was very keen on giving me some important post in the All India Congress Committee and he was the one who recommended my name for the secretary's post.
What did you discuss with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi when you met him a few days ago?
My meeting with Rahul Gandhi was organised well before the post was given to me. The party had decided to offer it to me even before this meeting was organised in New Delhi. Aware of my political experience, Mr Gandhi admitted that the Congress party wanted to utilise my experience for its growth in Karnataka and would like me to work at the Centre as well. In response, I assured him that I would work for the party in both Karnataka and at the Centre.
You and the Chief Minister have been at loggerheads for some time over various political issues. How are your relations with him now?
I can't tell you how our relationship is now. There may be some problems, but we have worked together in the recent byelections in Gundlupet without raking up things of the past. We are now gearing up to work for the party's victory in the 2018 assembly elections. I do have differences with him still, but nothing major. I have not taken my removal from the cabinet seriously as I always found happiness in working with the people as a leader. The AICC post will give a boost to some of the work I have been doing in the state for the people's welfare.
A section of the Kuruba community is demanding a scheduled caste status. What’s your take on this?
The Kuruba community can't be included in the ST category as it does not fit the criteria laid down. The Central committee that takes a call on inclusion of various communities in a particular category would never yield to any kind of pressure by it. Only communities or castes that clearly fit the criteria will be considered.
As an AICC leader, how do you feel about former minister, A H Vishwanath and others who openly criticise the Chief Minister on various issues?
The CM should take the initiative to call Vishwanath and talk to him personally to resolve their differences as both come from the same constituency and have known each other for a long time.
Why did you have a meeting with JDS state chief, H D Kumaraswamy after you were removed from the cabinet? Did you have plans to join the JDS?
I did meet Kumaraswamy in Raichur but at a public function. My meeting with JDS leaders should not be considered as a rebel activity. Both of us happened to be invited for the same function. I have clarified many times that I will remain in the party. Any talk about my leaving it is false. I am here to stay.
You and your brother, Minister Ramesh don’t seem to be seeing eye to eye . What's going on between the two of you?
Our leaders recently discussed the statements being issued by Ramesh against me and warned him not to do so in the party’s interests. The party took his statement that our brother Lakhan should contest from my Yamakanmardi constituency and I must contest from Raichur seriously as only AICC can take a call on this....