B.S. Anand Singh, two-time Bharatiya Janata Party MLA and former minister from Vijayanagar constituency (Hosapete) in the ore rich district of Ballari hit the headlines recently when he joined the Congress saying his ‘secular mindset’ did not match with the saffron party. Mr Singh quitting the BJP is certainly a big blow to the saffron party, particularly Ballari BJP Lok Sabha member B Sriramulu and his mentor and mining baron Gali Janardhan Reddy. Son of a Muslim mother and a Rajput father, Mr Singh is a formidable political force in the district. Hailing from the SVK family, which is into bus transport service and mining, he became a household name in Hosapete for his philanthropic gestures. He has entered into a tie-up with Narayana Hrudayalaya, set up an eye bank at Narayana Netralaya in Bengaluru and has taken up schemes for mentally retarded children. It was mining baron Janardhan Reddy who inducted Mr Singh into the BJP to cash in on the latter’s popularity. Mr Singh won the 2008 elections, in his maiden attempt, with a margin of 26,000 votes which increased to 40,000 votes in the 2013 assembly elections. Meanwhile, his name was dragged into illegal mining cases between 2008 and 2010 and found mention in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining. He was chargesheeted and sent to prison for 18 months. On Saturday, he successfully organized the first election rally of AICC president Rahul Gandhi in poll-bound Karnataka – ‘Jana Ashirvad Yatra’ – in Hosapete. Excerpts from an interview:
What is the real reason for your quitting BJP?
I have been with the BJP for ten years. As I was preparing for the assembly elections by holding ‘grama vastavya’ or village stay since last October, some developments aimed at nurturing an alternative leadership started within the party without my consent. I brought these to the notice of the party’s leaders and they kept on saying, “there are no differences, all is well.” At this juncture, I attended the state government organized ‘Tipu Jayanti’ event going against the BJP’s diktat in December which turned into a weapon for my rivals to complain that I had crossed the ‘Lakshman Rekha.’ They even called me ‘anti-Hindu’.
So your ‘secular’ approach did not go down well with the saffron party?
I am a Hindu, but that does not mean I must hate people who believe in other religions. Divisive forces like RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are sowing religious hatred to disturb communal harmony in Vijayanagar where the historic Hampi is located. Hence, I decided not to go ahead with people who light fires and have decided to go with those who extinguish them.
Were you told by the BJP leadership to get clearance from the RSS and VHP for getting the party ticket for the assembly elections?
They did not specifically tell me to get clearance from the RSS and VHP, but they told me to go and meet certain RSS and VHP leaders. But, I am not the kind of person who goes to the doorstep of someone who is in no way related to me or my constituency to get my ‘character certificate.’ Hence, I decided not to meet any Sangh Parivar leader.
So RSS and VHP leaders were not happy with you?
I don’t know whether they (Sangh Parivar leaders) were happy or not but I received a phone call on December 31 from a senior RSS leader who told me that I had a ‘big hand’ in sending some VHP youth to jail. I flatly denied his allegation saying the law must have taken its own course. Let me make it clear: I have never allowed divisive forces to disturb communal harmony and turn Vijayanagar into a laboratory of hardcore ‘Hindutva politics’.
Why did Ballari MP B Sriramulu not come to your support?
He said, ‘you sit together and sort out differences.’ This is not what I expected from Sriramulu. I was hurt that none of the leaders spoke tough against those working against me. Earlier, Sriramulu too quit the party saying his ‘Swabhimana’ or self respect was hurt and floated his own party. Like Sriramulu, I too have ‘Swabhimana’ and don’t want to continue where there is no respect for me.
You have good contacts with Delhi leaders including Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Did not they call you when you decided to part ways with the BJP?
BJP in-charge for Karnataka Muralidhar Rao contacted me over phone and asked me not to quit the party. I politely told him not to pressurize me as the issues cannot be sorted out through a phone call.
By joining Congress party, are you proving you are after power and don’t care for principles?
How can you say I don’t care for principles? For 10 years, I honestly served BJP and proved my loyalty when other leaders joined Sriramulu to launch BSR Congress. I was the lone MLA elected on a BJP ticket in Ballari in 2013.
You were jailed for 18 months in mining scam. Will this not embarrass Congress which claims it fought against illegal mining?
I don’t know whether Congress leaders feel embarrassed but the charges were framed with political vendetta in mind. My family is into mining since 1958, how can we become illegal miners now? I have been accused in the CBI registered FIRs under the clauses of ‘co-conspirator’ as I was identified with mining scam kingpin Janardhan Reddy. I was sacrificed to weaken the strength of Janardhan Reddy.
Therefore, you joined the Congress to save yourself from pending cases of illegal mining?
I joined the Congress unconditionally. I am hopeful I will come out clean in mining cases.
But, except for the Siddaramaiah camp, all other in the Congress are opposing you...
I know that a few local Congress leaders were upset with my joining the party. But, there is no opposition at the KPCC level as my induction programme was attended by CM Siddaramaiah, KPCC president Dr G Parameshwar and senior ministers.
Are you sure of getting a Congress ticket?
I joined the party unconditionally. I will abide by the high command decision on ticket allocation.
AICC president Rahul Gandhi kickstarted his poll campaign for Karnataka from your home bastion-Hosapete. Obviously, there is much responsibility on you.
The ‘Jana Ashirvad Yatra’ kickstarted by Rahul Gandhi on Saturday was attended by more than two lakh people. Since Rahul started his campaign from the erstwhile seat of the Vijayanagar kings, the Congress will triumph and reestablish the ‘golden age’ of Vijayanagar. This will pave way for Rahul Gandhi to become Prime Minister after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.