The giant killer in the just concluded assembly elections, Mr G.T. Deve Gowda who trounced former chief minister Siddaramaiah in his home turf, Chamundeshwari, seems to have a problem with accepting the higher education portfolio allotted to him by Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. He wants a portfolio which can get him nearer to the people and help him wipe away the tears of the poor. Mr Gowda spoke to Deccan Chronicle on why he is insisting on a ministry other than higher education. Excerpts from the interview
Why did you reject the higher education portfolio which could have helped you do a lot for students?
I grew in a village and started my political career by becoming a mandal panchayat member, then zilla panchayat member, ZP President, MLA and then of course, minister. I have seen the plight of people in villages. Since then I have been determined to do something for their well-being.
Are you not familiar with issues pertaining to education, is that why you are reluctant on the portfolio?
I might have studied till ninth standard but no one can deny my rich experience in politics. Many great Indian politicians have studied very little but see the contribution they made to the nation. When I was President of Mysore Zilla Panchayat, the then state government passed an order transferring all government schools from the zilla panchayats to the department of education. While all the zilla panchayats agreed to do this, I opposed it tooth and nail. Teachers of all the government schools stood by me and told the government that they were happy to be under the ZP than under the education department. To do good things for the people, you need experience and a heart to understand their problems. Education comes next.
Were you hurt when people trolled you in social media about your qualification to handle the higher education portfolio?
(Smiles) I did not bother even a bit when they mocked at me. They don't know the conditions in which I grew. My parents were not rich enough to send me to a good school....so I discontinued my studies. I have seen how my cabinet colleagues were insulted by many people on Twitter and Facebook. It's ok. In a democracy, everything is acceptable. Ultimately, delivering the goods is more important than an educational qualification.
You won't believe it, when I was Mysuru ZP president, the then primary and secondary education minister Govinde Gowda came to me along with Mr S.V. Ranganath and former cabinet secretary Mr P.C. Alexander to know more about the functioning of Panchayat Rai institutions as part of a pre-budget exercise. Why did they come to me if there were highly qualified people to advise them? What I mean to say is that experience is also as important as education.
Which portfolio are you likely to get now that you have made it clear you are not interested in the higher education portfolio?
Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has promised to give me the excise and APMC marketing portfolios. The CM has decided to keep the higher education portfolio with him since he also holds the finance portfolio. As you know, there are a lot of vacancies to be filled in almost all universities and it will be easy for Mr Kumaraswamy to take an on-the-spot decision. Not that I cannot manage it but I felt it would be ideal if the CM held that ministry. If I am given the APMC marketing portfolio, I will show how APMCs can be taken nearer to farmers.
Why did your party induct six Vokkaliga community MLAs into the cabinet? Why were seniors like Mr H Vishwanath and Mr Basavaraj Horatti denied cabinet berths?
You may please pose this question to our party supremo and former PM H.D. Deve Gowda who takes all major decisions. Our duty is to follow what our leader says like disciplined soldiers. I am sorry, I cannot comment on the non-induction of Mr Vishwanath and Mr Horatti into the Council of ministers.
Is it true that the current Cooperation Minister Bandeppa Kashempur is not prepared to give up his portfolio to you?
Even I heard so. The CM told me to take up any other portfolio since Mr Kashempur has already held two to three meetings with his department officials. So I agreed to it.
What are your plans to develop Mysuru, your hometown?
I have a lot of plans to develop the City of Palaces. First let me get the new portfolio and also the post of Mysuru incharge minister.