In the just concluded Lok Sabha election campaign, former Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader K.S. Eshwarappa was quite vocal against the Congress in general and Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah in particular. Taking a dig at Siddaramaiah for his ‘love’ for his Kuruba community, Mr Eshwarappa said in an interview with Deccan Chronicle that the former CM did not have any real concern for the Kurubas and had given tickets to Kuruba candidates in Lok Sabha seats where the Congress is weak. He also hinted that the party central leadership will anoint a young leader as BJP State Chief after the Lok Sabha polls but declined to disclose any name. The BJP senior leader exuded confidence that the party will win both the Kundgol and Chincholi Assembly bypolls scheduled for May 19. He also ruled out Operation Kamala this time asserting that the coalition government will fall on its own and the BJP will come to power once again. Excerpts from the interview:
What is your assessment of the party performance in the Lok Sabha elections, how many seats will the BJP win?
In the 2018 Assembly elections, BJP won 104 seats and we reduced the Congress to 78 seats. At the same time, we lost 20 Assembly seats by a narrow margin. Based on guidelines given by BJP National President Amit Shah, we reconstituted our booth committees and page pramuks before the Lok Sabha polls. More importantly the party has given priority to strengthen its organization at the grassroot level. With a strong organization as a backup and the Modi wave, we are confident of winning 22 Lok Sabha seats.
Compared to the previous Lok Sabha polls, what is unique about the 2019 polls?
After North Indian states, Karnataka is the next in the grip of the Modi wave. Our central leaders are also surprised about the strong Modi wave in the state. Even in Lok Sabha seats which are Congress strongholds, we noticed the Modi wave. Another special feature of this election was the unity displayed by the BJP state leadership, we campaigned and spoke in one voice. People appreciated our unity. On the other hand, the divide among Congress leaders and the confusion among the coalition partners also helped us in the election.
But according to Congress- JD(S) leaders, the coalition was successful in preventing a division of secular votes this time. Will this stop you from achieving the target of 22 seats?
The alliance was struck between top leaders of the Congress and JD(S) and has not percolated to the grassroot level. And more than securing secular votes, leaders of both the Congress and JD(S) are seeking votes on caste lines in their respective Lok Sabha constituencies. In Mandya, JD(S) leaders openly requested Vokkaliga voters to vote for Nikhil Kumaraswamy and raised issues pertaining to the caste of Independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh. They said Vokkaligas should not vote for Sumalatha because she is belongs to the Naidu community. Mr Siddaramaiah requested Kuruba voters to vote for Congress candidates while other Congress leaders like Zameer Ahmed Khan and Roshan Baig pleaded with Muslims to vote for the Congress. It has been proved beyond doubt that both Congress and JD(S) sought votes on caste and communal lines,. However, the BJP mantra was nationalism, we sought votes for the safety and security of the nation. Eshwarappa never asked his community (Kuruba) voters to vote for the BJP. I do not believe in caste, being the leader of a national party, I sought votes for my country.
Siddaramaiah dubbed you anti-backward class saying you failed to give tickets to OBC or backward class candidates in the Lok Sabha elections. Not a single candidate of your party belongs to the OBCs, why?
We have not given tickets based on caste. Tickets have been given based on the recommendations of the district election committees. The state election committee scrutinized the names and sent them to the party central election committee for approval. We have a democratic system in place for selection of candidates. The district election committees did not send any OBC candidate’s name to the state committee and so no OBC candidate was given the ticket. Siddaramaiah has given tickets to three Kuruba community candidates but in all three seats, they will be defeated as he has not given tickets to Kurubas where the Congress has a strong base. In fact, the Lok Sabha ticket was given to a Kuruba candidate in Davangere after Congress veteran Shamanur Shivashankarappa and his son S.S. Mallikarjun refused to contest. Siddaramaiah knows the Congress can’t win the Davangere seat. Likewise, in Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha seat, Siddaramaiah gave the ticket to another Kuruba candidate, C.H. Vijayshankar. It was the BJP which made Vijayshankar an MLC, Minister and MP, and he will surely be defeated in Mysuru. We are not prepared to lose a single seat by fielding a weak candidate. Each seat is important for the BJP. We learnt the lesson after former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee lost the trust vote by one vote.
Speculation is rife that after Lok Sabha polls, incumbent BJP State President B.S.Yeddyurappa will be replaced. Are you a contender for the post?
Before choosing a party president, the central leadership will elicit the opinion of state leaders. This time a young leader will become the party state president. I am ready to work under a young leadership,
Is the BJP getting ready for one more round of Operation Kamala to dethrone the H.D. Kumaraswamy government?
No, not all, we are not interested in destabilizing the H.D.Kumaraswamy government. The government will collapse on its own due to the fight between the coalition partners. The majority of Congress legislators don’t want Mr Kumaraswamy to continue as chief minister. The fall of the Kumaraswamy government is certain. We have 104 legislators and after the Lok Sabha polls, the situation will change and we will get a majority to form the new government in the state.
What is the party strategy to win the Kundgol and Chincholi Assembly bypolls? Party President B.S.Yeddyurappa has already said these two bypolls are crucial for the BJP.
Yes, the two bypolls are very important for the party, if we win both seats our tally will increase from 104 to 106 and the Congress tally will decrease from 78 to 76. In the 2018 Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate in Kundgol, S.I. Chikkangouda lost the election by a narrow margin. And we are hundred percent confident of winning Chincholi after former MLA, Dr Umesh Jadhav joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.