Newly-appointed state Congress working president Dinesh Gundu Rao is considered to be a man of his word by those close to him and adversaries alike. Many in the party describe him as a team man, yet he knows how to keep to himself when needed.
Most of the time, the son of former CM R. Gundu Rao chooses his words carefully yet he is blunt when it comes to attacking his political rivals as well as accepting his own party’s failures. He spoke unabashedly about his future plans and the party’s failures in a freewheeling interview with DC. Here are excerpts from the interview:
How does the transition from a minister to working president of the party feel?
Quite frankly both come with a different charm and challenge alongside responsibilities. One requires a different skill set for handling these assignments. To say the least, I am not missing anything after I left the minister's office. There I used to be with people (electorate) here I am with my party workers. Here, I will have to take everyone along, which tests one's patience and in this process, one will learn many things. Party leader will have to be more patient while as a minister, one can be a bit temperamental and it is tolerated. As working president one can't be temperamental at all, as a party man I will be rubbing shoulders with grassroot level workers to top leaders in the party.
What are your plans to strengthen the party?
My first plan is to tour all districts, which I will be completing by the end of September. Already I have completed the tour of five districts. I will also stay put in most of the districts where I will be interacting with party workers and leaders to gather all possible information which can help the party to strengthen itself. Then comes the second part of the plan which is to reconstitute district-wise committees, I know some of our district units aren’t functioning to their full potential. Wherever the party is weak, we can reorganise there. It will be constituency specific. Even the Pradesh Congress Committee will be reorganized. Along with a new team and new vigour, we will be moving forward. The third part is to going out and reaching people with mass contact programmes like Congress Nadige Janara Balige. But, this time our approach will have to be very different from what we did when we were in the opposition.
Even after completing three years as the ruling party, many in the party itself feel the Congress has not taken off yet. Comment.
I agree to an extent that we have failed to highlight our achievements in a proper manner. This is because the Congress party inherently does not focus on propagating our own achievements. We are not as propagandist as the BJP is today. In terms of advertising their achievements, they are far ahead of us. This was the reason, why the UPA could not stand up to the propaganda built by the BJP propaganda machinery in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. There is all round development taking place. Be it bringing an amendment to the SC/ST Act, which ensured fund allocation to these communities or Anna Bhagya, Ksheera Bhagya and many other schemes, they need to be highlighted. That is where the third part of my campaign plan will come to our party's rescue in the coming days. We will do our best to reach out to people and vice versa.
According to you, what could be your major challenge in the days to come?
The major challenge is to take everyone in the party forward as a single unit. Second is to bring back the Congress to power in 2018 Assembly polls. Yes, I don't say that everything is fine in my party, we have differences of opinion and a few leaders are disgruntled over the recent Cabinet reshuffle. But, I must say that we do not have bigger challenges than what our opponents, JD(S) and BJP are facing at present. At present, they are fighting openly, Congress has not reached that stage yet. We have more hope than our rivals, which in itself is a positive sign for any political party.
Talking about the demolition drive, a popular perception is gaining ground that the Congress is trying to protect the influential and mercilessly evicting the poor. Explain.
All these allegations are a conspiracy of the opposition party. The BJP is making allegations, why did they not carry out demolitions where encroachments had come up when they were in power? Our aim is to clear encroachments only in areas where existing lakes can be protected. It is a question everyone needs to answer- whether we should stop flooding in future or not? Should we allow a few hundred encroachments to exist at the cost of troubling thousands of honest people?
But the ruling party is accused of adopting double standards when it comes to encroachments by big names like Orion Mall or Gopalan Mall.
To do even this, we one needs lot of courage and conviction, which we have shown, without being biased. We have reached a stage wherein it is inevitable to demolish certain clusters which are blocking water flow. I emphatically deny that we have adopted double standards. More than 12000 acres of encroached land has been taken back. Do you think all these 12,000 acres belong to only poor or middle-class families alone? Many big builders too have lost land.
Don't you feel that the Congress failed miserably in handling issues like the garbage messor in improving infrastructure, that too after taking the BBMP's reins into your hands?
Yes, I accept the fact that people's perception has not changed. I also accept that the garbage mafia does exist in the city. But that does not mean we are keeping quiet. Despite, alliance pressures, we are performing far better then what it used to be during BJP rule. We have started works which will start showing results at least six months from now. Sanitary lines are being re-laid and roads work will commence once the rainy season is over.
Coming back to state politics, what will be the formula to appoint chairmen to state-run boards and corporations?
Ultimately, party central leaders will take a decision after due consultations with the Chief Minister and KPCC president. However, in my personal opinion, this time it will be a mix of MLAs and district leaders.
What are your impressions after your tour of five districts?
I would like to affirm that there is nothing like BJP on the comeback trial and the Congress on the back foot. We are sailing at the same speed. Yes, in 2008, they BJP had lot to offer but that is not the case now. Do they have anything fresh to offer? They are certainly looking at banking on the anti-incumbency factor and Veerashaiva vote. People have not forgotten that the Bharatiya Janata Party was synonymous with corruption and maladmistration.
With former chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, leading the BJP charge, it looks like the Congress has lost half the battle already.
We certainly do not have any illusion that everything is in our favour. If we play our cards well, we can certainly come back. If we don't, then we will be handing over the baton to the Bharatiya Janata Party. See, they have a tried, tested and failed leader like Mr Yeddyurappa. I do not think, Mr Yeddyurappa is working to his full potential. Many leaders are against him in his own party, Moreover, the Bharatiya Janata Party is also implementing the 75-year norm strictly for retirement. Therefore, there is a lot of scepticism about Mr Yeddyurappa becoming Chief Minister in 2018. So, the BJP has its own issues to grapple with. Even Bharatiya Janata Party national president, Amit Shah's recent statement in Mangaluru shows that the BJP is trying to extract maximum benefit from its tested and failed leadership.