Corruption will not be poll-issue this time: Kumaraswamy

Karnataka’s former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy adds that people are fed up of political parties and will look for the leaders who solve their problems.

The last time the Janata Dal (Secular) came to power in Karnataka was in February 2006, when the JD(S) withdrew its support to the Dharam Singh government to join hands with the BJP. While the two political heavyweights, H D Kumaraswamy and B S Yeddyurappa, agreed on the 20-20 formula to occupy the Chief Minister’s post, things didn’t go as planned.

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The tie broke up in 2008 and the state went to polls once again, catapulting the BJP to power. Five years later, the political game in the state has changed drastically. Up until recently, the JD(S) was the only regional party here. In these elections, however, the JD(S) is up against friend-turned-foe Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) and B Sriramulu’s BSR Congress.

Kumaraswamy, however, is unfazed and confident of winning close to 90 seats in the elections. He leaves vague hints about whether he would form an alliance with Yeddyurappa’s KJP if the need arises.

In an interview to Citizen Matters, the former Karnataka Chief Minister speaks about his party’s chances of winning these elections. He also talks about being a people’s leader and how the common man will not be influenced by corruption cases when they go out to vote.

Kumaraswamy H D Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

Here are the excerpts:

If you had to make an honest analysis, what are your party’s chances of winning these elections? What numbers will you get?

Whatever pre-election poll has been conducted by independent agencies, I have full confidence that we are going to be in the first place. In present situation, realistic analysis, we may get 80 to 90 seats. I’m struggling for another 20 seats. I’m working very hard to get the other 20 seats to reach the magic figure.

Would you be open to joining hands with the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) for those remaining 20 seats if they have them?

Let us see, madam. Actually there are ten more days, let us see what influence will be there on people to change their mind. They may give clear mandate to JD(S). That also I’m confident about, because of the programmes we have announced. Even [in] northern Karnataka, I have taken up the main issues which they are facing, particularly farmers loan waiver issue… Other than our party no other party has promised to waive off the loan. That may have an effect on the result in favour of our party.

But are you keeping your options open about forming an alliance with the KJP?

They are also main enemy to our party. The formation of KJP itself is because of our fight against Yeddyurappa in the last five years. We only damaged Yeddyurappa’s prospects. I think he may not support our party.

Will you approach him, asking for support?

It is not necessary for us to join hands with Yeddyurappa because we only exposed all his illegal activities as Chief Minister.

What about providing support to the Congress or BJP?

That also we have ruled out. Only Independent candidates, if there are eight to ten, we will prefer Independent candidates.

In your party election manifesto, a lot of focus has been given to fighting corruption, involving citizens in governance.

Definitely. On that basis only, with the experience we had in the last five years, for that reason [we have] to concentrate on controlling corruption in our state. We have to take several steps. For that reason in our manifesto, we have explained how we will try to stop corruption, that is the main issue we projected.

Water is the major problem for the people of Bangalore. If you reclaim the decision-making position, how do you plan to provide a sustainable solution for water?

We cannot get groundwater in Bangalore now. Borewell, even if you dig for 1500 feet, we are not getting water now. Our main supply is from Cauvery. But after this Cauvery tribunal decision, now we are struggling to get more water from the Cauvery tribunal by putting SLP (Special Leave Petition) before them. If we don’t get Cauvery water, it is very difficult for Bangalore to get water. We are fighting against the decision of Cauvery tribunal, to get minimum 50 tmc more water to give drinking water, not only for Bangalore city but to several taluk headquarters and more than 2000 villages. For that we are going to fight in future also.

Your government never setup ward committees to allow citizen participation when you were in power. It finally happened because of a HC verdict. Why should voters believe you and your party are serious about citizen involvement?

When I was Chief Minister, I am the main person to form the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) by taking the decision to merge all seven nagara sabhas and one panchayat to the BBMP fold. Then BJP government came to power, then only elections were held for Bangalore city. Why I’m requesting people to involve and believe our party, I am the common man’s Chief Minister. When I was the Chief Minister, any common man from any corner of the state, [could] walk freely into the Chief Minister’s office. That is the situation at that time. I was involving with Janata Darshan and Gram Vasthavya, I am regularly close to the people, I have shown what is my nature. For that reason I am requesting the citizens to involve with the government’s day-to-day activities.

Will you devolve more political power to city govts including Bangalore inline with the constitution’s mandate for a metro planning committee? Right now state govt controls Bangalore despite many experts and task forces repeatedly asking for decentralising power.

In our manifesto we have said we will introduce the metropolitan planning committee. We are also interested that the Mayor of Bangalore city should be directly elected by the people.

If you come to power, you will assure this happens?

Yes, yes.

In December 2012, the CAG report clearly pointed that denotification committees were never used as required by law. Denotified land went into the hands of others who sold the land. This is between the 2007 and 2010 when you were occupying the Chief Minister’s post and later Mr B S Yeddyurappa. Won’t these cases of corruption have an impact on the elections?

Corruption issue will have a little effect on the elections. But CAG report about denotification, whatever decision I have taken, in that there is no prima facie case against me. Whatever administration and power which I used, in that issue some lapses I think they showed in that CAG report. But there is no corruption issue in the decision taken about denotification.

The CAG report has stated that though governments constituted a denotification committee, cases were never referred to them in.

It is not necessary for Chief Minister, priority rights are there. It is not necessary to go before the deonotification committee also. There is some power for Chief Minister, that power I have used.

How much of role will corruption play in these elections?

People are fed up with all the parties. They are not going to take any serious decision about corruption. They want their day-to-day problems to be solved by the government. They will support the party who takes this seriously.

But in the last two years, we have seen a wave of protests across the country, with people coming out on to the streets demanding the Jan Lokpal bill to be passed. How much of an impact is that going to have in these elections? Do you feel urban voters will make a more informed decision now?

Ultimately what happened, Anna Hazare movement, it was scuttled by the government. Whatever starting force it was there then it was totally demolished by certain section. Corruption issue, we
can discuss a lot about this sitting on the dias. But while implementing there are a lot of hurdles to scuttle this corruption.

Your father (H D Devegowda) said corruption is not an issue in elections, caste is. You agree with him?

Yes. When my father was Opposition Leader in 1972, he fought against Deveraj Urs government. He exposed several corruption issues. After five years, people had not taken the corruption issue seriously. They again voted for the Deveraj Urs government. Since that day, my father is not interested in discussing corruption issues.

How important a role will caste play in these elections? Do you think there will be a time in India when caste will no longer play a significant part in politics?

In this country, the caste factor will never be lost. It will continue. In every election, caste influence will play a major role. It will not be stopped by any political party. It will have an influence on people.

What is your take on black money and elections? Are the JD(S) candidates going to stick to the 16 lakh limit fixed by the EC?

Our party is a small party, a regional party. No industrialist or black money holder will prefer our party. They will not give any financial assistance to our party. With our limitation, we will fight the election.

What is your party’s vision for Bangalore? We have the water problem, garbage issue. Massive promises are made. What will you do differently to ensure that there is more action and implementation?

In our party manifesto, we have promised about garbage cleaning in a scientific way, without giving too much burden on the Corporation. We have announced a separate manifesto for Bangalore city.

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