HT interview: Congress will get at least 15-20 seats in Karnataka, says MB Patil | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

HT interview: Congress will get at least 15-20 seats in Karnataka, says MB Patil

Apr 19, 2024 10:28 AM IST

Karnataka’s infrastructure development minister MB Patil confident of party’s improved performance in the Lok Sabha polls, countering BJP-JD(S) alliance.

New Delhi: Congress leader and Karnataka’s industries and infrastructure development minister MB Patil sounds confident of his party’s improved performance in the Lok Sabha polls in the state — where polling will be held in two phases on April 26 and May 7 — from five years ago. In an interview to Saubhadra Chatterji, Patil, speaks about his party’s strategy to take on the BJP-JD(S) alliance. Follow full coverage of Lok Sabha elections here.

Congress leader and Karnataka’s infrastructure development minister MB Patil . (Agency)
Congress leader and Karnataka’s infrastructure development minister MB Patil . (Agency)

New Delhi: In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won 25 out of 28 seats and Congress was reduced to just one seat in Karnataka. How the situation has changed this time?

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See, after that 2019 elections, the BJP orchestrated Operation Kamala to form a government in Karnataka. Those four years of the BJP were worst compared to the Siddharamaiah government between 2013 to 2018. In the last assembly election we got a historic 136 seats because of the misrule, the 40% commission and zero development of the last BJP government. They did not build a single house (for the poor) whereas between 2013 to 2018, we built 15 lakhs houses. The horticulture department didn’t give a single farm pond or a drip irrigation. Everything was in a disarray during that (1:08) BJP rule.

We had given these five guarantees in Karnataka. Aat that time BJP said it could not be possible to deliver these five guarantees like 200 units of free power for the poor, 2,000 rupees for the female head of the family, free bus. We wanted to give 10 kg free rice from the 5 kgs but the Central government did not cooperate. So we are giving the cost of the 5 kg extra rice at 270 for each poor person. If a youth do not get a job in the first six months after a degree or a diploma, we give them 3500 for the two years period.

So now with all these things, the Congress will get a minimum of around 15-20 seats. The women voters are very positive here and the people have understood that in the 10 years of Modi’s government, all the promises were mere slogans. And now with the Electoral Bond, the BJP has been exposed.

While you were saying that BJP has been exposed and has become weaker, the BJP and JDS have formed an alliance. You know the BJP’s vote share has remained at 36% while the JDS’ vote share is 13%. How does the Congress plans to counter this formidable force, especially in the Old Mysuru belt?

How many seats JDS are contesting? Three. The strength of JDS has reduced a lot and it is almost a spent force in Karnataka. They are fighting for their survival by aligning with BJP at least that they want to protect their MLAs otherwise their MLAs and the cadre will leave the party. Let me tell you, a major of the chunk of the JDS voters and even their leaders are shifting towards the Congress. People have also realized that JDS is no longer a secular party. They are opportunistic.

BJP too, is not a threat. The BJP is a divided house in Karnataka. They have 10-20 groups. Look at how many BJP leaders are fighting as independents. Even old RSS-BJP hands are fighting with other BJP leaders.

The BJP leaders maintain that Ram Mandir issue will also have an impact in South India.

No, no. See, in Karnataka, we all worship Ram. Every every village has a Hanuman temple here in both northern part of Karnataka or in the southern in Karnataka. So, the Ram Mandir will not have an impact here. In the Hindi belt, there might be a little impact there.

There is also no such thing as the Modi wave in south India.

The BJP is attacking the Congress on Parivarwad or dynasty politics. Yet, your party has fielded 16 of the 28 candidates who are children of ministers or MPs or MLAs. Why are you leaning so much on family trees?

What is the issue about it? If a son or a daughter of an MP is a competent person in any family they can contest elections. It is not that they’ve been nominated. Ultimately, they have to get elected by the people. They have to get votes. It is not a backdoor entry. When we were going before the people and get votes whether it is family or a non-family, that doesn’t matter.

How many BJP leaders’ children are there in politics? Look at Yeddyurappa family.

Your party is going big on caste census in the election. The Siddaramaiah government had commissioned a caste census in 2015. The census report has been given but your government is not accepted it yet. You personally have said “The government will decide whether to accept it or not not after going through it.” Isn’t this a double standard?

There is no double standard. What I’ve said is because we do not want people to speculate about the report. I have never opposed it. I said we should not comment on that report before knowing the report.

I don’t see why there is a delay in adopting the report. It was submitted last month. It has to be discussed in the cabinet first and you have a form a subcommittee study it and check all the finite details before implementing it.

You are considered as a face of the Lingayat. Would a Socio-Economic Caste Census hold the Congress’ Lingayat outreach?

Lingayats too have also been asking for higher reservation. For example, one of the subsection of Lingayats has been asking for higher quota. There are so many other subcategories are asking for reservations under the section 2A and within the current 50% cap you cannot do the justice unless it is amended in Parliament. There is a demand for reservation happening in Maharashtra.

The BJP has accused your government of bringing a law to divert 10% of the gross income of certain temples to a common fund instead of the existing law of using 10% of the net income of certain temples.

That is not true. We have a number of temples which are under the government trust. We have a separate department for that. There’s no question of any diversion of funds. We are spending money for the upkeep of the temples. So they are creating some misunderstanding on that. There is no question of touching the revenue of Hindu temples for any other purpose. The endowment will be allocated only for the very specific purposes just like it happens in Tirupati.

Don’t you think the blast in Rameshwaram cafe has given new ammunition to the BJP? Questions are now being raised about the security situation under the Siddaramaiah government.

Terrorist attacks are (happen) everywhere. It happened in Mumbai. Why the BJP is silent about Pulwama attack? In Pulwama, huge quantity of RDX was brought in. Where was the intelligence at that time? I am not trying to defend terror attacks. But I want to emphasize that our state government is firmly dealing with such elements in Karnataka. Whether its Pulwama or Rameshwaram Café, we condemn terror attacks and firmly deal with it. For us, the national interest is paramount.

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