Congress is on the defensive, hints Parameshwara

Congress is on the defensive, hints Parameshwara

State Congress president G Parameshwara might claim the credit for steering the party to power in the 2013 Assembly elections in the State after a long gap.

But he is not ready to make any tall claims about his party's poll prospects in the coming Lok Sabha elections. For, he knows full well that 2014 election is a different ball game and he has no qualms admitting it.

In a freewheeling interview with P M Raghunandan of Deccan Herald, Parameshwara shares his views on a number of issues pertaining to the party and the coming elections in the State. He has no ambition to contest LS polls because he wants to remain in the State. Excerpts:

DH: What are the differences between 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the State?

GP: In 2009, UPA-I had successfully completed five years in office. It was not facing many allegations. But 2014 polls is a different ball game. The Congress has been in power for 10 years. The party is facing a lot of unnecessary allegations. We have to explain to people on all those issues. The opposition BJP does not need to explain anything and hence, it appears very aggressive. This is a big difference I am seeing.

DH: Who is leading the party in the LS polls in the State?

GP: Like in the 2013 Assembly elections, both Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and myself are leading the party in the polls.

DH: Who will take the responsibility if the party fails to perform up to the expectation in the State?

GP: Both Siddaramaiah and myself will have to take the responsibility for the outcome. Having led the party in the elections in the State, we have to take the responsibility.

DH: Will social welfare schemes like Anna Bhagya of the Siddaramaiah government fetch votes to the party?

GP: Certainly. Welfare scheme will be useful to the party in the polls. Schemes like Anna Bhagya have made a huge difference in the lives of people. The poor and the down-trodden had a lot of hopes on the party after it came to power. So the party implemented these schemes.

DH: Then will the Lok Sabha elections be a referendum on the State government?

GP: No. It is too early. But the election results will indicate whether the approach of the government on development is right or needs any changes. If people say the approach is wrong, we will set things right. We still have four years to go.

DH: There is dissatisfaction among the party workers on fielding candidates in some constituencies. Don't you think the confusion would impact the party's poll prospects?

GP: I do not agree that there is any confusion. There are some local problems and the party will resolve them.

DH: Senior leader C K Jaffer Sharief has rebelled on being refused ticket. Will it not damage the party's poll prospects?

GP: Sharief is a seasoned leader. The State party had recommended his name for Bangalore Central constituency. But the high command chose a youth leader as it was time for change. The decision is not intended to hurt Sharief. I have spoken to Sharief and told him that opportunities are plenty. I hope he will abide by the party's decision.

DH: It is said that the Congress failed to find strong candidates in many of the constituencies. Why?

GP: The party has fielded able candidates in all the constituencies. Today's candidates will be tomorrow's leaders. We would know who is weak and who is strong after the elections.

DH: Why the party is finding it difficult to convince ministers to contest the polls?

GP: The party wanted to field some ministers for better results. But they refused to contest. Despite announcing him as the candidate from Chikkodi, Sugar Minister Prakash Hukkeri is reluctant to contest. We are looking at alternative candidates in the constituency.

DH: How many seats Congress will be able to win in the elections in the State?

GP: I do not want to make any prediction in this regard. But the party will certainly win maximum number of seats.

DH: It is said you have differences with Siddaramaiah and hence, it has affected coordination between the party and its government. Comment.

GP: We may have difference of opinion on some issues. But it does not mean that we are not in good terms. That we coordinate better has already been proved in 2013 Assembly elections.

DH: Do you think that the party would have benefited in the polls if it had made you deputy chief minister, as demanded by your supporters?

GP: The decision is left to the party high command. It is but natural for my supporters to wish that I get better position. As I am a successful State unit president, the party wants me to continue. The high command probably feels that I am capable of not only heading the party but also getting better results.

DH: BJP leaders are re-grouping in the State. What is your assessment of the BJP's performence in this election?

GP: They might be re-grouping, but they are unlikely to gain much from their efforts. The party has received a big jolt in the 2013 Assembly elections. I do not think there will be a jump in voting percentage for the party in the elections in the State.

DH: Will AAP be able to make an impact on the State's political scene?

GP: AAP is a new party and it has a long way to go. I do not think it will be make any impact in this election in this State.

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