Bellandur Lake issue hit Cong. image: Rao

Bellandur lake issue has hit Congress image: Dinesh Gundu Rao

Dinesh Gundu Rao is a former minister who is also the Congress' national spokesperson. In 2016, Dinesh  was made working president of the party's state unit. Ever since, the Rahul Gandhi acolyte has been a key member of the ruling party's game planning for the 2018 polls. Dinesh gets candid with Bharath Joshi of DH on the party's poll prospects:

Ahead of Rahul Gandhi's Bengaluru division tour, is the party's perceptibly weak urban image a challenge?

A lot of work has been done to correct that. But yes, our image has been hit in Bengaluru because of the Bellandur Lake issue and the heavy rainfall that led to road damage. However, there has been improvement by way of white-topping of roads and Indira Canteens. Generally, urban voters ask more questions.

Will Bengaluru's poor civic infrastructure dent the party's poll prospects?

It might to some extent, but ultimately it will come down to how much of work has happened in a particular Assembly constituency. Also, the candidate becomes important. Overall, Bengaluru has seen pluses happening. We will go to the voters with long-term solutions the government has come up with for the city - garbage, water management etc.

How is the party dealing with internal bickering, some of which has become public?

There's always jostling for a  greater say. It's there in every party. In the Congress, there's no dispute on leadership or the direction the party will have to take. There's freedom to air views and at the same time, there's no rebellion. By and large, we have no problem compared with the BJP.

At least 30 leaders are seeking tickets for their children.
A tricky situation?

Ultimately, the party's high command will take a call on this. Those who are deserving will get the ticket.  Ability to win is the sole criterion. At the end of the day, when the high command takes a decision, everybody has to fall in line.

How do you respond to Congress leaders being branded as 'Election Hindus' for visiting temples, mutts before polls?

We have always visited temples and mutts, but that hasn't been our sole agenda. We go take blessings. Why is this being made political by calling it soft Hindutva? For us, visiting places of religious worship is to show that we are with everybody. It is only the BJP that is seeing this with a political lens.

Some believe the decision to accord a 'religious minority' status to Lingayats would boomerang on the Congress. How do you view this concern?

The Lingayat issue has nothing to do with the Congress. The community itself wanted it. Except the Pancha Peetha (holy pantheon of the Veerashaivas), I can say 90% of the community is not opposed to the decision to grant 'religious minority' status. We don't see people taking to the streets against this. It's an aspirational issue that the government responded to. Electorally, I don't think it's an issue.

What will be Siddaramaiah's role after the elections?

Say, if I'm the captain of the team that not only reaches the finals of a World Cup but also wins it, will I be dropped for the next series? Siddaramaiah is the captain of our campaign and we're going to the election under his leadership. His performance as the CM has resulted in a smooth government in the last five years. Definitely, his role will be important even after the elections.

 

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