Though he's emerged as the master strategist yet again, Congress leader D K Shivakumar’s job is only half done. He is still responsible for keeping his flock together, ensuring that they don’t jump to the enemy ship.
Amid hectic politicking at a private hotel (where the Congress MLAs are housed) Shivakumar, receives a call from JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda, which sets the tone for this chit-chat. Excerpts from an interview with Ashwini Y S of DH.
Your arch rival Kumaraswamy is becoming the CM, but not you. How do you feel?
Kumaraswamy’s destiny is stronger than mine. Without a mandate, with just 37 members he is becoming the CM. Deve Gowda is a calculative politician. He has always played his cards close to his chest. He didn’t have the numbers, when he became PM or when his son became the CM. Today also it’s the same. But nothing is permanent in public life. Time will be the healer and answer. I am still young - I will get my chance.
For over two decades, Kumaraswamy and you have had a running feud.
Kumaraswamy and I have literally come to blows in the past. He is a very egoistic man. Both Kumaraswamy and H D Deve Gowda are threatened by me - they don’t want me to grow. They have put so many cases against me. But when the party has taken a decision, what can I do?
Will you be able to trust them now?
I have shown my large heartedness in accepting the decision of my party. It’s left to them (father-son) how to treat me and my partymen. I have been targeted -- but I have fought against all odds.
People wonder if this coalition will last long.
It’s going to be difficult. But in the interest of the nation and the party, we have to move forward together. You have to just exhibit your political maturity. I have swallowed my pride. In fact, I was the one who wanted Anitha Kumaraswamy to contest from Channapatna. We wanted to defeat that backstabber C P Yogeeshwara. Anitha will contest from Ramanagar now.
I have also helped Kumaraswamy reconnect with Zameer Ahmed Khan. We can’t carry this bitterness forward for long. We have to co-exist to ensure that the government runs smoothly. If we want to reap fruits, Kumaraswamy and I have to work together. If he sits on power and doesn’t cooperate, it will not work out.
You just got a call from Deve Gowda. What did he say?
He made a courtesy call to talk about swearing in ceremony arrangements. He said many senior leaders from across the country were coming and that the event should be organised in a big way.
What went wrong with the Congress?
Delhi leaders had anticipated a few days earlier itself that Congress would not be getting the anticipated numbers. I too had felt the undercurrents. There was no accountability on part of the ministers. We also failed to convince the people of the state to give us the mandate. Fortunately, our leaders took speedy decisions to draw up an action plan two days ahead of the results, which helped us enter into the coalition.
Was the Vokkaliga consolidation a factor too?
We have lost in the Vokkaliga belt no doubt. Yes, the community’s consolidation dented the party a little. We have to introspect and rectify it. We will make up to the community.
So granting minority status to the Lingayats was a mistake?
I don’t want to comment on it. I was part of the government. Certain decisions had to be taken.
Siddaramaiah is being blamed for the party’s loss. Several leaders felt sidelined.
I don’t want to indulge in blame games and get into controversies. We are so close to power now.
Was Siddaramaiah wrong in contesting from two seats?
The party had requested him to contest from one constituency and not two. He was a little overconfident and took the risk. The high command had also intervened and warned him once. I too had told him not to contest from two seats.
How did you track down Anand Singh and Pratap Gouda Patil?
Anand Singh and Pratap Gouda Patil were constantly in touch with us. Patil was taken to Delhi by BJP’s Manohar Maski and Somashekar Reddy. Singh was lifted from outside and kept in a hotel in Bengaluru. Central BJP ministers and advocates from Delhi were involved in his abduction. The BJP leaders, especially the Reddy brothers, were in touch with more than 60 MLAs. We asked all the MLAs to start recording the conversations. At one point I confronted Janardhan Reddy himself. Reddy had called Raheem Khan (Bidar) to lure him. I snatched the phone from Khan and shouted at Reddy. I told him to back off. He was caught by surprise. He kept saying, “no anna...please please”.
Do you want to be the KPCC chief or a minister?
I have expressed my desire to the high command -- I don't know what position I will be given. I will be patient.
The JD(S), Congress cadres are unhappy with this alliance.
Convincing the cadres is the biggest challenge we have now. Without satisfying the cadres, nothing will work out. Even for Parliamentary elections, we will go in a similar fashion (coalition).