With concerted efforts, former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy believes his party, the JD(S), can form an independent government. Kumaraswamy tells Shruthi HM Sastry what ails the regional party, the need for an image makeover and other issues. Excerpts:
Q. How do you see the recent Haryana, Maharashtra poll results?
A. I don't think either Narendra Modi or Amit Shah expected these results. It's a warning bell for the BJP. The BJP failed to address issues such as drought, floods, unemployment and the economic crisis. They based their campaign mainly around Article 370. In Haryana, they failed to fulfil any of the promises made to voters. This is a warning for the party to rectify itself. Also, voters have instilled confidence in Opposition parties.
Q. Do you see the need for a third front?
A. Yes. Today, the Opposition is completely silenced. There is a need for a mass movement against BJP's high handedness. There's 100% undeclared emergency.
Q. A young regional party like the JJP won 10 seats in Haryana. Does this ring some optimism?
A. In Karnataka, neither the BJP nor the Congress is in a position to form an independent government. This creates a situation where people have to look for a regional alternative. Even with our party, we made some mistakes when it came to organising ourselves. We failed to harness the trust that people had placed in us, into votes. But a regional party like JD(S) coming to power isn't a far-fetched idea.
Q. What is the JD(S) strategy going forward?
A. There is a misconception that we are only a rural party that does not cater to urban interests. But, the party caters to the urban population, too. The first elevated corridor was constructed when Deve Gowda was the CM. When I was the CM, I kept aside Rs 1.2 lakh crore for Bengaluru infrastructure. We have to reach out to the youth population to communicate these issues.
Q. You said the party failed to organise itself. What measures will you take to rectify this?
A. Today, in Mumbai-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka, we have a local leadership crisis in converting the trust that people have in us, into votes. Take Belagavi where 3 lakh families were beneficiaries of loan waiver. If you take an average of four people per family, I should ideally get 12 lakh votes. Our workers have to reach out to these families. The maximum benefit of loan waiver has been for North Karnataka people. I've to spend more time there.
Q. Why didn't your popularity convert into votes?
A. Last time, I expected that we would get 70-75 seats. Apart from organisational issues within the party, Congress systematically worked against us. Muslim votes that usually came to the JD(S) were lost after the Congress projected us as BJP's B team.
Q. There is resentment within that the party is family-centric.
A. I have to say only this: If anyone is willing to take responsibility, I'm willing to hand it over. It's not about retaining power within the family; it's about doing work. Look at the BJP: the centre of power there is one man, Modi. What is the BJP without Modi? Similar is the situation with Congress. They have to seek votes in the name of Gandhi.
Q. Several MLAs have expressed dissatisfaction with the leadership.
A. No one has come to me expressing their dissatisfaction.
Q. Is there a Vokkaliga consolidation taking place against the BJP?
A. Taking the recent political developments into consideration, I don't see any reason for an explicit attempt at such a consolidation. From the beginning, the Vokkaliga community in Old Mysore has not been in strong favour of the BJP. They have a special affinity for us. There's scope for the Congress to work towards such consolidation in the light of D K Shivakumar's arrest. However, votes aren't dependent on that.