‘We have to return sans alliance’

KPCC president G Parameshwara pins hope on numbers

G Parameshwara, KPCC President

Upset veterans, growing dissent, protests, ensuring his own victory...there’s a lot on Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president G Parameshwara’s plate. In a chat with Bharath Joshi of DH, Parameshwara gives a lowdown on the ruling party’s affairs ahead of the May 12 Assembly elections. Excerpts:

Now that the tickets have been announced, have you re-evaluated the party’s position?

In every constituency, we have done an analysis keeping the chosen candidate in mind. Obviously, we can’t win all 224 seats, but our numbers have gone up now.

How are you dealing with protests that have erupted all over Karnataka, with leaders ready to rebel?

There are 30 constituencies where there are protests. We can resolve differences by reaching out with an assurance that something will be done for them when we form the government. That’s why they are protesting. But there are five seats with a serious problem.

They say sparks flew in Delhi because senior leaders differed on candidates, leading to a delay in announcement of candidates.

We never fixed a cut-off date for announcing tickets, so the question of a delay doesn’t arise. On the first day itself, the screening committee cleared 194 names. Rahul Gandhi cleared the names of the seven JD(S) MLAs. He asked me to take a call on the five father-son applications. I told him we should allow all or none. There was absolutely no argument.

It is said that senior leaders are upset that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah got the upper hand in the choice of tickets.

You may or may not like Siddaramaiah, but he’s leading the party. Whatever the CM, Mallikarjun Kharge, Veerappa Moily or myself suggested went through the mill. There were views expressed. We had to fight it out on 100 names, especially 50 of them. The other 50 are BJP-JD(S) seats that we can’t win. It’s a collective fight. We have to come back with numbers without getting into an alliance at any cost.

Wasn’t Kharge specifically against giving Ashok Kheny the Bidar South ticket?

Kharge expressed his opinion because he’s from that part of the state. Our analysis, however, was different. Kheny is a Lingayat and that community is dominant there. He may be facing cases, but that’s his cross to bear.

How will you take into confidence the family of former CM, the late Dharam Singh? They were also against Kheny getting the ticket.

Is it okay to give three tickets to one family? Chandra Singh (Bidar South aspirant) has worked hard, but there’s no advantage from that family apart from him being Dharam Singh’s son-in-law. Their community is not as strong as Lingayats there.

Why did Siddaramaiah change his mind on contesting from two seats?

A CM shouldn’t go into an election with insecurity, which could cause a political setback. A perception started taking shape that Siddaramaiah was scared of losing. People started talking about it. This became a bigger concern for him.

You were also considering contesting from two seats.

About a year back, I was thinking about shifting to a constituency in Bengaluru — Pulakeshinagar, Mahadevapura, CV Raman Nagar, Devanahalli or Nelamangala. But there was pressure that I should contest from Koratagere. This time, I have taken an assurance that no one will work against me. A PCC president losing twice will make national history.

Senior leader K Rahman Khan has said the Congress takes minorities for granted because fewer tickets were given to Muslims.  

It’s wrong on the part of Rahman Khan to say that. In the previous elections, we gave them 19 tickets, of which they won only 9. They themselves say tickets should not be given for namesake. So, we analysed where they can win. We felt they could win in 17 constituencies.

The chief minister seems confined to Chamundeshwari and Varuna, while the party’s campaign appears to take off only when Rahul Gandhi visits Karnataka.  

It’s not like that. Our approach has changed slightly. We are trying to become an organized political party. We have booth committees and we did the Mane Manege Congress programme. Never before did we go door-to-door six months before an election. There are 4.5 lakh booth-level workers. We have reduced spending on resources and the expenditure. So, the campaign is less visible.

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