Former chief minister and Opposition leader in the Legislative Assembly Jagadish Shettar is confident the BJP will win at least 20 seats in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls. In an interview with Rajashekara S of The New Indian Express, Shettar said that the Modi wave and BJP’s organisational strengths will ensure that the party does well in the polls. He also said the outcome of the polls will have an impact on the state government and Chief Minister Siddarmaiah. Excerpts.
After a drubbing in the Assembly polls, how confident are you of faring well in the LS polls?
There is a clear Modi wave in the state. Moreover, the state has always backed national parties whether it is the Assembly or the Lok Sabha elections. People voted for the Janata Parivar when it was a national party. Considering the present political situation, the Modi wave and the organisational strength of the BJP, we will win more than 20 seats.
If you are confident of getting more than 20 seats because of the Modi wave and party’s organisational strength, why are you still depending on former CM B S Yeddyurappa, who is facing corruption charges, and Bellary strongman B Sriramulu? Are you not sure of getting the adequate numbers?
The party is not in distress. There was a general feeling that these two should be brought back. There was no second opinion on this. Only Sushma Swaraj opposed Sriramulu’s re-entry. Despite them quitting, the BJP managed to get 40 seats in the Assembly. Now we have regrouped and there are positive vibes all over. We will gain by their entry.
Do you think the regrouping of BJP splinter groups will help the party regain its base in North Karnataka where it won 12 of the 14 seats in 2009?
Yes it will help us regain our strength. We are united and there is no opposition in the party and among cadres on the return of Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu.
But you are still indecisive on the merger of Sriramulu’s BSR Congress with the BJP?
We are consulting legal experts on this. In a day or two it will be clear whether he should resign and contest or merge the party.
You could win 19 seats in 2009 because the BJP was in power in Karnataka. The Congress government is just around ten months old. Don’t you think the ruling party will have an edge in the state in the polls?
From the days of the Jan Sangh, the party has been growing from strength to strength. Even when we were in the Opposition in the state, the BJP managed to get 18 seats. This time we will get more seats as people are disappointed with the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah-led Congress government.
Do you consider that the outcome of the LS polls will be a referendum on the Congress government? Do you foresee any political change in the state post the polls?
It is difficult to say that the poll outcome will be a referendum on the government. This election is not being held on the state government’s performance. But it will surely be an indicator. The outcome of the polls will definitely have an impact on state politics. There is anger and dissatisfaction among Congress MLAs regarding the CM’s attitude. Even the CM will be affected. This will be reflected on the CM and the government after the polls.
Do you think that too much focus on AHINDA will help you to consolidate forward castes in your favour?
Congress is under the impression that all AHINDA votes will go to them. But it doesn’t happen like that. People will take government benefits and vote for the party they want. And it may be possible that because of the angst of the dominant castes, they could vote against the Congress.
What are the poll issues for the BJP?
Price rise, bad governance, scams, corruption and anti-incumbency against the Congress-led UPA government are some of the main issues.