BENGALURU: The Congress in Karnataka is gearing up for the 2018 Assembly polls under Siddaramaiah’s leadership. That, however, doesn’t mean that the incumbent Chief Minister is an automatic choice for the top job after the elections.
G Parameshwara, who will be completing seven years as president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, said party MLAs and the high command will decide the next CM. “Once we get the majority, we will go through the same process that was followed in 2013. If the Congress Legislature Party again elects Siddaramaiah, the party will accept it. I will also accept and there is no question,’’ he said. Excerpts from an interview:
What’s your assessment of the Congress party today compared to 2013?
The party is in a better position today than in 2013. During the 2013 elections, we had promised certain things which were pro-people, development-oriented and for progress of the state, and we have delivered on our promises. We had promised good governance and we have done fairly well. There may be some allegations, but there are no scams that have been proved beyond doubt.
We are very strong in Karnataka. As president, I have built the party from the grassroots level and around 4.5 crore people have benefited from various schemes and programme taken up by the government. We are also working systematically on making Congress a cadre-based party. It was always a mass movement-based party. We have formed booth committees across the state and any senior leader in the party can contact any booth-level worker.
The BJP plans to unleash ‘Brand Modi’ during elections. How do you plan to counter it?
‘Brand Modi’ will not work in the 2018 Assembly elections. Modi has failed in governing the country and failed to deliver on the promises he had made. The economy is in a bad shape and that itself is enough to indicate that your governance has been bad. We are not concerned about Modi. He may come and go, but he doesn’t exist in Karnataka politics.
What about the anti-incumbency factor working against Congress?
There is no anti-incumbency at all. We did not fail in any sector. Maybe some MLAs have not delivered in their constituencies. We will look into that.
What’s the party’s strategy for selecting candidates?
We have a clear strategy and we are ahead of the BJP any day. Tomorrow, I can announce (candidates for) 100 seats. Will they do it? We have constantly assessed and kept vigil on our MLAs and ministers. We know who is a probable winning candidate. Tomorrow, if the CM and I sit together for one hour, we can announce 100 seats. We are that fast.
Congress is facing elections under Siddaramaiah’s leadership. Does that mean he is the automatic choice for CM?
No. Selection of the Chief Minister is a process. After the party gets majority, a CLP (Congress Legislature Party consisting of MLAs) meeting will be called and the national leadership will also send observes. They take MLAs’ opinion and communicate it to the high command. Based on that, the high command will decide. That was how Siddaramaiah was elected in 2013 and this time also it will be the same. Leadership is given during elections to bring the party back to power.
If Siddaramaiah is again elected CLP leader, the party will accept it and I will also accept too. There is no doubt.
Congress is lagging behind BJP in social media.
Yes, that was the case earlier. We started late, but now we are matching them. Now we have a good team that is doing a very good job. This was not the culture in Congress. We always reach out to people directly.
Are you also in contention for the CM post?
I have all the qualities, but I am not in contention. The CLP and leadership has to take a decision. I can’t say that I am also a CM candidate. First thing is to get majority. Our focus is only that.
Do you think Mallikarjuna Kharge’s return to state politics will help, especially because many senior leaders such as S M Krishna have left Congress?
He (Kharge) has not left Karnataka politics and he is very much part of it. He attends all meetings and programmes. I have sought his guidance on many occasions.
What are the major election issues apart from Siddaramaiah government’s achievements?
Social justice, opportunities for underdeveloped, economic development in all sectors. We were able to provide employment to nearly 35,000 people every year.
Your take on I-T raids on many Congress leaders.
The BJP wants to stop our progress and create hurdles. They are a political party, let them do politics, but this is not the way. We are not against I-T raids, but why and how you are doing it? What did you get after raids?
Your party’s government failed Bengaluru.
No, that is not correct. The government has taken several initiatives to decongest roads and improve infrastructure. Bengaluru is the most dynamic city in the world and the government is doing everything to improve infrastructure.