YELLAPUR: BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa is a busy man ahead of the urban local body polls. While his political opponents are yet to begin campaigns, Yeddyurappa has already toured at least 10 districts. In an exclusive interview with The New Indian Express, the former chief minister spoke about what went wrong for his party in the assembly elections and why he thinks, despite a united opposition, the BJP will trump the united Congress-JD(S) in Karnataka. Excerpts.
Do you now think the decision to form the government without enough numbers was a mistake?
It is natural for the single largest party to be allowed to form the government. We had 104 MLAs and went to the Governor who gave us the opportunity. For the first time in Indian history, the Supreme Court intervened, heard a case overnight and asked us to prove majority within 24 hours. This is unprecedented. Many MLAs of the Congress and JD(S) who wanted to join the BJP didn’t get the time to decide. When things changed, I didn’t take up the floor test but had to resign due to lack of options.
Does BJP still hope to topple this government and come to power?
As a political party, we won’t topple anything. This government has no sanctity. Citizens don’t want this coalition to continue and are hoping for it to make an exit. Differences are cropping up in public every day. If the government falls as a result of this, BJP is not responsible for it. There is no question of us attempting to talk to any MLAs.
What went wrong for BJP in the assembly polls?
During counting, we were leading with close to 128 seats. We lost 28 seats by hairline margins. The vote differences in 6-8 seats were barely in hundreds. We suffered some setback, else we could have crossed 112. Luck plays a role too.
The government accuses BJP of fanning the North Karnataka-South Karnataka divide. How do you respond?
I have never spoken about North Karnataka and South Karnataka as separate entities. He (Kumaraswamy) trigged the row with his irresponsible statements. People of that region protested against him. Kumaraswamy has to take responsibility for it. We dream of an ‘akhanda Karnataka’. No party should support such divisions. We are not willing to indulge in such pettiness.
Congress-JD(S) government accuses you of not seeking the Union government’s help in farm loan waiver.
Has the Union government waived farm loans in any state? Even in BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, the Union government hasn’t waived loans. Had they helped other states but refused to help Karnataka alone, then these allegations made sense. Their incompetence in pulling this off compels them to point fingers towards the Narendra Modi government.
What are the BJP’s challenges as you see it in the Lok Sabha polls?
The development works implemented by the Modi government is our shield in this election. There is no alternative leadership. Who will they (opposition) project? Rahul Gandhi? Or Mamata Banerjee? In Karnataka, we will turn this coalition government’s failures into our strength. They have failed to keep their word, the farm loan waiver is a vortex of confusion, people are angry with this government, ministers aren’t working, there is infighting and transfer mafia is rampant. Their alliance won’t make any difference except in 3-4 districts.
Is the BJP not worried about a united opposition?
Where is the united front? Look at what happened during no-confidence motion or election of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman. We didn’t have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha but we still won. People are understanding the importance of Modi and supporting him. The same will happen in Lok Sabha polls. The opposition isn’t even willing to project a leader as their Prime Minister candidate and that is proof enough of how confused they are.
What is your target for Lok Sabha polls?
Modi government’s achievements, our role as an opposition party in Karnataka, and the development programmes we gave when we were in power coupled with the repentance that people have about BJP not forming the government in Karnataka will help us win the elections. We have 17 MPs now and our target is 22-23 seats this time. Winning 23 seats will be my contribution to make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister once again.
How do ULB polls look for you?
I have toured more than 10 districts already and will continue to interact with party workers. We are confident of winning 60 per cent of the ULBs going into polls. I am in the process of activating our workers keeping the Lok Sabha elections in mind. They are disappointed that we didn’t form the government but are enthusiastic.
Your assessment of the coalition government as the leader of opposition?
Not a single minister or MLA of the Congress ever speaks. Kumaraswamy has been talking about farm loan waiver for three months now with no talk of other developmental works anywhere. MLAs haven’t received LAD funds of Rs 2 crore yet. There is no money for anything. The lack of coordination is clear when someone like a Siddaramaiah has to write 3-4 letters to get developmental works done in Badami.
How do you respond to Congress’ allegations of you not doing enough to retain Aero India show in Bengaluru?
When Nirmala Sitharaman (Defence Minister) visited Bengaluru, she said that Uttar Pradesh has asked for it but no decision has been taken. Our ministers have also discussed with her and have confirmed that Aero India isn’t being shifted. We will ensure that it doesn’t shift. What is the point of politicising it even before a decision has been made?