BENGALURU: “Won’t be kingmaker, but king this time,” was H D Kumaraswamy’s assertion ahead of the Karnataka assembly elections earlier this year. If being Chief Minister of the state is what he meant, then Kumaraswamy has achieved that, albeit in a coalition government. In an interview with The New Indian Express, the CM spoke about the challenges of running a coalition government, the perception created by the opposition and why he believes his father H D Deve Gowda need not be the natural choice for Prime Ministerial candidate of the united opposition in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Kumaraswamy added that the cabinet expansion is likely in the first week of September. Excerpts:
Three months as Chief Minister, do you now feel like a King?
More than a king, I feel like I have been given an opportunity to work in a responsible position. There are many ways to look at this position- Chief Minister, King of the State, servant of the people- but I will leave that to the people to decide. I believe I am in a responsible position and intend to use it for the good of the state. I am working towards it.
Are trust and coordination a challenge in your government?
There is no problem in governance. My coalition partners give me full support and coordination. The cabinet takes unanimous decisions with no objection from anybody. There are no hurdles in running this government but I must add that in the beginning, when I took the oath I was disappointed that the people may have lost confidence in me because of the public criticisms I received but now it has changed. People also express confidence in me and trust the decisions taken through this government. I consider myself lucky for that. I have given all my ministers full power. If there are multiple power centres in the government then it is the power each of my ministers has to give me suggestions on anything.
A lot is spoken about the cold war between you and Siddaramaiah. Is there discomfort between the two?
Siddaramaiah has written letters about many things including development but it isn't because of differences. His letters could have just been suggestions and there is no need for me to misunderstand it. There is no cold war between us. We have held two coordination committee meetings so far and there are no issues.
Your cabinet colleagues have expressed displeasure over transfers and opposition refers to H D Revanna as 'super CM'. Does that not bother you?
All transfers are made on the recommendation of the department's minister and principal secretaries. I have not taken any individual decisions over transfers. Transfers are done on the basis of letters given to me by ministers. I have not made any transfers personally. Opposition parties Revanna Super CM because he is dashing with his work in the department. There is just one CM and ultimately all decisions for all departments have to be taken by that CM.
How many seats does JD(S) intend to contest from in the Lok Sabha polls?
Neither the JD(S) nor the Congress has started discussions about seat sharing either at the state or national level. It will happen at the right time. In this political juncture, we will share seats without any problems. Our leaders and workers alike wish to stand in as many seats as possible but we have to understand the need of the hour and sacrifice. Both parties need to sacrifice.
Will H D Devegowda be portrayed as PM candidate for United opposition?
H D Devegowda has no intentions of being the Prime Minister candidate. He only hopes to unite all regional parties with the Congress and get them to fight under one umbrella. There are many PM candidates who are competent. We cannot guess what equations the election results will throw up. There is immense respect for him since he has been a PM earlier and as a senior leader but that doesn't mean we deem him the PM candidate. We have a presence in Karnataka and some parts of Kerala. We don't even know how many seats we are fighting yet. With barely 5-10 MPs if we can't look to get the PM post. All leaders will sit together and decide who the PM candidate will be after results.
Does the JD(S) stand to gain more out of the alliance with Congress?
Not really. The assembly poll results will tell you that we have won in many new constituencies and have gained vote share in Bengaluru rural, Tumkur, Kolar, Mysuru. It is easy for us to win in Hassan if there is a triangular fight. On the national front, the alliance could be suitable for us but at the local level, if local Congress leaders join hands with BJP then it will be difficult for us. There are advantages and disadvantages for both parties. Decisions will be taken depending on the circumstances.
Do you believe that the BJP is still trying to destabilise your government?
There is no doubt about that. I have received information that many MLAs are being disturbed but none of the MLAs is yielding to their pressure. We have no doubts that this government will complete a full term.
How is JD(S) working towards the ULB polls?
ULB elections are more to do with local level leaders than the party. We will retain power in local bodies where we have a stronghold. In all honesty, I have invested all my time in disaster management and haven't been able to concentrate on the ULB polls. I have left it to the workers.
How do you intend to fight the perception of your government being anti-North Karnataka?
BJP in an organised manner is creating a perception that my government is anti-North Karnataka. The people do not feel that way. Had they felt that way, the bandh call given against the government would have been a grand success. Nobody supported it. It is a personal propaganda by some people. They won't succeed in it.