‘Cong stands united…we will come back with majority’

State Congress president DK Shivakumar, who seems to be making all-out efforts to put a halt to the party’s losing streak by bringing it back to power after the 2023 assembly polls

Published: 04th December 2022 03:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th December 2022 04:23 PM   |  A+A-

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president DK Shivakumar chats with Express journalists at the TNIE office in Bengaluru. (Photo | Vinod Kumar T)

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president DK Shivakumar chats with Express journalists at the TNIE office in Bengaluru. (Photo | Vinod Kumar T)

Express News Service

As the Opposition Congress prepares to take the battle to the ruling BJP’s doorsteps, the party realizes the need to send a message of unity. State Congress president DK Shivakumar, who seems to be making all-out efforts to put a halt to the party’s losing streak by bringing it back to power after the 2023 assembly polls, sees reports about differences between him and former CM Siddaramaiah as “a very well-planned political strategy by BJP.” During his informal interaction with The New Sunday Express editors and staff, Shivakumar was at his combative best, speaking on topics ranging from internal differences within the party to strategy for the polls to cases registered against him. Excerpts:
It is portrayed that you and Siddaramaiah don’t see eye to eye. Is there anything reconcilable between the two of you?
This is a planned political strategy by the BJP. Can you show me one occasion where we have any differences? I have worked with him. Not a single day have I spoken about anything about his leadership. This is in spite of the fact that I was not a part of his government for six months and it is only later that I joined the government. Since BJP is in power, we have 100 issues to talk about, but they do not have any issues to talk about us. Therefore, they’re talking about this disunity issue. If there is disunity, please tell us where the difference is between us. There is no difference. Since we are aware of it, we take up all the issues after discussing them together. I have been the most democratic president. I consult everyone since I have been in the organisation for a long time, and then we take a collective decision.

From where will Siddaramaiah contest the Assembly polls? He has applied, hasn’t he…?
Siddaramaiah has also applied for a ticket but has left the decision on which constituency he would contest from to the party's high command. Siddaramaiah can win from anywhere in the state … that is what I feel.
What about you? Is Kanakapura the safest constituency for you?
I have not gone to the constituency (Kanakapura), yet people have voted for me (in the last Assembly polls). They gave me a winning margin of nearly 80,000 votes. (But) There are requests for me to contest from certain coastal constituencies. I have applied only in Kanakapura, from where I plan to contest the polls.

There are observations that you don’t have strong candidates in about 80-100 constituencies.
We may not have highly visible candidates in 15-20 constituencies. In the remaining nearly 210 constituencies we have good candidates. In the survey that we have conducted, we are confident that we will reach 140-150 seats. For example, tell me where BJP has strong candidates. In the old Mysore region, there are 67 constituencies where they don’t have candidates, but in comparison, we have candidates in almost all 224 constituencies. As far as JDS is concerned, they cannot field candidates. Three women (Congress) candidates have won in constituencies where they said Congress was weak — in KGF, Roopkala Shashidhar won, in Khanapur Anjali Nimbalkar won, and Lakshmi Hebbalkar won in a constituency (Belagavi Rural) where they said Congress was weak. Remember, in all these constituencies, we had lost for the past 40-50 years, but they won by a large margin in all these constituencies… we have built our cadres in all the constituencies. We have good candidates against Jagadish Shettar and Bommai too.

Will Gujarat have an impact on Karnataka?
I don’t think so…
How much has Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ helped?
It’s an extraordinary effort! The issues taken up will not be wasted. (Rahul Gandhi) Sacrificing the president’s post, sacrificing party position, walking 3,500 km, and taking up the cause of the people … it is not easy.

But people say only Rahul Gandhi’s image improved. It does not reflect people’s greater support for Congress…?
When the election comes, we will know. This is democracy.

BJP is confident of retaining power. Do you feel any of the ruling party leaders will join Congress in the coming days?
When members of the government come out and speak against their own government, what message are they sending? It means all is not well. What did MTB Nagaraj and Basangouda Patil Yatnal (both BJP legislators) say against the government? What did Adagur Vishwanath (also a BJP legislator) say? Whatever they said, everything is on record. Vishwanath spoke about corruption levels. Is it not the voice of the common man?

How serious is the voter ID scam?
It is such a monumental scam. This is the equivalent of printing fake currency notes. The Bengaluru city corporation officials and election commission officials are accountable. They have appointed officials for every assembly segment. They have been given the position of BLO (Block Level Officer), which is an officer sponsored by the government. They have taken 6,800 BJP workers and given them seals and stamps of authority. They have collected the data, misused the data and sold the data. In the whole of Bengaluru city, they have gone around systematically deleting and distorting names and identity details of minority voters and scheduled caste voters lakhs of names have been deleted or tampered with. Let’s say a family has five voters. Two voters have remained safe, but three voters have been shifted to some other area a few kilometres away. Our party carried out a survey on the mischief and the deletions carried out. We have seen some more instances of mischief in the Kamakshipalya area. The voters are there in the same constituency, but their names have been shifted to an area which is a few kilometres away. They resort to such tactics. For any deletion or inclusion, requisite forms need to be filled up and duly signed by an authorised signatory. Now I want to know: who authorised these deletions and additions?

The BJP has said Chilume was given the contract by Congress earlier when it was in power.
If anybody in the Congress — whether Siddaramaiah or anyone — has done wrong, let them hang us. What are the terms and references of Congress giving the order to Chilume? Look at the fine print. The chief minister’s duty is to protect the voters. Here you are only trying to steal a vote or corrupt a vote. This is a bigger crime than any other crime. The Constitution has given us the right to vote. I don’t know why the Election Commission has not taken up a case against the chief minister.
Why do you want the Election Commission to take action against the chief minister?
He is the district minister (Bengaluru Development Minister)… We have still not discussed another key issue here, which is Pandora’s box. We will take it up later…

Elections are about 5 to 6 months away. You are confident Congress will come to power. What is your vision for the state?
Firstly, I don’t think this government will continue for 5-6 more months. As things could get worse for them (the BJP-ruled government)), they are in a hurry. They may not wait for 5 to 6 months (for the polls). They have their own strategy. But coming to what we need to do. People look at India through Bengaluru. The lost image of Bengaluru needs to be restored. People all over the world feel this is one of the best cosmopolitan cities in the country. If Bengaluru is stronger, the nation’s economy will be stronger. A large percentage of exports of India are from Bengaluru and Karnataka. The most important is good governance. Better traffic management is also important, and ensuring comprehensive development of two-tier cities is important so that people need not crowd Bengaluru. The city’s population has already touched 1.5 crores. Another important priority is to develop the coastline. For example, Kerala and Goa have very well-developed sea coasts. What stops us from developing our own coastline? Kerala and Goa don’t have different rules for development. We have to see that our youth from coastal areas don’t go to Mumbai or Saudi or Dubai in search of jobs. We need investments in the coastal areas where people can live and earn their living in this place, and not migrate elsewhere in search of employment.
What about the reservation issue for Vokkaligas?
We had a meeting on this issue, and the Swamiji (Sri Nirmalananda Swamiji of Adichunchunagiri Mutt) chaired the meeting. It is a very serious issue. Some communities have reservations according to their proportion of the population. The community is seeking a hike in reservations from 4% to 12%. The Swamiji was convincing me that we have just 4% reservation, which others have joined. So, our actual reservation is just 2%. Our numbers are more, they have discussed this for more than four-five months and informed Chief Minister Bommai about why the reservation of Vokkaligas should be increased. They have given the chief minister a deadline and I think they have logical reasons why Vokkaligas should be accommodated with sufficient reservation. There was a cap by the Supreme Court. Now (after the reservation for economically weaker sections) there is a different dimension to the reservation.
How are you facing the number of cases registered against you?
The I-T (Income Tax department), ED (Enforcement Directorate), and CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) have been targeting me after the election of the late Ahmed Patel, MP (in the Rajya Sabha elections). Income tax officers with 370 CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) constables raided my house. After that, they filed so many more cases against me, my friends and my family members. More than 100 raids have taken place. Every month, I have to spend nearly 14-15 days only on this. They want me to go to court. For example, I wanted to go to Dubai for a day. They have laid down conditions that in Dubai I should not influence people — I should not speak to X person, I should not speak to Y person, they have imposed many conditions. There is an element of pain and torture in all this, but there is no option, I have to face them. Legally speaking, injustice will not flow from the seat of justice.

How many cases have been filed…?
When I file my affidavit you will know….

Are you vengeful? Tomorrow if you come to power as Chief Minister, what will you do?
The past is gone, the future is not in our hands. We only have the present. So let’s talk about the present.
The Congress MLAs are continuously getting poached?
We also had this plan and BJP MLAs were willing to come with us but we did not want it. When the government was on the verge of collapsing, I told the then CM HD Kumaraswamy and CLP leader Siddaramaiah about this issue but they were not in favour of it. Anyway, the Congress party will get an absolute majority. No one will think of leaving the party…
If you did not become a politician what did you want to be when you were young?
I wanted to be a politician from the age of 12, I decided I should be a politician.  From the age of 12, I have contested school and college elections,  I have my own experiences and my own reasons for it.


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