'Congress’ major challenges is to expose BJP'S lies': Ramalinga Reddy
As Congress announced its first list of candidates and the party is gearing up for the polls, the state Congress working President and former minister Ramalinga Reddy said exposing BJP’s lies is the biggest challenge for Congress.
He expressed confidence that Congress will improve its performance in Bengaluru and across the state to form the government on its own, during an interaction with TNSE editors and reporters.
What are Congress’ prospects in Bengaluru?
In 2013, we won 13 seats in Bengaluru and 15 in 2018. In a cosmopolitan city like Bengaluru, there will be 15 to 20 per cent neutral voters. They do not see caste or religion, as having no influence will work on them. In 2013, some Congress MLAs won by a large margin and in 2018, the margin was reduced. This time, we are confident that neutral voters will vote for Congress. This is because of corruption, failed administration, scams and many other issues with the BJP government. Our target is to win 15 to 16 seats in the city.
What is your overall assessment of the state?
In 2018, although we got 38% vote share, we won 80 seats, while BJP got 36% votes and won 104 seats. BJP does not have a base in the Old Mysuru region, where we have a better presence. In this election, we are confident of improving our vote base in coastal and central Karnataka too. We hope for better results in the Kalyan-Karnataka region.
Will Mallikarjun Kharge being AICC president help in the elections?
People have love towards him. His vast experience in Karnataka politics will help us.
Why is Congress not projecting a CM candidate?
Congress has never projected a chief ministerial candidate before elections. Once the results are declared, the Congress Legislative Party meeting will be called where they take MLAs’ opinions. After that, the high command will take the final decision.
Are you also in the CM’s race?
There are already two to three people who are in the CM’s race in Congress. Everyone likes to become CM, but only one person can become CM. One should understand this. Right now, we all want the party to come to power.
How do you see the Aam Aadmi Party in Karnataka?
AAP does not have mass leaders who can bring votes to the party. They should groom leaders. They have leaders in Delhi and Punjab, but not here in Karnataka.
What is the major challenge for Congress in this election?
All BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president JP Nadda and CM Basavaraj Bommai, utter only lies. Our challenge is to tell this to the people and expose their lies. If we fail then BJP leaders’ lies will look like the truth. Our major challenge is to expose their lies.
Can you name some of those lies?
BJP leaders said they will bring back the black money stashed in other countries, but they have not done so. They promised to give employment to two crore people every year, but they have failed to do so. They even said they will reduce the price of gas, petrol and diesel, but so far nothing has been done. They had promised to reduce corruption and give good administration. After BJP came to power, there is no value for anti-defection laws. So far, 270 MLAs from other parties across the country has been poached through Operation Kamala.
How do you look at leaders’ party-hopping? Will it have an impact?
It depends on who joins which party. Elections cannot be won based on the party alone and candidates are also important.
Do you think it will be difficult to get candidates in Assembly constituencies where turncoats joined BJP?
That is the reason why we need to strengthen the cadre. In a cadre-based party, even if a big leader quits, followers will not leave the party. For various reasons, party workers and followers work according to one leader during the polls. If he quits, all these people follow him. This is why we are facing trouble. In future at least, Congress should build the party’s cadre base. After DK Shivakumar took charge
as KPCC president, he has started making an attempt to build the party’s cadre base.
Do you think Janaradhan Reddy’s new party will polarise Reddy community voters?
It will not make any big impact. All big leaders from this community are in Congress. He might impact some candidates.
Why are there less tickets to women candidates?
There is no such thing as not giving tickets to women. In Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Panchayat polls, there is a reservation and Congress gave tickets to women. For the Assembly polls, we do not have sufficient women candidates. Women are in politics, but winning is considered a criterion. In European countries, more women are in politics. A similar system should be here, too. At present, only those who come from political backgrounds are actively involved in politics.
You and your daughter Sowmya Reddy are MLAs. How are your conversations at home?
It is like any father-daughter conversation. I advise her whenever she asks for it. If she does anything wrong, I do correct her.
What is the difference between younger politicians compared to experienced leaders like you?
Our generation focused more on fieldwork, while the present generation of leaders — not just Sowmya, but also others — largely depend on social media. Working at the field level gives us a strong foundation. Leaders should be in touch with the people. If they try to reach us, we should respond to their issues. My only advice to young leaders is to do field visits rather than depend only on social media.
How do you see politics change over the years?
When I became the MLA for the first time in 1989, poll expenses were less. People’s expectations have increased now. I have not spent my money in any of my elections, including filing nomination and deposit money. It’s all people’s money.
I have not given money to people for votes. The trend was the same till 2008 in most of the constituencies. The trend of giving money to people started in 2008 when BJP came to power. People should not take money.
In this election, BS Yediyurappa is not the BJP’s CM candidate. How do you look at it?
It was BS Yediyurappa who built and strengthened the BJP in Karnataka along with late Ananth Kumar. Now he has been sidelined, and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is not a mass leader like Yediyurappa or Siddaramiah. It will impact the BJP.
Does it mean traditional Lingayat voters will come to Congress?
Traditional Lingayat voters will shift to Congress. We always had the support of Lingayats and now our share of Lingayat votes will increase.
What are the chances of JDS leader HD Kumaraswamy becoming CM?
This time, Congress will get a simple majority and there is no chance of Kumaraswamy becoming CM.
Do you think politicians are increasingly resorting to personal attacks?
Only during polls, we have to fight. Once it is done, we should not drag it. In the last few years, personal attacks have increased. In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies. Now, hate politics has become more common, especially after BJP came to power. Action and reaction is also increasing. They have a set of people to forward such messages on social media.
Why is Congress not countering it?
We also have people. When they are doing it, we also respond. Even JDS has it. We have to make it stronger.
Your take on reports about differences between Siddaramiah and D K Shivakumar?
Such small differences are there in all parties. It is there in BJP too.
Do you think Jagadish Shettar will say Bommai has to continue as CM? Has BJP ever tried to poach you?
My father was a Congressman, and we are like born Congressmen. During the alliance government, there was partiality hence I got annoyed. My angst than was against the party leaders but not the party.
When there is favouritism, should we not resist? What would you do apart from politics?
During my college days when I was studying law, I used to watch movies, about 5-6 a week, as classes would be completed before noon. Dr Rajkumar is my favourite actor and I used to watch the movie first day, the first show. The last movie I watched was RRR. I also do business and agriculture, which I like the most.
You have worked with many CMs. Who is the best-performing CMs?
Each CM has his own style of functioning. Veerappa Moily introduced the Common Entrance Test (CET) for admissions to professional courses. It became a model for the entire country. He gave minorities reservations as well. He recognised people like me and gave me an MLA seat following the instructions of senior leader KM Nagaraj. SM Krishna had his own vision for Bengaluru. Well, N Dharam Singh used to get angry, but come to terms soon. Siddaramaiah had a concern for the downtrodden and the needy.
What is your take on the Election Commission introducing the vote-from-home option for people aged 80 years and above and on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)?
Let EC give the option of voting from home to 80-year-old people, which is good. It has been given to government servants on duty at the polls. Recently, I read an article on EVMs on how they are not foolproof … It has been demonstrated in Israel and some twenty other nations that the machines can be operated from remote places.
We were taken aback when BJP got a 3.3 lakh victory margin in Bengaluru South during the 2019 LS polls. I have my own doubts about EVMs. I request Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Election Commission of India to bring back the ballot system. Then there will not be any doubts. During the time of the ballot system, there might be rigged, but now too there is the rigging of EVMs.
If not politics, what would you have become?
Before coming to politics, I was a businessman and a real estate developer. My father was also a contractor. I was also into agriculture as I inherited over 100 acres of farmland. If not for politics, I would have become one of the top business honchos in Bengaluru.