‘Whole govt machinery must be pushed to restart Brand Bengaluru’: SM Krishna

In a rare interview with TNIE, he speaks about burning issues of the day like ‘Brand Bengaluru’, water crisis, India’s foreign policy, Cafe Coffee Day and so on.
Former chief minister and BJP leader SM Krishna
Former chief minister and BJP leader SM KrishnaPhoto | Express

BENGALURU: Former chief minister and BJP leader SM Krishna, who announced his retirement from politics last year, in a rare interview with TNIE, speaks about burning issues of the day like ‘Brand Bengaluru’, water crisis, India’s foreign policy, Cafe Coffee Day and so on.    

You are considered the father of ‘Brand Bengaluru’. How do you see the brand going?

When I assumed office as chief minister, there was a very keen competition from Hyderabad under the leadership of Chandrababu Naidu. He had made tremendous strides in taking technology to the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. I saw the developments we were making and the growth of the big IT companies, like Infosys and Wipro. So I said why should we not utilise their leadership and their innovative politics? So I approached Narayana Murthy of Infosys to be on the CM Committee on IT-BT.

Narayana Murthy came and then he jumped at the mention of this and said, “I passed out of NIE Mysore. I owe something to my home state”. He said he would be delighted to be part of this development initiative. Then I telephoned Azim Premji who was at his Wipro Office, Sarjapur. I asked him if I could go and meet him.

He asked where I was calling from and I said I am speaking from Vidhana Soudha. He asked me, “Have you seen the condition of the road in Sarjapur”, and explained I would take half-a-day to visit his office and come back.  Then I asked the chief engineer, Public Works Department, to go to Sarjapur and see that the roads are all set right. Premji called me and thanked me. I asked him if he would join the CM’s committee on IT-BT and he asked me if I was asking him this question as chief minister or SM Krishna. I said SM Krishna, and he agreed.

That was how this concept of bringing IT entrepreneurs to focus on Bangalore’s development started. Infosys’ Nandan Nilekani became chairman of Bangalore Agenda Task Force. We used to meet every six months. We set targets for Bangalore’s growth and there was accountability and accountability became very pronounced. That was how Bengaluru developed and Chandrababu Naidu himself said Bangalore was the hub of IT-BT.

But after I left the office there was a sudden break. This was what happened in 2004. It is most unfortunate. These are the policies that went on to improve the quality of life of the people of the state and it had stopped.        

Do you see Bengaluru as a brand progressing in the right direction now that DCM DK Shivakumar is there?

Brand Bangalore cannot be recharged in a few months. It takes sustained effort. I do understand Shivakumar’s anxiety to continue the brand status of Bangalore. But I think more effort is needed. The good intentions are visible. So practically, we must push the whole governmental machinery into action.

We are seeing a huge problem with regards to water. When you were chief minister then, there was a similar water scarcity situation. What is the way out of this water crisis?

I think that every summer we face this water crisis. We all come from rural backgrounds. In Somanahalli, Maddur we had a small tank, and so many other tanks to store water. But now what has happened is that they are all heavily silted as a result of which there is lesser storage capacity. Sometimes, desilting these may be not economically feasible. So as a result of which sometimes we may feel handicapped. But then in the long run desilting them is really the solution.

You had served as foreign affairs minister. Now there is so much change with regards to foreign affairs nationally. Would you like to comment on the present foreign affairs of India?

The present foreign affairs are in the very, very capable hands of Mr Jaishankar. Mr Jaishankar has been one of our Stalwarts.  He had been Ambassador to the United States and in China. When I was foreign minister, India did not have the same image that we have today around the world. Today in 10 years, India’s imprint on foreign affairs has become very, very eloquent. We are very fortunate that even Prime Minister Modi has tremendous appeal across the world in shaping the world foreign policy. So India has the right. And India has become the power to reckon with in whatever decisions that we can make.

A lot of people have been asking you to write a book. Would you write an autobiography on your life and times?

Yes, I’m planning a book after my tenure as external affairs minister. I am taking the help of a journalist friend of mine from Calcutta. As far as my chief ministership is concerned, there is a book already in Kannada with Sheshasagiri Rao and Javare Gowda, called ‘Krishna Patha,’  both of them are no longer there.

How do you spend your time?

Well, I watch the internet and YouTube which connects me to a whole lot of developments. I keep myself abreast of developments.

The Yashaswini scheme, which helped hundreds with their health issues, was started during your time...

I was fortunate to have ministers who were very innovative. Yashaswini, which provided help to those who needed help with health and mid-day meals scheme that offered food to children that were conceived by minister AH Vishwanath who was in my government, went on to become national schemes and so many people benefitted from these schemes. When Bommai was CM, the Yashwaswini scheme was revived and nationally Ayushman Bharat is there.

Cafe Coffee Day has gone through some challenges ?

Because they have been through difficult times. Now they are better. My daughter and grandchildren have been able to do well. They have succeeded. There is still a road ahead. They have done their very best to manage the affairs of the company. It needs some more time and they are on the right track.

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