A former minister and the Karnataka Congress’s senior Dalit leader H C Mahadevappa, in a shock defeat, lost from T Narasipura in the Old Mysuru region. In an interview with The Indian Express, Mahadevappa says that the party is confident of regaining the 30-odd seats it lost in Old Mysuru last time and labels as a “political gimmick” the BJP government’s decision to increase the quota share of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).
In 2018, the sitting chief minister and you (then a minister) lost in the Old Mysuru region despite having control. What went wrong?
Despite the government performing well, there were a few things that were misunderstood by the public at large due to the negative propaganda of the Opposition at the time. This included the Lingayat religion issue, internal reservations, and polarisation. We were confident of winning then but lost about 30 seats in Old Mysuru, including Siddaramaiah (in Chamundeshwari Assembly seat) and me. The BJP and the JD(S) also played hand in glove to defeat us.
In the context of my defeat, the workers and public in my constituency were unhappy as I was unavailable for them. I was a minister then taking care of the entire state and my focus on the constituency was minimal, which led to my defeat.
Don’t you think this time the Congress has failed to create a winning narrative and convince the public?
No, what you say is wrong. As an Opposition party, we have been able to reach out to the public, spreading awareness about the BJP’s corruption. We have highlighted 40% commission, the PSI recruitment scam, price rise, unemployment, and other wrongdoings of the BJP government. This is the most corrupt government that Karnataka has witnessed in the last 40 years. It has really influenced the public and it will help us in the elections.
What is your take on the BJP increasing the reservation quota of SCs and STs?
It is just an election gimmick. The BJP, at its core, is against the aspirations of the Constitution and reservation. The BJP-led state government has taken the reservation given to minorities and distributed it like Tirupati laddoo. While there is a 50% cap on reservation, the government, without increasing the cap, has snatched reservations from others. The Central government has categorically stated that the reservation cap cannot be increased above 50%. The reservation issue will die down after the elections as it (BJP) has neither vision nor public concern.
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What is the mood in Old Mysuru?
We are confident of winning the seats lost last time. We have worked hard to rectify the mistakes we made and the voters are in the Congress’s favour. Congress candidates are going to win here with a big margin this time as people are fed up with BJP rule. Not just Siddaramaiah or me, we will be able to win all the seats here. Varuna will elect Siddaramaiah with a big margin as well.
Are you a CM aspirant?
There is nothing wrong about aspiring to be the Chief Minister but the person needs to be dynamic and discharge duties properly. First, the public should give us the mandate and the legislature will select. The Congress high command will decide. It is premature to speak about it now. When the situation arises, let’s talk about it.
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What was the rationale for bringing Priyanka Gandhi to campaign in Chamarajanagar and Mysuru?
Priyanka Gandhi is a star campaigner for us. You know that she single-handedly fought UP elections. Her campaign in Chamarajanagar and Mysuru districts was held to boost the morale of grassroots workers and also to draw women voters (in all Mysuru constituencies, the percentage of women voters is above 45%). Her visits to the region have brought a change.
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