Karnataka minister and veteran BJP leader V Somanna has been fielded by his party from the Varuna constituency against senior Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah in the May 10 state Assembly election. Springing a surprise, the BJP leadership asked the 72-year-old Lingayat leader to move out of his existing Govindrajnagar constituency in Bengaluru and contest the Varuna seat as well as the neigbouring constituency of Chamarajanagar in the Old Mysuru region.
In an interview with The Indian Express, Somanna shared his thoughts on a range of issues relating to the high-stakes polls. Excerpts:
Was the Varuna seat as well as Chamarajanagar your choice?
No, It was not my choice. I wanted to retire from politics and I approached the high command to give a ticket to my son in Govindarajanagar. But the high command had different plans. Amit Shah visited my house and asked about some personal details including at what time I wake up, my routine and other things. He was impressed but did not say anything. After a few days, I was asked to come to Delhi and there I came to know that I would be fielded in both Varuna and Chamarajanagar seats.
What did Union Home Minister Amit Shah ask you?
When he (Shah) visited our house, he asked about what time I wake up and my routine. He asked whether I was living in the same house (I have lived in the same house for 40 years). He asked me if I was done with politics but I told him that I was not tired and will continue. Then he did not speak much but I believe he was impressed. He asked about some of the previous works of the government which were assigned to me and I told him that I had completed my job.
You said you wanted to retire from politics but now you are contesting from Varuna against Siddaramaiah. Did you agree to it right away?
Initially I did not have confidence in Varuna but had confidence in Chamarajanagar as I was part of the government when Chamarajanagar was announced as district and I was also its district in-charge minister. But when I started the campaign, looking at the response of the public, I am confident now. Other than one specific community (the Kuruba community to which Siddaramaiah belongs to), I have got support from all other communities.
On what basis was this decided and who communicated it to you?
I have a history of being a good party worker and leader. There are people who trust my work. It was Amit Shah and the BJP high command which decided to field me. I accepted it and expressed concern about my son’s political future. They assured me that they will take care of it. So I returned back to Bengaluru and filed nominations and started a campaign.
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Leaders like Siddaramaiah say that you have been “dumped” by BJP leadership into these constituencies, which may also mark the end of your political career?
Let him (Siddaramaiah) say whatever he wants to. But why do you take it in a negative way? See, I look at it like this. The party high command has identified me to contest in these constituencies in order to develop them and put them on the state’s map. If I am being placed to contest against a former chief minister, the high command also knows my ability and knows the history.Also, I am not a small child to accept whatever is thrown at me. I have been given a task which I have accepted on my own and the results will decide.
Are you aspiring to become the Lingayat community leader who would play his card for the CM’s post?
No, I don’t have any aspirations. Let the result come out and let high command decide my political future. Now, I am not aspiring to be the chief minister. Let high command decide about it.
There are also apprehensions that you may not get the support of B S Yediyurappa?
No, he is undeniably a stalwart in BJP. He will come and campaign in Varuna for me. If I have to become the Lingayat leader, it is up to destiny and I don’t have any aspirations. I come from a poor background. My father sent me to Bengaluru to earn a living and I became MLA and Minister. It was all destiny and let’s see what is the future. I wanted my son to become a MLA but the destiny is different. High command has assured us to take care of his political career and if they do, I will be happy. Even if they don’t, I will be okay with it and will leave it to fate.
What are the local issues that you are trying to raise during your campaigns?
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There are hundreds of issues in Varuna constituency… (Siddaramaiah) having been chief minister for 5 years and presented budget 13 times, you see Varuna canal which was built during the Devaraj Urs regime (in 1979), is unable to provide water and is really in a bad shape. It is a shame for a person who has held such high positions in the government but has failed to address these issues. There are a lot of other issues as well.
Are you confident of winning Varuna or Chamarajanagar?
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I am confident of winning both the seats. When it comes to Varuna, let me clearly say that I won’t accept defeat very easily. I will fight till the end.