Karnataka 2018
In this interview, Dinesh Gundu Rao speaks about Nalapad, battling BJP and winning over Bengaluru.

Four-time MLA and KPCC working president Dinesh Gundu Rao believes the current Congress government in Karnataka will be voted back to power again, a phenomenon that has not repeated after the 1985 elections. Dinesh said that the government has done enough to emulate the 1985 elections – which was the last time that a ruling party fought anti-incumbency to come back to power in Karnataka. 

“We have been able to give stable governance without any scandals. There has been no such government like this in the last few decades in the state in which there has been no infighting,” the second-generation politician told TNM during an exclusive interaction.

The previous BJP government in the state had seen many internal mutinies, especially friction between then Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers.

“Karnataka which was number 11 in 2013 is now number 1 in terms of attracting investment today,” he added. 

According to Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Karnataka maintained its pole position as an investment destination in 2017. It had unseated Gujarat as the top investment destination in 2016.  

The party has strong hopes that it will return to power says Rao, and this is because of the leadership, he adds.

“There are no fissures in the party or government. There are clear hierarchies and we are united under the leadership of Siddaramaiah. All other leaders are walking alongside him. You should see the crowds at the places where Rahul Gandhi and our state leaders are touring. It is not only the numbers that is motivating us but the enthusiasm people have in these rallies,” Rao says expressing confidence.

The BJP leadership is in tatters claims Rao.  

“Yeddyurappa has been finished by the BJP itself. Besides being tainted, he does not have any authority among his own party leaders. Amit Shah has told state leaders to listen only to him, and not Yeddyurappa. So the state leadership is wiped out. It is only dictated by Modi and Shah.” Rao said.

The Nalapad controversy

The Congress faced major embarrassment when Bengaluru Youth Congress General Secretary and son of Congress leader and MLA NA Haris was arrested for assaulting a man.

“The party took action immediately,” says Rao.

When asked why the party allowed such arrogant people to be part of its ecosystem and never took action before, Rao said, “Such kind of behavior, and whether a person becomes arrogant, depends on every individual. The party can’t be held responsible for that,” he says.

Farmer suicides

The BJP has consistently attacked the ruling Congress for the number of farmer suicides that the state has witnessed during the Siddaramaiah government.

Till November, 2017 a total of 2027 farmers in Karnataka committed suicide due to loss of crop or debt under the current regime, said Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda in the state assembly.

The number of farmer suicides related to crop loss or financial reasons were 101, 1031 and 895 in 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17 financial years, the minister said.  

But Rao blames this on the severe droughts in the last three years. “The last drought was the worst drought in 100 years. There was nothing that the government could have done,” he said. He, in turn, claimed that in Maharashtra and other drought-affected areas, the number of farmer suicides were much higher.

“There is a limit to what a government do. We can't do miracles and bring heaven into earth. We have done our best possible,” Rao said citing challenges faced by the government in the Cauvery and Mahadayi disputes alongside three successive drought years in the state.

“We ensured that there was drinking water for all, we ensured things were under control. We formed cabinet sub-committees and put ministers in charge, who toured the state continuously. People have seen that we slogged it out, this is a government which has worked a lot,” says Rao.

“We don’t have to give jumlas. We have gone out of our way to address people’s issues. We have given interest-free loans, tried to give better MSPs, pension for farmer widows,” he said.

Threat from JD (S)

According to the senior politician, the main battle this election in eight districts of the Cauvery-old Mysuru region will be between the JD (S) and Congress where “BJP is not in the picture.”

“Definitely our performance will be better than last time. People have seen our work in promoting irrigation. Every scheme in the rural areas has touched every household. We don't have to lie and give jumlas,” he said.

Coastal belts

In the coastal districts, which has traditionally been a saffron fort, the Congress pulled up a massive victory in the 2013 polls. Ten of the 13 seats in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts went to the Congress then.

“We will retain most of the seats as people are tired of the BJP’s hate talk and killing. They have seen development because of all our MLAs. People want peace, growth, governance. BJP is not going to give them anything other than communal politics,” he said.

Will Bengaluru vote for Congress?

The senior politician replies in affirmative. “There is no reason Bengalureans can claim that the city has been ignored,” Rao says. The city has seen numerous instances of civic apathy from burning, frothing lakes, pothole ridden roads to flooded streets with very little rainfall.

The Congress is incidentally also part of the ruling coalition of the BBMP, the city’s civic body’s council.

Acknowledging these issues, Rao defended his party saying no government in the past has spent this much amount of money for civic infrastructure. “The work we have done for Bengaluru will have far-reaching complications. We have set up STPs in Bangalore all over and by 2020-21 we will be the first city in India to have 100% sewage treated,” he said.

However he gets defensive when asked why Bengalureans should give the Congress one more chance to fix the city’s problems. “These are long-term issues and the solutions are also long-term. We understand there are problems in the city, but it cannot be solved overnight,” he says.

“Bellandur is a problem which is being tackled in a serious way.  But it is not a problem we created but one we inherited. Before we came, Bengaluru was called ‘Garbage City’, he added.

‘Will improve our tally’

“I think people will vote in large numbers for us because last time BJP government was a disaster. In terms of seats in Bengaluru, we should be getting 20 seats, the rest eight will be difficult as there the opposition candidates are well established. But we will definitely improve the figure,” he said. However, he, refused to point out the eight seats.

When asked about the spontaneous citizen movements against the government’s decisions and inactions, he insisted, “Bengaluru is not a stagnant city. People are coming here every day and the city is growing rapidly. So problems will crop up but the government is open to criticism.”

Suggesting that the current government is a responsive government, “We did not go ahead with the steel flyover project. We are going briskly with our metro projects and Bengaluru’s traffic problems will be solved once the metro network is ready.”