In an exclusive interview to TNM, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President DK Shivakumar speaks about his plans to restructure the party, equations with the BJP and JD(S) leaders and the takeaways from his 41-year political career.

DK Shivakumar waves to supporters File PTI
news Interview Tuesday, June 02, 2020 - 13:09

"Make your own arrangements for putting up party flags and buntings, but masks will be sent from here,'' says Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President DK Shivakumar in a video conference with the party's district presidents. Over the past week, he has been engrossed in networking with district functionaries for the upcoming event of his formal take-over titled ‘Pratigna’, which was scheduled on June 7 but has now been deferred indefinitely following the Centre's guidelines banning all political activities till June 8.

Though disappointed that the elaborate arrangements being made for the Pratigna (Pledge) had to be put on hold, Shivakumar plans to make the digital event a much talked about one. His taking over will be telecast live with TV sets installed in 7,800 panchayats, wards in the urban bodies apart from being beamed on social media.

In an exclusive interview to TNM, DK Shivakumar, who has come a long way from being a student leader speaks about his plans to restructure the party, equations with the BJP and JD(S) leaders and the takeaways from his 41-year political career. 

Are you disappointed that after a long and suspenseful wait to be appointed as the KPCC President, even the simple official take-over now is deferred indefinitely?

I never expected both the Centre and state governments to ban political activities of small numbers. We would have maintained physical distance and held the event. The Centre has issued a circular banning all political activities till June 8 and the state government has also followed suit with a similar order. I had requested Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa a fortnight ago about my plans of having a simple digital event. Beaming live through social media, the Pratigna function was a new concept with the aim to reach the entire state. I am also a worker and all workers have to take a pledge. It is not my take-over. I want every worker to take over the responsibility.

What about your plans of a make-over for the Congress and setting a new agenda?

I want to convert the Congress in Karnataka into a cadre-based party with a collective leadership. The voice of the worker should be the voice of the party. I want to set up booth committees called Praja Pratinidhis with the youth, women, students and others. Every MLA including Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah or me or any person aspiring for a MLA ticket should first represent the booth. That will be the basic structure of the party.

You shot into national limelight after successfully delivering the tasks assigned by the Congress high command. Is regaining Karnataka a tough challenge as the party’s vote bank has eroded?

I am planning a strategy and will announce it in a couple of days. The bigger challenge is bringing back those who had gone away from the party for small reasons and that includes some leaders. I believe in business magnate Henry Ford's saying: “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.” Therefore, whatever I want to do will be on a collective basis and I don't want to take decisions independently. Our focus now should be a vision for the state with COVID-19 going to stay with us. This is the reason for constituting a Vision Committee under former minister RV Deshpande. I am constituting another one on legal forms. All this is to undo the earlier practice of the cabinet deciding on issues without consulting the party.

But the Congress is not in power, so why all these panels?

I am setting the agenda now itself, because whatever I had requested of the state government such as convening an all-party meeting to take stock of the coronavirus, providing monetary relief to the unorganised sectors such as the flower-sellers, barbers, cab drivers and others were agreed. In fact the government was looking only at the employees welfare and I made them provide something for the employers also.

Your cordial or good equations with Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and getting certain things done has upset many in the BJP?

Where is the cordial relationship between Yediyurappa and me? He was the one to give permission to the CBI to conduct an inquiry against me. I don't have any personal differences with the CM but only politics. Regarding my meeting with Yediyurappa to withdraw the FIR filed against my leader, Congress President Sonia Gandhi by a BJP activist was because it was a sensitive matter. I had to keep the CM informed who promised to get the FIR withdrawn within 24 hours, which has not happened due to some legal hassles. I am keeping a track of that.

Also your good rapport with JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda and his family is not to the liking of many in the Congress and the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections may see both coming together?

It was Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi who decided that the party should have an alliance with the JD(S) in 2018. Since I was also part of the coalition government, I decided to abide by the decision. I am maintaining a cordial relationship with the JD(S) and CLP leader Siddaramaiah who had convened a meeting of all parties leaders invited the JD(S), CPI and the farmers representatives. Regarding Rajya Sabha polls, nothing has been discussed with me.

 In your 41 years in politics, what are the lessons you have learnt?

Only hard work pays. Loyalty will pay royalty. In politics, one should not worship an individual but the party. I believe in creating leaders not followers. I do not want to identify myself with any group or make every group. I want to take everyone together. Though I have organised many things, I have a language problem. I am not interested in being part of national politics and want to complete the responsibility given to me here.

You have often stated that you will wait for your turn to stake claim for the Chief Minister's post. Has the KPCC president's post brought you closer to that possibility?

The Chief Minister’s post is not one which comes with any miracles. First let us bring the party to power with collective leadership, and then the high command will decide.

Are you planning any padayatras as these have proved to be lucky for the Congress, when it is in the opposition to come to power? In 2010 CLP leader Siddaramaiah's yatra from Bengaluru to Ballari on the illegal mining issue propelled the party to power in 2013.

My immediate yatra which I will be undertaking shortly is not a political one. This is to meet the coronavirus affected people such as the farmers, migrants and the common man in the districts, which I could not do due to the lockdown. I want to meet the farmers in Vijayapura, Gadag, Hubballi and particularly those in the border areas. I am not hurrying on a political yatra yet.

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