In an interview with TNM, the two-time state minister speaks on the popularity of PM Modi, the controversial elevated corridor project as he aims to beat former CM Sadananda Gowda.

Krishna Byre Gowda interview Limited time is a challenge but Cong-JDS strength high
news Lok Sabha 2019 Monday, April 01, 2019 - 07:51

At 45, even for a second-generation politician, Krishna Byre Gowda can be considered an overachiever by the standards set in Indian politics. After winning his first election in 2003 following the death of his father and former Janata Dal leader C Byre Gowda from Vemagal in Kolar, Byre Gowda left the Janata Dal and joined the Congress. Since then, he has five Assembly victories under his belt, and has retained his place in the cabinet in the current Kumaraswamy-led government.

But now he faces an uphill task of beating incumbent MP and Union Minister Sadanada Gowda from Bengaluru North Lok Sabha constituency, after being named as the candidate for the coalition partners at the last minute. This is an exact repeat of when a decade ago, he was announced as the Congress candidate against the mercurial Ananth Kumar of the BJP from Bangalore South. Though Byre Gowda emerged only second, four-time incumbent Ananth Kumar’s margin was brought down to less than 40,000 votes.

Having been elected successively from one of the Assembly segments in the constituency, Byre Gowda is upbeat about his prospects of representing his state and party at the national level.

“Limited time is a challenge but Congress and JD(S) voters’ strength in this constituency is very high. We have seven MLAs, and in the last Assembly election, we had a margin of two and a half lakh votes over BJP. So, we are starting from a position of strength. I also have the credibility of being connected, visible, and active as an MLA for the last 10 years. I have worked with people from the entire Bangalore North region, and have close contact with party workers and the general public,” the Karnataka Minister for Rural Development says in an exclusive interview with TNM.

He adds, “Compare that to our opponent who got elected five years ago and was really invisible. He wouldn't get involved and work with the people of this constituency. So for him, there is no connect, there is no performance to speak of, and he was not accessible to people. So compared to that, even with the time constraint, it still puts me at an advantage because I have my voter base and the strength of cadre of both the parties across all eight segments.”

Excerpts from the interview:

Didn’t you initially refuse to be a candidate for this election citing fatigue from the Assembly elections? What made you change your mind?

You are right. Having just gone to an election less than a year ago, I was not prepared. But the demand from the public, workers, and leaders of both parties was tremendous. In public life, I can't always be thinking of my own preferences. It's out of a desire to respect the will of people and party leaders that I accepted the challenge.

You have said the incumbent MP was invisible. Can you give us one example of how you would have done things differently?

See, the least we can do is to be available to the people. I don't think that's negotiable. To give one example, the Old Madras Road is choked with traffic and it is under the National Highway Authority of India. During UPA, the government commissioned elevated roads on Ballari Road, Tumkur Road, and Hosur Road. Because of these elevated roads, traffic is moving. But if you look at the last five years, as an MP and a union minister, he (Sadananda Gowda) could have prevailed upon the central government to build an elevated road from KR Puram. Sometimes, it is not possible to get things done but he has not tried. Like this, I can go on giving you examples.

Personally, for you, you had won the 2018 Assembly elections with a narrow margin. Isn’t it a matter of worry?

No, there are a total of eight Assembly segments, and putting all those together it puts us at an advantageous position. As I said, we have two and a half lakh votes more than the BJP in the entire constituency going by the Assembly elections.  

You have been very vocal on many issues but you have not been heard enough speaking on matters related to Bengaluru. What is your stance on the controversial elevated corridor project?

I don't know how you are saying this. I have spoken on every issue that has been asked of me. We believe the elevated road network is necessary along with other forms of solutions to solve Bengaluru's traffic problem to ensure future growth of Bengaluru. Every government in the last 20 years had considered elevated road network as a necessary part of the set of solutions for Bengaluru's traffic problems. This government is not suggesting elevated roads as an alternative to other solutions. And our Chief Minister has said that we are willing to discuss with anybody who has disagreements, as we have an open mind. We are pushing metro aggressively in all directions. We have dedicated Rs 11,500 crore for the suburban railway. Recently, we passed a resolution to commit Rs 6,000 crore for land acquisition for the Peripheral Ring Road although we were expecting the Centre to provide the cost.

With regards to the central government, you have said the state has been denied its fair share of financial allocation. But the Centre says the state government does not cooperate with them. What is your take?

Even in the release of 14th Finance Commission grants, Centre has not released our full share. For MNREGA, 90% of this money is supposed to come from the Centre, but the Centre has not paid its share – to the tune of Rs 700 crore. Because people are suffering and these are daily wage earners, the state government had to step in and pay close the Rs 700 crore which the central government should have paid. These are facts and figures, not an allegation I am making.  

Also coming to 15th Finance Commission, the Terms of Reference are penalising progressive states like Karnataka which are losing out devolution money because of the formula decided by the current government. We have made efforts to control our population over the last 25 years as a contribution to the national interest. So I do not know what cooperative federalism and promoting performance they speak of.

Obviously, the central government is unfair, if you look at the disaster relief given to Karnataka. They have given Rs 4,700 crore to Maharashtra but has given Karnataka only Rs 949 crore. Where is the parity?

Why should a common person vote for Congress? Many believe that Congress is no match for Prime Minister Modi in terms of personal popularity.

It’s true, there is no match for Modi Saab when it comes to making promises and marketing blitz. But when it comes to performance, in every performance indicator you will find 10 years of UPA was far better. Be it in economic growth, job creation, financial sector performance, elimination of poverty... In every real parameter, 10 years of UPA were better of five years of Modi Saab. Where is the promise of creating jobs?

Perhaps, I have a little bit more respect for people's intelligence than maybe others. I believe people can differentiate between promises and actual work. And people will vote for performance.

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