Karnataka is set to see a high-voltage battle on the seat of Kanakapura, just 65 kilometres away from Bengaluru, where senior BJP leader and revenue minister R Ashok will enter the lair of state Congress chief DK Shivakumar and take him head on.
Shivakumar, who has won seven consecutive elections since 1989, has also won this seat for three consecutive terms. Ashok — also a Vokkaliga leader like Shivakumar — hopes to cash in on the Narendra Modi factor to capture votes in favour of the BJP. Ashok will contest from two seats — Padmanabh Nagar in Bengaluru and Kanakapura.
In an exclusive interview to News18, Ashok said he is all fired up to make Kanakapura a ‘BJP constituency’. Explaining why a large number of sitting MLAs were denied tickets, the BJP leader clarified that they were facing high anti-incumbency in their seats, forcing the central leadership to take tough decisions.
How do you see the election this time as you will be fighting from two seats? Is it going to be easy for you?
I have won elections six times — thrice from Padmanabha Nagar and thrice from Uttarahalli. It was a surprise to me that I will be contesting from two seats. Both are very important. Padmanabh Nagar is where Deve Gowda resides and Kanakapura is from where Congress party president DK Shivakumar will contest against me. Shivakumar too has won elections seven times. I think this election is a challenge for me. I am a ‘sainika’ (soldier) and my captain and commander have given me the order to fight. I will fight and win both constituencies.
What will be your strategy for Kanakapura where you will be fighting against Shivakumar? The region is a Vokkaliga belt as well.
Two Vokkaligas are going to fight against each other. Shivakumar is a familiar figure, so am I. I am a revenue minister at present and naturally, it is going to be a big fight there. All communities, including Vokkaligas, want a Narendra Modi government. Those who want Modi will vote for BJP and me. There is a Modi trend across India. Take the Northeast, where there is a high Christian population. There too we have won due to the Modi wave. I will make Kanakapura a BJP constituency.
You are saying people of Kanakapura who want to vote for Modi should vote for you and you will go to the people with Modi’s governance?
Yes, naturally. He is my leader. Every villager knows who Modi is. Kanakapura is a tough constituency… An election is like a war. In the last Lok sabha election the BJP got more than 50,000 votes in Kanakapura which means Modi is popular. When I enter the constituency, naturally the Vokkaligas will support me. I have received many calls from people saying they will back me.
How is the BJP trying to control the rebellion in the party?
The central leaders have spoken to Eshwarappa and Jagadish Shettar. The problem is the people who have come from other parties. BJP in the Centre and state are very strong and they will manage the issues smoothly. They will be resolved in two to three days. We have announced more than 200 seats which no other party has done so, naturally, everybody wants to contest as an MLA. Our leaders are very capable of handling this.
Wherever Amit Shah goes, the BJP wins — be it UP or the Northeast, there is victory. Wherever Rahul Gandhi goes, the Congress loses. Amit Shah told me in the core committee meeting recently that he will come to Karnataka and leave only after the formation of the BJP government. That is the kind of confidence we have. When Modi-ji starts campaigning, we get an additional 20 seats for the BJP.
Senior leaders like Angara and Raghupati Bhat said they felt humiliated by the way they were denied tickets. How do you respond?
Our party leaders will discuss this with the leaders. There were four to five surveys that were conducted in Karnataka. There was no partiality in the selection of candidates. The central leaders took into consideration the caste combination and the result of the survey reports before taking a decision. The reports showed that many MLAs had anti-incumbency in their seats.
You are saying those who have been dropped faced anti-incumbency?
Yes. Usually, the level of anti-incumbency could be minus one or minus two, or even three. We can increase the chances in such cases with visits and campaigns by our central leaders, BS Yediyurappa, and Basavaraj Bommai. But more than five per cent anti-incumbency is unmanageable and that is why the party high command decided to deny them tickets.
Has the increase in reservation for the Lingayats and Vokkaligas and the building of the Kempegowda statue helped garner more support of the Vokkaligas towards the BJP?
Yes, it certainly has. There will be an increase of four to five per cent in Vokkaliga support. PM Modi visited Mandya and held a big rally, inaugurated the Mysore-Bengaluru expressway, the Kempegowda statue at the airport, and the one that I helped install in front of Vidhan Soudha. It will all help us. In the last 70 years, there was not a single statue of the man who built Bengaluru — Kempegowda. All this will work positively for all communities, including Vokkaligas.
Were you upset when you faced posters that said ‘Go back, Ashok’?
I was not upset. It is bound to happen that when a strong person enters Mandya, rivals will protest. The police report is with me. I have a body of work to show, including my Grama Vastavya (village stay) programme, handing over Hakku Patras (title deeds) to beneficiaries by Modi-ji in Gulbarga. I want to do a similar one in Davanagere. As a revenue minister, I have done all this.
What do you think of Siddaramaiah reconsidering contesting from Kolar?
Whichever constituency Siddaramaiah goes to, be it Varuna, Badami, or Chamundeshwari, he will not deliver to the people of that constituency. He has never been stable in any constituency. In the 224 seats, there is not a single ‘safe seat’ for Siddaramaiah. He faces rebellion from his own leaders everywhere. DK Shivakumar is trying to defeat him, Parameshwara is trying to defeat him, and KH Muniyappa wants to defeat him. That is why he fears contesting from any constituency in the state.
What would be your political mantra to fight your opponent Shivakumar?
It is war and I am a soldier. My commander (Modi) will also come to campaign and it will benefit me. Shivakumar has no commander. He needs to handle everything on his own. Mere paas Modi hai, Amit Shah ji hai, uske paas (DKS) kya hai? I will fight and win against DK Shivakumar.
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