The Congress in Karnataka seems to have got a head start in this election with successful campaigns against the BJP like PayCM and 40 per cent commission having made an impact.
If the Grand Old Party strategises the elections well and does not get ‘overconfident’, it can come back to power with a full mandate, believes senior Congress leader and former Karnataka chief minister Veerappa Moily.
In an exclusive interview to News18, Moily pointed to corruption as a major issue. He also called the move to increase the reservation quota for Lingayats and Vokkaligas an “ad hoc one which has been done unscientifically”.
Is Congress confident or overconfident?
The Congress is confident. Overconfidence is not good. The confidence level is quite good because we were the early starters and the government (BJP) was sleeping. They, including their MLAs, indulged in corruption. The ‘40 per cent’ slogan that was coined really clicked for us and touched the hearts of the people. A contractor Santhosh died by suicide because of the demand for commission. Another suicide took place in Ramanagara. Many suicides have taken place and that has really touched people. They think yes, the BJP is a corrupt government.
Do you think the people will give a full mandate to Congress?
Yes, because we had a lot of meetings like the Mekedatu March. That was also a mega show from the Congress and BJP tried to scuttle it by filing cases against all of us. Even then we were not afraid and the march went on successfully.
Do you think Congress is better organised this time around compared to previous elections?
We are better organised than in the previous elections. In 2018, we were very confident because we were in the government. That overconfidence killed us. That is why we should not be overconfident this time. We reached out to the hearts of the people with literature and they were very impressed with our work. Corruption is certainly a big issue in this election.
Another burning issue in Karnataka is that of reservation. On what basis was the reservation given to Muslims by you?
The issue had gone to the Supreme Court and they said four per cent [quota] should be given. The decision was taken based on the socio-educational survey conducted by the minority commission headed by Rahman Khan. When you go to the Supreme Court or High Court, they ask for data and it was available in Karnataka. That data proved to the courts that they deserved reservation.
The BJP says the reservation given to minorities is unconstitutional and done by Congress and JDS for vote bank politics.
If it was unconstitutional, the courts should have declared it so. They have gone to the courts here (Karnataka) as well as the Supreme Court. I did not give reservation exclusively to Muslims. I have done it as an entire package for all Backward Classes. So the Muslims became a class. Contrary to the allegations by Amit Shah saying it was a communal or religious reservation, it is not. I was conscious not to do it communally as I knew it will not succeed.
I have included that in the list while implementing the Chinappa Reddy Commission. Chinappa Reddy was appointed, they conducted a survey and submitted a report to me and on that basis, I had allotted classes like IA, IB, IIA, etc. Muslims are classified as IIB under that Backward Class order. So it is a compact list of Backward Classes that Muslims have been given. Do you think anybody will allow us to implement it otherwise? It has been in implementation since 1993 till today… for 35 years. The BJP suddenly wakes up today and calls it a religious reservation.
If it goes to the courts today, will it stand?
It has gone to the Supreme Court and High Court. My reservation decision was based on scientific data. Minorities, even Muslims, have been treated as a class and not a caste. It is not caste reservation and that is why it stood the scrutiny of law in the courts.
The only thing that the Supreme Court said is that you cannot have a 72 per cent reservation and limit it to 50 per cent. I limited it. At first, I gave Muslims six per cent reservation, then I reduced it to four per cent. Proportionately, other classes were also reduced and kept under 50 per cent.
The Congress is saying if voted to power, the decision on Muslim reservation will be reversed. But the reservation quota for the Vokkaligas and Lingayats has been increased now.
How can they increase it? On what basis have they increased it without any scientific data? Everything that they (BJP) have done will be struck down.
The decision to increase or reduce the usage of SC and ST has to be done by the National Commission for Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes. The BJP took it upon themselves to increase it and it now exceeds the 50 per cent cap. The present reservation is not implementable at all. If you want to make any changes to the state for Backward Classes, you have to report to the State Backward Class Commission. The Chinappa Reddy Commission report was implemented, but it was challenged before the Supreme Court in the Indira Sahni case that laid down the parameters of how classification can be done.
It said it can be reviewed every 10 years which is the mandate of the Supreme Court. If they want to do it, my commission’s was the last one. Though the BJP appointed another commission, they could not come up with a report. My commission’s report stood the scrutiny of the law and the test of time. If you want to reverse it or change it, you can do so by reconsidering it as reservation is not permanent or static.
How do you see the BJP’s poll pitch on campaigning on development and not communalism?
Do you remember the statement of [Nalin Kumar] Kateel who said we are not interested in development, we will only talk about hijab and other issues? This is the statement of BJP’s state president. I hail from the Karavali (South Karnataka) region and won my seat in Karkala for six continuous terms even though my community had just around 5,000-6,000 votes. When I was the state leader, I would take more interest in strategising at the state level. Earlier, the two districts of Dakshin Kannada and Udupi used to be one. These two districts put together, not twice but thrice, we won all of them. Of the three Lok Sabha seats, I won all three seats. In all the zilla and taluka panchayat, we had 100 per cent results. Congress will have to strategise in such a way that this is a temporary phenomenon.
Now you have just one MLA in the region.
We have just one MLA there because Congress had not properly strategised. If we strategise well, Congress can come back with 100 per cent results. That is also possible now. I have seen all these waves in 55 years of my experience.
The BJP has been raising issues like Veer Savarkar, Tipu Sultan and Hijab. How do you see this narrative and its effect, especially in areas like Dakshin Kannada?
South Karnataka is a cosmopolitan region, a cauldron of all communities. There are Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Bearys. Even from my microscopic community hailing from the region, anyone can become chief minister. Whenever I contested, I have won. Suppose I go there today, I am telling you this, I will win.
I am historian of sorts and I want to tell you that Rani Abakka was a brave warrior who fought against the Portuguese and kept them at bay. Even the British managed to occupy this region towards the end because of the unity of the people. Tipu Sultan united people, Rani Abakka united people. This the secular character of the region. If Tipu sultan practised communalism, he would not have got a place in the hearts of the people of Dakshin Karnataka. Tipu Sultan was never communal. When the Maratha kings attacked Sringeri, Tipu Sultan gave shelter, jewels and lands to the Sringeri Swamiji. A ‘pooja’ is also done in his name in Sringeri, Kollur, and Nanjangud.
In Srirangapatna, which was his capital, one of the biggest temples remains intact. He allowed a big temple to survive. History cannot be distorted.
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