Bengaluru: Congress strategist DK Shivakumar has thrown himself into campaign mode since his release on bail in a money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate. The bypoll to 15 Assembly seats will be held on Thursday and counting of votes will take place on December 9 to decide whether the five-month-old BJP government stays in power in the state.
The bypolls were necessitated after the defection of Congress and JD(S) MLAs who vacated their seats to facilitate the BJP's return to power. They were disqualified and almost all of them are contesting again on BJP tickets. At least six of them must win for the BJP to stay in power.
Shivakumar, who has been campaigning every day and has been receiving a hero's welcome in all districts, spoke to News18.com on what he thinks of the BJP's chances after the politics that played out in Maharashtra.
Given the events in Maharashtra, what do you think of the Congress’ chances in the Karnataka by-elections?
From what I could see, people are very frustrated with the political developments at the national level. Economic issues have become very challenging. They don't want to see ‘Operation Lotus’ (a reference to the BJP’s alleged poaching of MLAs) become successful. The mass support I see, if converted into votes, may push BJP to the third place. On the economy front, every common man doing business in the state has been affected a lot. Where will they show that? They will show the anger in their voting.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has said he will sue Congress leaders over allegations of buying out MLAs…
Yediyurappa himself admitted to this at a party meeting and even an MLA accused an ex-minister of offering him Rs 30 crore. What happened after that? Why didn’t the Income Tax department file a criminal case then? They are saying now that a (defamation) case will be filed. We are not cowards, we will face it legally.
Your brand power has been increasing ever since you walked out of jail. You are being hailed as the ‘Chanakya of Karnataka’...
I don't know, a lot of names and captions are given by friends. But I'm a party cadre. I have to do my job, whether big or small. Whatever crisis management I have been given, I have to do. My health is not so good, but it is still my duty to see that my party comes back to power.
But you seem to have emerged more powerful after the arrest.
The people of Karnataka have seen me for 35 years. They have not treated me as someone different, they treated me as a worker. Deep down, they know me. They know that I have not done anything wrong. They feel for me as though their own family, their own brother has been affected. And they took it upon themselves to show solidarity with me when I was in ED custody. It has nothing to do with power. It is the love they showered on me. They know I have been harassed.
You certainly seem to sport that beard (grown during jail stint) as a badge of honour. Is that to evoke sympathy, to keep reminding people?
Not only remind them, it is to remind me also. Every day, when I look at my face, I have to remind myself of why I have this beard, why I went to Tihar Jail, who put me behind bars. I should also not forget my 'friends'. I should remember them and plan for myself.
Your family members have also been summoned now...
I don't want to make any political issue out of that. They will approach the court. Yediyurappa has also given permission for another case against me to CBI. Any time, I'm waiting... After the 5th of this month (polling day)... Till then, they won't do anything. I am sure I will come out, be it anything.
Why is DK Shivakumar being singled out?
More the strength, more the enemies. They (BJP) feel I'm a threat to them, so they are targeting me.
Will Karnataka see a repeat of what happened in Maharashtra? There is already talk of an 'Operation Lotus' there.
Let me discuss this after the 9th (counting day).
Do you foresee mid-term polls in Karnataka?
Let me speak after the 9th. The BJP itself will take a decision in its own interest.
There are divisions within the Congress too. Many leaders don’t get along with each other. Won't that affect your party's chances?
I don't think any individual counts here. It is the party, the philosophy and ideology of the party that counts.