Bengaluru: Actor Prakash Raj, who has been vocal against the ruling BJP, will on Friday file his nomination to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Bangalore Central as an Independent candidate. Speaking to News18, Raj, who says he wants to offer an alternative brand of politics, claims he has the backing of political outfits such as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and has sought indirect support from the Congress by asking the party to not field a candidate.
What led to your entry into politics?
Empowered people like me, who have a say in things, cannot keep quiet. People say politics is a dirty game, but who is going to change it unless we take charge? Citizens’ voice should be heard in Parliament. I decided to contest from Bangalore Central because I was born here, finished my schooling and college here, and I belong here. I have always been connected to this place.
You have been vocal against the BJP government… but to take on the BJP, shouldn’t you have joined another party?
Why do you think only the BJP or the Congress is an alternative? The national parties have failed. The BJP is trying to bring in Hindutva and instil fear. What is the Congress doing? It is keeping its shop open so that minorities will flock there. What have they done till now? It is not about the BJP or the Congress. It is high time citizens make their voices heard, the Constitution is for the people to rule themselves.
Independent candidates have rarely won…
So does that mean you don’t want to do it? Is it a question of winning or is it a way of life? It is to answer to your conscience… Maybe I’m different from the other Independent candidates who have contested before.
The division of secular votes, as people say, may end up helping the BJP.
Do you think the people who voted for the BJP are not secular? Why are you dividing people? I’m appealing to them... it’s about how both the national parties have made people vote in fear. People have suffered equally under both. If I have been vocal against the BJP, it is because they are in power. Now the festival of democracy is here, and I am telling people to think and take a call because your vote is not just a piece of paper. It is your stance, your concern for the nation.
Has the Congress approached you?
No, they never approached me. They clearly know that I will not join a party. The Congress, which has not won here in the past 10 years, should not talk about the division of votes. I say you [the Congress] are the ones dividing my vote because you have failed to win here. If you think you are secular, if you think you want to stop the BJP, then support me. The BSP, the Communist Party of India and the Aam Aadmi Party are supporting me. I am speaking to several people from civil society as well. If it is a party’s norm to field a candidate, they can. But I’m not joining any party, that is not my journey in politics. I’m the first person to announce that I am an Independent, I will stick to it.
So you have asked them [the parties] to consider not fielding candidates?
I have requested everybody. That is politics… it is nothing to be ashamed of. I have requested the Congress as well. But they have not announced yet, they may announce it tomorrow.
With what promises will you approach the people?
For 10 years, we have had PC Mohan [BJP candidate from Bangalore Central]. I have walked the streets that no candidate has walked. As an MP, what has he done? Look at his campaign, he asks people to vote for Narendra Modi again. But people don’t select the Prime Minister, we select our representative from our constituency. People of 540-plus [in Parliament] come to a consensus and elect a Prime Minister. You [the MP] are answerable to us because you represent five-and-a-half lakh people who voted for you. Have you done that? Have you brought in measures from the Centre? Have you raised a voice when something is wrong… because there is no conscience. You [Mohan] listen to a party, not the five lakh people who voted for you. Now you are coming without a report card. I want an MP to present a report card every year, about what they have done and what they have been unable to do, about what they think of local and state and national issues. An MP is a statesman, have you been that?
Are you in politics to stay, whether you win or lose?
What do you mean win or lose? Rizwan Arshad was the Congress candidate last time (who lost PC Mohan), where did he go after that? Four lakh people voted for him, trusted him, his party was in government. Did he do anything? He became an MLC.
So you are here to stay?
I’m here to stay. Because it is a way of life, even if I lose. If three lakh to four lakh people vote for me, I need to represent their voice. The number of votes I get shows those people are ready for alternative politics. You need to keep growing. Similar to how acting has been a way of life, now this is a way of life. I will be with the people because that is how a movement starts.
You have been vocal on social media on many issues. Will that continue? [Can be avoided]
Now we have reached a point where citizens should blame ourselves because we vote for them. If you see my campaign, I am speaking out about water, roads, what’s happening to Bengaluru, why are we not talking about the people? Can the national parties not announce their candidates six months ahead? People need to know who their candidates are. An election is a dialogue between voters and you (leaders). Go back to the people, give a report card of what you did, have a dialogue, win their trust. Because, finally, they have to decide.