Karnataka’s chief minister-elect HD Kumaraswamy, in an exclusive interview to ET, says that his decision to head a JDS-Congress coalition was necessary to “correct” the political situation in the country and not to fulfil a personal ambition. He said that BJP was still trying to lure MLAs from the coalition ahead of the vote of confidence that he had planned to take on May 24.
You have become king, not kingmaker, as you anticipated ahead of the election…
I wanted to become king through the mandate of the people, not like this. The first time, in 2006, I became CM due to political developments. Today also, my situation is the same. It is not because of the blessings of the people. Why didn’t the people of Karnataka understand what I feel? Why didn’t they have belief in me? I am feeling terrible about that. I am not a politician, I am an emotional being. I know what people’s troubles are, what their expectations are. If I have to bring in solutions… people have seen both the BJP and Congress; I thought people will give me a chance. But I (JDS) got lesser seats than last time.
If you feel that way, why did you agree to this coalition government?
This is not my personal option. Today, the country is in anticipation of a new change, a section of people are expecting a change.
Several opposition leaders also feel that the situation is such that the country and society are being divided. They want to join hands and correct it. I am responding to this feeling and sending a political message to the rest of the country. I was not desperate to become the chief minister. I have already been the CM, no one can take the ‘former chief minister’ tag away from me.
Congress has more numbers than the JDS. Why did you insist on heading this coalition?
I did not ask for it at all. They (Congress) came forward voluntarily and offered unconditional support to a five-year term headed by me. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad called me and said they had taken a unanimous decision on this. I asked for time, but he said I had to decide immediately. I went to my father (former PM HD Deve Gowda) and said these are the two options, and I followed what he decided. In 2006, when I went with the BJP, doubts were raised across the country about Deve Gowda and that ‘father-son’ were doing drama to get the chief minister’s post. It is a black mark I have put on him and I had to make that go away. So, despite pressure on me from multiple sides, I have set out to give a message to the country. At least now, let that black dot be wiped out.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi called your party the Janata Dal (Sangh Parivar)…
The BJP didn’t get to 104 seats on its own effort. There was a systematic attempt to tell the Muslim community that we (JDS) would go with BJP. It is not that it is Congress party, but some people did. A team of mullahs and retired Muslim officers went all over the state to say don’t vote for JDS. It is irrelevant now who encouraged them to do so. But whom this has impacted is there for all to see. It is because of the Muslim community’s decision that BJP has got 104 seats. It is also the Muslim community’s decision which has brought me to this situation. It has harmed you (the community), not me.
What is the message you are setting out to give the country with a coalition with such bitterness?
During the election (campaign) and otherwise we have mounted agitations, made statements against each other. But the country’s situation is such that a message of secular parties must be sent. There is an undeclared emergency in this country. The central government is misusing institutions and the kind of efforts they have made, nobody has done in 70 years. This has to be corrected. Four years ago, they promised a big change and won. There has been no change. Now they are asking for another five years and that 2024 will see change. We, all regional parties and Congress, have to join hands and fight this, in my opinion. And that is the message we are sending from Karnataka. Several major changes in national politics have come from our state, 100% this (the coalition government) is a turning point for the 2019 election.
What role do you see for Congress president Rahul Gandhi?
He is a youngster. In today’s political environment, he should take the lead. My suggestion is that the decisions he takes should not give any kind of weapon to our opponents. He should work in such a way that people will support and praise him.
Will there be a role in your coalition for your bitter critics in the Congress, such as former chief minister Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar?
Definitely there will be a role. They have set aside all differences and come forward to hold my hand. I am responding to that. I am asking our BJP friends to keep the welfare of the state in mind, and not party enmity, during the vote of confidence.
Will you win the vote of confidence?
I am very confident I will. They (the BJP) are still trying to lure our MLAs and defeat me. The efforts they made to break us are there for all to see. But we will win.