Junking pre-poll surveys giving opposition Congress an edge in the May 10 Assembly elections in the state , Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Friday exuded confidence his party BJP will retain power with a ”comfortable majority” and without the JD(S)’ support.
In an interview to PTI, Bommai said whether he will continue as CM in the event of the saffron party coming to power will be decided by the BJP high command and its Parliamentary Board. He also said former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, who defected to Congress over denial of a BJP ticket to yet again contest from Hubli-Dharwad Central, will lose this time. Whereas, the 14 defectors who helped the BJP topple the Congress-JD(S) government in 2019 will win from their respective segments.
Bommai also alleged the Congress has taken the election discourse to a ”very low level”. ”There was no edge to Congress at all. We know how surveys are made. I am expecting a comfortable majority,” Bommai said, and added the party may not require the support of the JD(S).
”No chance at all (of taking JD(S) support). We will get an absolute majority,” he said. Asked if the exit of Shettar will impact Lingayat votes, the chief minister said, ”Not at all. We will win Shettar’s seat.” The dominant Lingayats comprise 17 per cent of Karnataka’s population.
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”Looking into his background and track record, it is neither acceptable to BJP nor to some of the Congress supporters. So, it is totally not at all an organic shift for Shettar,” he said. On the caste-based quota, he said internal reservation under OBCs and other things were a long pending demand and ”I have addressed” them.
Earlier, many people were denied the benefit because reservation was not given as per the population. Those sections of people have got hopes now with internal reservation, he said. ”We have recommended the internal reservation; ultimately the Government of India has to take a call,” he added. Ahead of the elections, the state government created two new categories of OBCs to include the Lingayats and Vokkaligas to provide the benefits of reservation.
Dismissing the Congress’ 40 per cent commission charge against his government, Bommai challenged, ”Let the press or the Opposition or the contractors’ association show one case (against our government). I will answer.” He also blamed the Opposition for the saffron party not raising development issues in the election campaign. ”It is because of the Opposition. We have done a lot of development in the state. They are going to fail,” he added.
Stating that the Congress has taken the election discourse to a very low level, Bommai said BJP legislator Basangounda Patil Yatnal’s ‘Visha Kanye’ remarks, aimed at former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, are ”not normal.” But it has been taken to a ”very low level by the Congress.” ”It started with Congress. The Visha Sarpa (venomous snake) remark was made at none other than (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi by AICC President (Mallikarjun Kharge). That’s how the reaction comes. You cannot say and get away,” he said.
Asked if he is emerging as a dominant Lingayat leader after B S Yediyurappa, Bommai said, there was a battery of leaders in the party now. ”All are leaders, there is nothing called second rung.” The CM is seeking re-election for the fourth consecutive time from the Shiggaon constituency in Haveri district. The Congress has fielded Yasir Ahmed Khan Pathan from the constituency, while Sashidhar Yeligar, who is a Panchamashali Lingayat, is the JD(S) pick.
Asked if he is worried about the triangular fight in his constituency with the JD(S) candidate , Bommai, a Sadar Lingayat said this question has been raised by the press for the last 15 years. ”Everytime, they (people) have voted for me. They have love and affection more than political relations with all the families. So, I am very confident that all sections of the society and all castes will vote for me,” he asserted.
On water and drainage issues in the constituency, he said these are the gram panchayat issues. ”They are temporary and will be solved later.” Highlighting development works undertaken in Shiggaon, he said about 2,000 km of roads have been constructed. ”All my village roads are concrete and village to field roads are tar (bitumen-topped) roads which no other constituencies have,” he added.