Bengaluru: Senior BJP leader and Karnataka Minister R Ashoka, who is pitted against state Congress president D K Shivakumar in the latter’s home bastion of Kanakapura for the May 10 Assembly polls, said his candidacy has resulted in an election contest, in its true sense, taking place for the first time in the region after nearly two decades.
In an interview to PTI, Ashoka, who was campaigning in this village that comes under Kanakapura Assembly segment, said he feels he is a ”trigger” for public anger against the rule that existed in the region for long to come out in the open.
In a surprise move, the BJP has taken the battle to the opposition camp by fielding Ashoka, who is considered to be the Vokkaliga face of the party, against Congress’ Vokkaliga strongman Shivakumar in his home turf, which is the community’s stronghold.
Ashoka said he is in the fray from Kanakapura on the directions of the party, and his task was to win the seat, along with building the party in the constituency, where it has virtually no presence.
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Excerpts from the interview:
Question: You appeared to be hesitant to contest from Kanakapura. Why was it so?
Answer: Not at all. I was not contacted in advance, to discuss whether I’m interested or not. Directly, I got a call. I was told that the party has decided and I should go and contest (from Kanakapura). Whether me or V Somanna (fellow minister who is contesting against Siddaramaiah in Varuna constituency). We did not take a minute to accept the party’s decision. We said we were ready.
Q. Are you contesting because it is a party decision or are you really interested in standing here?
A. As a leader, I’m contesting. I should be prepared for such challenges or else I would have been limited only to Bengaluru. By contesting from other seats, my charisma also will increase. Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi (who quit BJP and joined Congress) were not given one seat despite requests. I’m given two seats (Padmanabhanagar also). I’m happy about the respect given to me. I’m given the ticket considering that I will give strength to the party and its workers here.
Q. Does BJP, as an organisation, have a presence in Kanakapura?
A. No. In the 2013 election, we secured only about 1,600-odd votes. In the previous election (2018), it was about 6,000 votes. I have to make ”treasure out of trash”. That’s the challenge.
Q. Are you contesting from Kanakapura to win or to give a fight?
A. To win….first fight and then win. Earlier, when a BJP candidate used to file his nomination, only 10 people used to go along with him. This time, I had 5,000 people with me. Our national leaders like General Secretary in-charge of Karnataka (Arun Singh) had come. I have been sent here to win along with building the party.
Q. What is giving you the confidence in the constituency?
A. People have given me unprecedented response and support so far. What is important is that this is the first time in about 20 years, an election (contest) is actually taking place in Kanakapura, people are happy about it. They are confident and happy that there won’t be any poll-related bogus or ‘dadagiri’ (intimidation) during the election. People are happy that they can vote freely.
There is Narendra Modi government at the Centre, BJP government in the state, and ‘goondagiri’ (hooliganism) won’t be allowed this time here. My first priority is to assure people about free and fair elections. I’m the trigger for the people to vent out the anger they had bottled up in them for nearly 20 years, through votes.
Q. What are the main issues people are facing in Kanakapura?
A. People here feel that they don’t have much freedom because of the local system that exists here. Freedom is their first priority. Then comes roads. All major connecting roads to Bengaluru have been completed, but only Kanakapura road has not been completed for the last 20 years. Also, there is not much development here, despite him (D K Shivakumar) being a powerful minister in the past.
Q. With Shivakumar projecting himself as the Chief Ministerial aspirant in case Congress comes to power, won’t Vokkaliga votes consolidate in his favour?
A. If that is the case, Kurubas and other backward communities, also SC/STs should turn against you (Shivakumar), as they too are in good numbers here.
Q. What is the winning margin you are looking at?
A. For me, margin is not important now. Winning is important. If I win by one vote also it’s a win, by 10,000 votes also is a win. There is ”short time, make it sweet”. You may not be confident about my victory this time, it’s natural, but don’t forget that Deve Gowda lost the election after becoming PM.
Didn’t (former PM) Indira Gandhi lose against Raj Narain, didn’t (former CMs) B S Yediyurappa and Siddaramaiah lose? Rahul Gandhi lost in his family’s traditional constituency Amethi to Smriti Irani, who was an outsider. If you touch the hearts of the people, they don’t care about anyone else.
Q. Where does the BJP stand in Karnataka, with less than a week to go for polls?
A. In the last one-and-half months, things have drastically improved for BJP stage by stage. After PM Modi’s campaigning and rallies began, it has boosted (the prospects). Also, Congress’ mistakes have increased. The Bajrang Dal issue is being taken up seriously.