Interview: C.T, Ravi, BJP

‘Political opportunity needs to be capitalised on’

Print edition : August 16, 2019

C.T. Ravi, BJP MLA from Chikkamagalur. Photo: H.S. MANJUNATH

Interview with C.T. Ravi, Karnataka State general secretary, BJP.

ONE of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) most vociferous Hindutva voices in Karnataka, 52-year-old Chikkamagaravalli Thimmegowda Ravi, is not known to mince his words. Nor does he shy away from controversy. Excerpts from an interview the four-time MLA gave Frontline:

The 14-month-old Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government in Karnataka collapsed on July 23, with Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy losing the confidence motion on the floor of the Assembly by six votes. But the BJP vacillated on forming the government.

The BJP Parliamentary Board looked at various aspects before it decided. It was quite sure that the party would make B.S. Yediyurappa the next Chief Minister of Karnataka. In my opinion, the party’s central leadership was waiting to see the ruling of the Speaker [of the Karnataka Assembly] on the resignations submitted by the rebel legislators [MLAs] before taking a decision on government formation. Yediyurappa has been given a week to prove his majority. He will do so.

The BJP has succeeded in destabilising the Congress-JD(S) government and pulling it down. Is it part of the BJP’s “Congress-mukt Bharat” agenda?

(Interrupts) No, the BJP was not the cause of the instability in the Kumaraswamy government. During the last 14 months, almost on a daily basis, the leaders of both parties fought openly and bitterly. The infighting in the Congress was also a cause for the instability.

While what you say may be true, there is little doubt that the BJP also shored up rebel MLAs, offering various inducements. There is an audio tape where B.S. Yediyurappa is allegedly trying to buy the loyalty of a JD(S) MLA.

See, the JD(S) and the Congress are not natural allies. In the May 2018 Assembly elections, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah contested from the Chamundeshwari seat and lost to the JD(S)’s G.T.Devegowda. The JD (S) was determined to defeat him. He is their political enemy number one. In the aftermath of those elections, Siddaramaiah and G.T. Deve Gowda were forced to become partners. This was not practical. In the “Old Mysore” region, the fight for political supremacy in all elections is solely between the Congress and the JD(S). The Congress high command pressured the Karnataka unit to form a coalition with the JD(S). This decision to form the coalition was not accepted by the State leadership, the workers or the MLAs. Why blame the BJP? During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Raichur, Chitradurga, even Mysore, only because JD(S) workers, and in some cases, local leaders, supported us. In seats like Tumakuru (where former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda lost), local Congress leaders and workers openly supported the BJP. Internal contradictions caused the coalition to collapse, not the BJP.

So the images of BJP leaders escorting Congress and JD(S) rebels to Mumbai from Bengaluru was just a figment of our imagination?

We [the BJP] are in the political field; political opportunity needs to be capitalised on and appropriately utilised. Their [the Congress] leadership is very weak. Our leadership is very strong, they are monitoring everyone. In Karnataka, the BJP is the natural choice of voters.

Speaking during the recent trust vote, Siddaramaiah clearly stated that the BJP may have got the largest number of seats in the 2018 Assembly elections but were not given a mandate by the people to rule the State. And in terms of percentage of votes, while the BJP received 36.2 per cent, the Congress and the JD(S) together polled over 56 per cent of the votes…..

In our system of parliamentary democracy, the number of seats is the key, not vote percentage. And the Assembly elections were a multi-cornered contest, not a straight fight. In the Lok Sabha elections, we got over 50 per cent of the votes polled.

Commenting on the BJP’s Lok Sabha election results, H.D.Kumaraswamy said during the discussions before the floor test that the BJP’s victory was “[Prime Minister Narendra] Modi’s victory, not Yediyurappa’s”.

Yes, there was a Modi wave. In Karnataka it was Modi and Yediyurappa’s victory. In the southern States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the BJP won no seats, whereas in Karnataka we won 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats. And with high leads. It was because of the strength of our cadre and also because of the leadership of Yediyurappa.

You will need the support of at least 113 MLAs in the 224-member Assembly if you are to provide a stable government. Right now you only have 105 seats. How are you going to get the additional seats? Will the rebels join your party and contest in the ensuing byelections? Having rebelled against their respective parties and having helped the BJP, they will want their pound of flesh.

The Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar’s ruling on the resignations of the 15 rebel Congress and Janata Dal MLAs is crucial. The BJP will take a decision after the ruling.

On July 25, citing paragraphs 2 (1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule, read with Article 191(2) of the Constitution, the Speaker has disqualified three MLAs until the expiry of the Assembly [2023 or otherwise, if dissolved early]. They cannot enter the 15th Legislative Assembly again.

The Speaker’s decision on disqualifying MLAs is subject to judicial review. Let us see. The Speaker’s decision means that the strength of the Assembly comes down to 222 and the BJP will need 112 to prove its majority. The Speaker has also said that he would be taking a decision on the resignations of the [other 13] rebel MLAs in a couple of days. But a new government will mean a new Speaker.

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