Interview with Jagadish Shettar, Chief Minister of Karnataka.
The political life of Jagadish Shettar, the new Chief Minister of Karnataka, could not have been more topsy-turvy. In 1999, when the BJP was defeated in the Assembly elections, he not only retained his Hubli Rural seat but also essayed the role of the Leader of the Opposition with elan. But hardly a decade later, his valid claim to be made a Minister was turned down by the BJPs Karnataka strongman, B.S. Yeddyurappa, who saw Shettar as an unwanted rival.
Both politicians belong to the Lingayat community and naturally bank on the same vote base. In 2009, faced with a rebellion from the Reddy brothers of Bellary, Yeddyurappa was forced to take the support of all the old hands of the party, including Shettar. Shettar was inducted into the Cabinet as Revenue Minister.
In August 2011, Shettar was once again stymied by Yeddyurappa, who preferred D.V. Sadananda Gowda to succeed him to the post of Chief Minister. Eleven months later, reiterating the adage that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, Yeddyurappa has supported Shettars candidature, making him Karnatakas 21st Chief Minister and the BJPs third in four years.
When Frontline met him for an impromptu interview barely 24 hours after he was unexpectedly chosen for the top post, Shettar was busy receiving his well-wishers. Excerpts:
You are taking over the reins of government at a very crucial time. What are your priorities?
I want to provide the people of Karnataka good administration and a corruption-free government. I will strive for these during the 10 months of my rule. My government will be transparent. We want to hide nothing from the people.
Many areas of Karnataka are currently facing drought.
Yes, you are right. Many areas of the State are facing a severe drought. My governments priority will be to tackle this drought on a war footing. Just hours after my swearing in, I held a meeting with the heads of various government departments and officials and reviewed the measures being taken to tackle the drought situation. During the discussions, I directed the officials to ensure effective implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the supply of drinking water and fodder in the affected areas.
Will you seek aid from the Government of India to tackle the drought?
We will ask for aid. The details are yet to be worked out.
You are the BJPs third Chief Minister in Karnataka in four years. What will be the partys prospects in the 2013 elections?
The partys prospects are good. The future holds out promise for the BJP. In the four years that the BJP has been in power, a lot of good work has been done. I will continue with all the good work, schemes and programmes started by my predecessors, Yeddyurappa and Sadananda Gowda, and ensure their effective implementation. Yes, many of the social security pension schemes that have been launched have not reached the targeted persons. I have asked the officials to ensure that they do. I also have a plan for development in mind and all work will be carried out as per that plan.
The image of the BJP has gone down because of dissidence.
I agree. But these things [differences] happen in all political parties. I will try to improve the image of the party by giving the people a good government. I will be taking into confidence all the senior leaders of the party, including the former Chief Ministers and other seniors. There will not be any scope for misunderstanding.
Governor H.R. Bhardwaj did not want MLAs against whom cases have been filed either in the High Court or with the Lokayukta to` be inducted into the Cabinet. But you have chosen to ignore this.
No one can be held guilty unless proved as such.
There is still some disgruntlement among the legislators on not being given ministerial posts.
I dont want to comment on the issue now. All I can say is that the past is behind us.