`The coalition will be a new model'

Print edition : February 10, 2006

K. GOPINATHAN

B.S. Yediyurappa, Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly and the Bharatiya Janata Party's likely choice for the post of Deputy Chief Minister in the event of the Janata Dal (Secular) forming a government in the State with its support, is more than happy to see the back of the Congress. Hours before the JD(S)-faction led by H.D. Kumaraswamy withdrew support to the Congress-led coalition government, he had insisted that the BJP preferred mid-term elections to the Assembly and that there was no "question of a tie-up with anybody". Excerpts from an interview Yediyurappa gave Ravi Sharma:

The BJP won the largest number of seats in the 2004 Assembly elections, but the Congress and the JD(S) combined to form the government. You had criticised this formation at that time. Now the BJP has joined hands with a faction of the JD(S).

In politics 49 equals zero, 51 equals hundred. We did not have a majority so we could not form the government then. Yes, the JD(S) could have taken the decision to align with us a long time back. We would have obliged them. But they went with the Congress. There was infighting in the [N. Dharam Singh] government almost every day. In the interest of the people, the BJP and the JD(S) have now come together.

How do you plan to work with a party that has always berated the BJP as communal?

Coalition governments are inevitable. Today most political parties are aligning with the BJP to fight the Congress. In Karnataka, the BJP supported [from outside] the Janata Party government of Ramakrishna Hegde in 1983. In the past JD(S) leaders may have made some comments against us. Maybe now they will change their perception. For our part, in the interest of the people we will forget everything that has happened in the past. The BJP and the JD(S) will work together like a family. We will work out a common minimum programme and base our activities on that.

How important is the political foothold you are getting. It is for the first time that the BJP is coming to power in a southern State (barring Goa).

It is definitely very important. Our national leaders are extremely happy about this.

The proposed coalition is said to be based on the Jammu and Kashmir model.

Call it anything you want. It will be a new model - the Karnataka model. We have worked out everything. I don't foresee any problems. We have an absolute majority, about 132 legislators in a House of 224.

Much of the senior JD (S) leadership was not aware of the goings on until the actual withdrawal of support on January 18. But the BJP leaders seemed to be abreast of the happenings. Did the party have a hand in the JD(S) faction's withdrawal of support?

No, not at all. In fact it was the day prior to the withdrawal that we held discussions with our national leaders. It was on the day of the withdrawal that we took a decision to align with Kumaraswamy.

Was BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu specially despatched to Bangalore by party president Rajnath Singh to oversee the break-up of the JD(S)? The common perception is that the BJP engineered the withdrawal.

No. Up to the last minute we were not aware of what was happening.

Is this not opportunistic politics?

We are not at all opportunistic. The mandate from the people in the 2004 Assembly elections was against the Congress; hence the people will appreciate our stand on the JD(S)'s withdrawal from the Congress-led coalition.

Are you happy with Governor T.N. Chaturvedi's decision to give Chief Minister Dharam Singh eight days to prove his majority on the floor of the House?

I know we can't criticise the Governor. But all I'm saying is that since the legislative session is on, the Governor could have asked Dharam Singh to prove his strength immediately.

The Governor's explanation for not calling for a vote sooner was that it was because of the intervening holidays and also because your party had requested that no business be conducted on January 20.

That is not correct. Yes, we had made a request regarding conducting business on January 20 since we planned to attend the BJP National Council meeting in Delhi. But in view of the fast-paced political developments, we gave a letter withdrawing the request. Let me clarify that we were only boycotting the joint session, not the legislative session. But January 27 [the date set for show of strength] is too late.

Are you afraid some legislators who have broken ranks with JD(S) national president H.D. Deve Gowda will now go back to him?

I'm not afraid of this. But I'm sure that the Congress will try to lure away some of these legislators.

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