Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai is all set to face the upcoming assembly election with a report card of good governance, a vibrant state economy, and a “responsible government”.
As the chief guest at CNN-News18’s Bengaluru Townhall on Tuesday, Bommai spoke extensively on issues like corruption, reservations, the state’s revenue, and the role of BS Yediyurappa in the BJP’s political fortunes.
Bommai believes that his government brought Karnataka’s economy back on track and since the BJP took over in government, the growth story of the state continues. He said that though in the beginning the BJP was not mandated to form the government, after the Congress-JD(S) coalition fell, the party in the short term that it has been in power has made a lot of impact, especially in the past one and a half years.
He said that despite the fact that there were floods in the state, it did not deter Karnataka’s growth story.
“The revenue collection of my state when we took over was Rs 5,000 crore in deficit. In less than 6 months, we recovered from it and added Rs 13,000 crore and today we have the highest GST collection in the country, after Maharashtra,” the Karnataka CM said.
Karnataka is one of the leading states driving India’s growth story and Bommai said that the government has been brought back on the rails by the BJP, with a sturdy agricultural production, and being one of the states with the highest FDI for the last five quarters, it is also the most favourite destination with its progressive policies, especially in the areas around research and development, and electric vehicles.
Calling his government “sensitive and responsible”, Bommai said it was so because it responded to every problem that came up. He also emphasised that his government has stressed on planning, and also focussed on the health of women, child development as well.
“We have doubled the compensation for the farming sector with the help of digital platforms by responding immediately…responded to demands in the health sector by doubling the availability of dialysis machines, chemotherapy, providing cochlear implants and treating eye defects of elders…all of it was responded to efficiently and quickly,” Bommai said.
Speaking about his budget in the background of allocation for ecology and environment, Bommai also said that his government was the first one to identify the ecological deficits and took it up as a serious concern. His budget provided for a green budget where it identified the ecological deficit and allocated funds for the environment and ecology.
“We are doing our best to ensure that the deterioration is addressed so that we don’t reach a point where it would become an irreparable loss,” Bommai said.
Moving on to answering questions on politics, Bommai said that a game is played in two ways: one is to play so that one does not lose; the other is to play to win.
“I believe in playing to win,” he said.
The BJP has been growing since 2004 and with every election has only bettered its performance, said Bommai. “Though we are yet to reach the magic figure, we’re close. BJP has been able to convert the political landscape and our strength has been our growth. People of Karnataka have realised that they need to give a decisive mandate and they are looking to the BJP which has done so politically, administratively, and by governing the state," the CM said, answering questions on whether Karnataka is heading towards a hung assembly or is there support for the BJP to come back to power.
Responding to a question on providing sops which parties like the Congress, BJP, and others have been doing like 200 units of free power, Bommai said that the voter in Karnataka knows what a 100 per cent giveaway is and will not accept it.
“However poor a man is, he wants help in what he does…one that helps strengthen those at the bottom of the pyramid. We have to strengthen people who are toiling. Kannadigas are swabhimani (proud) of themselves and so we have to give them strength and that’s what the government is focussed on. You cannot fool people…there is a saying you cannot fool people all the time,” the CM said while responding to the issue of election giveaways that are being announced.
On whether the BJP will align with the JD(S), Bommai said it is clear that the saffron party will not do so. He said that he believes the JD(S) should not be given an opportunity to play around and it is the Congress that spread the rumour that the BJP and JD(S) are together.
“It is the Congress and the JD(S) that were in coalition together before we came to power. They are the ones who fought like cats and dogs during elections and later aligned to form the government," he pointed out.
He said that the BJP will win more than 130 seats in the elections this year.
“We are going to win and there are no ifs and buts," he said.
For the first time, Bommai spoke openly about the reservation demands being made by communities like the Vokkaligas and the Lingayats. Though the issue is in the courts, the CM said that his government is working within the legal framework. He said that all communities’ aspirations have increased and they all aspire to be educated, and employed, and their swabhiman increases.
“We want to ensure that every boy and girl is able to get every opportunity. Reservation is mandated to be reviewed every ten years, but it has not been done in the last 20 years. We are trying to give social justice and give opportunities…all this while it is constitutionally right,” he said.
Bommai called the Lingayats a politically mature community that has seen several governments.
“They know who stands for them, who is interested in their welfare, and who is trying to come to power and trying to create a split," he said.
Reacting to allegations of “40 per cent commission Sarkar", Bommai said that the opposition had ample opportunities to come out with a strong case against the BJP government. He said that not a single case has been filed and the opposition has not been able to inquire and put the BJP in the dock. He added that the Congress dismantled the Lokayukta and installed the ACB. But the BJP brought back the anti-corruption body and gave it teeth, the CM said.
“Coincidentally, both corruption and Congress start with the letter C," he said with a smile. “You will see in the next two months how many cases will be filed.”
Calling the election season a time for “political tourism", Bommai also said that the MLAs who shifted from other parties and joined the BJP are not only happy but are also working hard to ensure the BJP comes back to power.
“Our party grows by living together and growing together. No problem with those who have come and together we will win,” he said,
BS Yediyurappa has been at the forefront of the election campaign for the BJP. Bommai said BSY is a veteran, strong loyalist, Sangh man, and one who has taken the lead in ensuring that the BJP comes back to power with full force.
“Our aim is to bring back the BJP and he is doing it sincerely. He is attending all the party meetings and I have the blessings of Yediyurappa. I will continue to work on his policies. He is our tallest leader and the entire BJP has his blessing as well," Bommai said.
Not wanting to react on the hijab and halal controversies, Bommai said that those are non-issues today.
Touching on the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi, the Karnataka CM said it was all about results. He said that he does not want to be critical of the yatra and that Rahul walked all those kilometres to increase his own confidence.
“He wanted to change his image and he said so himself, he is not the same Rahul Gandhi after he concluded the yatra in Kashmir. He has taken the hard path and travelled it. As far as the impact is concerned, it has no political impact in any state," Bommai said.
Will the BJP bank on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win in Karnataka? Why not, answered Bommai.
He said that PM Modi has been accepted by the people of Karnataka and across the country: as a leader who leads from the front, domestically and internationally.
“We are going on the path of development, our double-engine government has been working very well and our performance as a state has added towards building a stronger Karnataka," he said.
On the issue of infrastructure and how Bengaluru drowned in the floods, Bommai defended his government, stating that the floods were caused due to unprecedented rains, the highest in 50 years. He said that the government responded in a way that the city was back on track in less than 2 days.
“We have taken serious note of the situation and I have given more than Rs 2,000 crore to work on the drains, and remove blockages. Soon there will be very little flooding," Bommai promised.
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He urged the people to vote the BJP back to power so that they could have a “Nava Karnataka” that will also contribute to a “Nava Bharat”.
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