Basavaraj Bommai, Minister for Home, Law & Parliamentary Affairs and Legislation, was appointed the Chief Minister of Karnataka following BS Yediyurappa’s resignation on Monday. Bommai, who was also said to be Yediyurappa’s recommendation for the position of CM, belongs to the Sadara Lingayat community. His father, SR Bommai, also served as Karnataka’s Chief Minister. In a conversation with News18, Bommai talks about his father’s legacy, his immediate responsibilities and future plans. Edited excerpts:
You have finally been named as chief minister. What factors do you think went in your favour?
You are asking an interesting question because my elevation was beyond prediction of media. I don’t know what worked but for me, my hard work, sincerity and honesty as home minister went in my favour.
Did you expect this since your name was in the frontrunners list for some time?
I never expected this because we had a tall leader in Yediyurappa and we thought he will complete his entire term. However, he chose to quit after two years, which paved the way for me. His blessings are with me. PM Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and JP Nadda have reposed so much faith in me, choosing me despite such fierce competition. They expect good and clean administration from me along with clear coordination with the party and I will keep their trust.
There is talk that you will have four deputy CMs, each to placate all other communities?
I have barely been elected for a few hours and have been busy meeting the governor, followed by a visit to the party office. Therefore, I’ve not given it much thought. After swearing-in, I will start the cabinet process.
Over the last 10 years, the BJP has been known as a party that wields influence over the Lingayat votebank. Will you take this forward or do you want to build a different narrative?
These are all perceptions built over time. Ultimately, for someone to win in any constituency, all communities must support. It’s not a question of one community… We are a national party and want to take all communities together. My priority is to address the economic and regional disparity. Once economic disparity is removed, all issues will be solved. I want all communities to grow and the state to be rich.
Your party has always shunned dynastic politics, yet you are the son of a former chief minister yourself. Is that not dynasty?
There is lot of difference. My father was a leader of Janata Dal and quit politics in 1999. For 25 years, I’ve been in BJP and groomed myself in the party. So this is a totally different situation. I have grown and claimed my own way. Of course, my father’s legacy and principles are there to guide me. However, it was challenging for me to come up in BJP and grow. Thanks to the party and my leader who have given me the opportunity and reposed trust in me.
One of the criticisms against BS Yediyurappa is that his son interfered in governance. Will he still have influence in the running of your government?
No, no. See, Yediyurappa is a true democrat. I worked under him in two regimes. He gives free hand to different ministers. In fact, he has taken everyone in confidence. Lot of baseless issues are raised unnecessarily. I don’t see any problem working under his guidance. His experience and able guidance will be leading light for me.
Many critics have said that CMs in Karnataka don’t have a free hand, there is interference from the central leadership. How do you respond to that?
I’ve worked as a home minister and there was not even a single occasion where Centre interfered. It’s not a question of that, it’s a question of party principles. The government of India programmes have to be implemented so in that aspect, there is guidance and directions from Centre. It’s a part of administration and it happens to all central parties.
There were many other aspirants for the CM chair such as Aravind Bellad and Murugesh Nirani. How will you take them along?
They are my friends and colleagues so we will work like a team. I consider myself first among equals, nothing more.
Your party has suffered electoral defeats recently in Zilla Panchayat elections, assembly by-elections. Do you have an overall plan?
Let me assure you that we have not failed in any elections. Our grassroots connect is very, very strong; stronger than Congress. Lots of local elections are yet to come and our local leaders are very enthusiastic. We will take them into confidence and win hands down.
What’s your first task as CM?
The first task is to face floods and Covid-19 head-on and give rescue and relief to the last man in trouble. My second task is to put the administration in higher mode of efficiency. My third task is to take on economic challenges and improve economic situation in the state and fourth is to implement budgetary programmes of Yediyurappa in the required time.
Karnataka has not got its due in central funds and grants. Your view?
No, no there are lot of programmes and follow-up has to be done. It’s a part of administration and I will take care of it.
Is this a temporary arrangement or will you stick out the two-year term?
What do u think?
You should tell me because you had three CMs the last time BJP was in power.
Yes, that was the political situation then. But here, under leadership of PM Modi and Amit Shah, there is a strong central leader with a great discipline. Such things will not happen and we will also strive to take everyone along. We will see to it that the two-year term is completed efficiently and pro-poor and pro-people programmes reach the last man. We are going to win hands down in 2023 and 2024 and I’m looking beyond 2023.