Interview: ‘Winnability, not nepotism,’ says Ramalinga Reddy on Congress fielding dynasts for Lok Sabha polls

Brushing aside “Modi wave” in Karnataka, Ramalinga Reddy said Congress would have won the 2023 assembly polls even without the guarantees.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Apr 06, 2024 | 1:17 PMUpdatedApr 06, 2024 | 1:38 PM

Karnataka Congress Minister Ramalinga Reddy 2024 Lok Sabha Polls BJP JD(S) Shakti Scheme

In conversation with South First, Congress veteran and Karnataka Minister for Transport and Muzrai, Ramalinga Reddy, exuded confidence that the party will win at least 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

He also justified Congress’ decision to prioritize ministers’ children over party workers in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. His daughter and former Jayanagar MLA, Sowmya Reddy, has got the ticket from the Bangalore South constituency.

She is among the six children of ministers who have been given party tickets to contest Lok Sabha elections 2024. Reddy is confident his daughter will win.

Reddy assured that the transport department, by June or July 2024, will resolve the issue of bus shortage, the biggest complaint of school and college students since Congress’ flagship Shakti scheme was launched.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. How are the preparations underway for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls?

A. Preparations are good. This time, Congress gave tickets to youngsters and six women. The situation is good. According to sources, we must win 20 seats but are trying for all 28 seats.

Q. How has Congress planned to overcome the Modi wave in Karnataka?

A. No waves, nothing. Where is the Modi wave? In Karnataka, 223 out of 236 talukas have been declared as drought. Even after six months, the Union government has not released a single rupee.

At the time of the elections, PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah came to Karnataka, gave speeches and made false promises. They have not fulfilled their own promises made in the elections.

Even the public is well aware of the different taxes Karnataka pays to the Centre. Around ₹4.5 lakh crore in taxes go to the Centre (every year), but the return is minimal.

For every rupee, we get only 14 paise in return. The people were not aware of this earlier.

For example, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana get ₹1.95 lakh crore in tax devolution, whereas Uttar Pradesh alone gets more than ₹2 lakh crore.

Even Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are taking more share in tax devolution. We have created awareness among the public.

Modi is fighting against opposition parties using IT, ED, CBI, and other weapons.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the BJP is the most corrupt political party in electoral bonds. They have collected over ₹6,000 crore, and our party has also received over Rs 1,000 crore.

However, the majority of donors were raided by IT, ED, or CBI. Their party is using these institutions to collect the money. This came to the public’s attention. There is no Modi wave.

Modi and Shah visited 28 and 21 days in the last assembly polls, respectively. They secured only 66 seats in Karnataka.

Now, the BJP and JD(S) are in alliance to fight Congress. People do not believe in JD(S) or BJP. This time, the Congress will get more seats. We have fulfilled all the guarantees. We will fulfil the remaining promises in four-year time.

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Q. Is the Congress in Karnataka banking heavily on the five guarantees to work in its favour in the elections?

A. We would have won the assembly elections even without guarantees. That’s because the public has seen the BJP’s four-year rule.

They failed in all fields—false promises, corruption, recruitment malpractice, and the absence of law and order.

Even the Centre has not made any promises. If they have, they have not reached the public.

There is no price control in India. Petrol, diesel, gas, and other routine commodities—except power—have imposed GST tax on everything.

Poor people are becoming poorer, and rich people are becoming richer in India.

These guarantees will help us and the administration as well. Middle—and poor-class people, irrespective of their caste, support the Congress.

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Q. What’s the strategy behind fielding six children of cabinet ministers in the Lok Sabha poll? Why didn’t the party prioritize the party workers?

A. There are other leaders, too. According to a survey, winning was the criteria. Hence, they chose five or six ministers’ relatives.

It is not just in the Congress. What about the Deve Gowda family? Deve Gowda’s son, grandson, and son-in-law are contesting. Three people from the same family are contesting.

There are about 25 such families in the BJP, including Yediyurappa’s. In Bangalore South, Tejasvi Surya’s uncle is an MLA (Basavanagudi).

More than Congress, it is in the BJP that many family members contested. It is not only in Karnataka but across India.

There are more than 100 families in the BJP, two to three of which are either represented in the assembly or the parliament.

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Q. Former Jayanagar MLA Sowmya Reddy lost the 2023 assembly polls by a whisker. How confident are you about the 2024 Lok Sabha polls?

A. The counting took place in 223 taluks of Karnataka as per the 2023 ECI circular. According to the circular, she got 160 votes. Then, two officers were manipulated due to some influence.

They kept the 2023 circular aside and considered the 2022 circular, which is invalid and scrapped. Actually, she won by 60 or 61 votes. The matter is before the court, which will decide.

I know lakhs of people in Bangalore, especially in the South. I have been in the political field for the last four decades. People have taken a lot of help.

We have undertaken a lot of development work in Bengaluru whenever our party was at the helm. This time, the Congress candidate will win. We will get a clear lead in all the assembly seats except one.

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Q. While the government is proud of implementing the Shakti scheme, students and several people, especially in North Karnataka, complain about the lack of buses. How is the government tackling this?

A. Every day, 60 lakh women travel (under the Shakti scheme). There is a slight shortage of buses.

Now, we have purchased around 5,500 buses. Of these, 50 percent are already operating, and the remaining will be on the road in June and July 2024.

These issues will be resolved before the start of the next academic year.

This is not because of our fault. In the last four years, the BJP government – except BMTC – has not purchased a single bus for the other three state road transport corporations.

Around 14,000 employees have retired since 2016, and there has been no recruitment.

Now, we have started recruiting for around 9,000 posts and purchasing 5,800 buses.

The problems being faced by the students will be resolved. Issues pertaining to the qualms of students and ordinary people will also be addressed.

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Q. BJP-JD(S) defeated the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Bill, 2024, in the Council. What amendments did the government make to this bill?

A. We have 35,000 Muzrai temples in Karnataka. Up to 5 percent used to be collected from temples. It was not going to the treasury.

We have a Dharmika Parishad, which was set up during JH Patel’s regime, not by the Congress.

There is a lot of scope to improve C-grade temples, 40,000 acharyas, 1,000 employees, and other welfare of Hindus. They used to get very little money.

When VS Acharya was the Muzrai Minister in 2011, BS Yediyurappa was the Chief Minister. They exempted temples from contributing up to ₹5 lakh revenue to the common pool fund.

Temples with revenue between ₹5 lakh and 10 lakh have to give 5 percent, and temples with revenue above ₹10 lakh have to give 10 percent.

Yediyurappa and the late VS Acharya amended it. At that time, Dharmika Parishad used to get ₹8 crore.

When I took over the Muzrai department, I saw that nobody bothered C-Grade temples. There are around 400 temples in A and B grades.

When an arch (priest) dies, he will get only ₹35,000. It will not help anyone. Now, we are giving ₹2 lakh.

Two to three archak associations demand improving at least 1,000 C-grade temples every year.

They are asking for money for their children’s education, construction houses, and insurance. We need ₹50-60 crore to meet these demands.

Now, our plan is to pay ₹2.5 lakh for 1,000 C-grade temples, which will amount to ₹25 crore, insurance of ₹5 lakh for children studying from PUC to degree, ₹5,000 to ₹50,000 scholarships.

This total is about ₹7-8 crore, and houses for around 750 to 1,000 people, with a total cost of around Rs 15 crore.

Temples with income up to ₹10 lakh need not give any money to Dharmika Parishad. Those with revenue between ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore have to give only 5 percent.

Hindu temples that have revenue above ₹1 crore have to give 10 percent. This will be around ₹50-60 crore. These funds will be utilized for the development of other Hindu temples and their communities.

In the Assembly, everyone, including R Ashok (Leader of Opposition), supported this Bill.

In the Council, they opposed it. This bill has been passed in both Houses. The Governor’s office has asked for some clarifications, which will be provided after the elections.

(Edited by VVP Sharma)