One of the few honest politicians in Karnataka, former Minister Suresh Kumar speaks about being a ‘Vistarak’ in Mysuru
By S.N. Venkatnag Sobers
Arguably he is one of the cleanest politicians of Karnataka. A true gentleman and a humble worker of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is former Minister S. Suresh Kumar. A two-time Corporator and a four-time MLA, he has been touring Mysuru city for the past 15 days as a ‘Vistarak’ to study the mindset of the party workers and political scenario in Mysuru ahead of 2018 Assembly Polls.
For many who are unaware, Suresh Kumar, when 19-year-old, was imprisoned at the Bangalore Central Jail during Emergency. He is also a qualified advocate having completed his Law degree from Bangalore University.
Though he is entitled to stay in a five-star hotel, the former Minister has been staying in a cowshed belonging to a party worker Kapilesh at Alamburmanti in Nanjangud. He stayed in the same cowshed when the BJP organised its State Executive Meeting in Mysuru during May this year and also during the Nanjangud and Gundlupet by-elections.
Star of Mysore caught up with Suresh Kumar at the party office in Nazarbad. Excerpts…
SOM: What inspired you to join RSS?
Suresh Kumar: Many times I tell I was born in RSS. When I was in 4th standard, my maternal uncle took me to RSS Shakha for the first time. There, the songs, stories and games inspired me. Since that day, I have not returned. RSS has influenced me and continue to inspire me.
SOM: Was your father also involved in RSS?
Suresh Kumar: None of my family members were involved in RSS. Like I said earlier, it was my maternal uncle Chandrakanth Pandit, a friend, philosopher and guide to me, who took me to RSS.
SOM: You were imprisoned during Emergency. What kind of impact it had in your life?
Suresh Kumar: I was just a 19-year-old B.Sc graduate when I was imprisoned. Later, I completed my LLB from the Bangalore University after being released. But for me, the real University education was at the Bangalore Central Jail. I gained a lot of political knowledge during those 15 months.
SOM: Any particular leader who inspired you the most?
Suresh Kumar: There was Lal Krishna Advaniji in the same prison and I became close to him. It was on November 14, 1975 I met Advaniji. From that day till January 18, 1977 (the day Advani was released) I had close interaction with him. Apart from him, there was Madhu Dandavathe (former Railway Minister), Ramakrishna Hegde and J.H. Patel (former Chief Ministers), socialist leader S. Venkatram and Gandhian M. Chandrashekar. Prison life taught me many things. I went in as a young agitator but came out as a mature and energised person.
SOM: Everybody knows what happened when BJP was in power in Karnataka. We are seeing similar cases within the party again. How do you think it would affect Party’s prospects in 2018 elections?
Suresh Kumar: These differences are mere aberrations. Ultimately, BJP is a bigger organisation where individual personalities matter little. Our party leadership is capable of correcting such minor issues and also those persons who repeatedly commit mistakes. BJP is not a mere political party. It is a part of bigger parivar, the RSS, our mother institution.
You are right. There are a few people who think that differences are cropping up within the party again. But I am confident that such things will be ironed out because our ultimate aim is the welfare of society and State.
SOM: Where do you think the current State Government has failed?
Suresh Kumar: Basically, Siddharamaiah’s Government has no connection with the common man. Their motto of ‘Sarvarigu sama paalu, sarvarigu sama baalu’ (equal share for everybody and equal life for everybody) is a mere slogan. It is a government of few people, by few people and for few people. And in every aspect, insensitiveness is glaring. Be it in the management of drought or the issues relating to farmers. If they had intervened, suicides of around 1,000 farmers would not have happened. Cabinet Ministers are Ministers only to their constituencies and not the State. So, I define Siddharamaiah’s Government as an arrogant and a non-energetic government heading in no direction.
SOM: There is an increase in the number of RSS workers being murdered. Who according to you is responsible for these crimes?
Suresh Kumar: Kannur district in Kerala represents ideological war between Communists and RSS workers which has turned on to become murderous politics. Every day one or the other RSS worker is murdered by the CPM cadre. The same thing is being extended to Karnataka and the silence of Siddharamaiah government and inaction to stop violent acts are the main reasons for increasing attacks on RSS workers.
In the last three years, 11 RSS workers have been killed which includes Raju of Mysuru, Rudresh of Bengaluru, Kuttappa in Kodagu and Sharath Madiwal of Bantwal. There is a design behind these attacks and the government’s inaction is encouraging the perpetrators.
In all these attacks, criminals have come from Kerala and their modus operandi is similar. They are trained well to execute murders. They come on a motorcycle, attack and escape. While in Kerala, it is ideological war between CPM and RSS, here it is communal war waged by fundamentalists assisted by their masters in Kerala.
SOM: Coming back to elections, do you think adopting UP model would work in Karnataka?
Suresh Kumar: When I said UP model, I meant the organisational structure. In UP, nobody had expected BJP to emerge as the single largest party defeating SP, BSP and Congress. We were confident of doing well because of booth-level activity. Attention was given to booth-level activities and functioning.
Similarly, the ‘Vistarak’ programme in Karnataka is planned to strengthen booth-level committees and organisations. If we are successful in executing our plan and become strong in all 54,401 polling booths in Karnataka there is every chance of our party emerging victorious as it happened in Uttar Pradesh.
SOM: The BJP has already announced its target of winning 150 seats in the next Assembly election. Do you think the target will be achieved?
Suresh Kumar: Target 150 is our mission. We know about definite seats, possible seats and seats we should try hard. There are also some seats which are difficult to win. We have divided constituencies into three different categories and have been working on it.
Last time, when BJP was in power we had won 110 seats, which was close to majority of 113 seats. This time, we are sure to cross that mark on our own because of the situation given on a platter by the current State Government.
SOM: Not only BJP, even the JD(S) and Congress also have their targets.
Suresh Kumar: Ultimately, all three political parties are active with each one announcing their individual targets. But we are confident that having known the politics that is being practiced by JD(S) nobody is certain about its direction. So in this situation, BJP is the only party which can reach the majority mark.
SOM: Do you say that the anti-incumbency against Congress Government will work for BJP?
Suresh Kumar: Yes, I am sure. There is anti-incumbency against the deeds of Siddharamaiah in particular and the government in general which I think will work for the BJP.
SOM: When you say there is anti-incumbency, why do you think BJP lost in Gundlupet and Nanjangud by-elections?
Suresh Kumar: Firstly, both were never BJP constituencies. Secondly, the strategic game played by JD(S) in not fielding its candidates.
Similar thing was observed when H.D. Kumaraswamy contested the Chikkaballapura Lok Sabha Constituency to facilitate the victory of Veerappa Moily. In Gundlupet and Nanjangud, JD(S) did not field candidates. In Nanjangud, they (Congress) borrowed the candidate from JD(S) and in both constituencies, the power of money and government machinery played havoc.
SOM: Is it true that Mutts which have a stronghold in both the constituencies worked against BJP?
Suresh Kumar: I don’t want to go into those things. As I already said it was manipulation by Congress and the misuse of government machinery ensured its victory. And we know that money power played a huge role, especially in Gundlupet where it was a fight between two sympathy factors — for BJP candidate it was losing consecutive elections and for the Congress candidate it was losing her husband. Naturally, the husband’s demise sympathy was stronger. In Nanjangud, voters were sympathetic to Congress candidate as he too had lost earlier elections.
SOM: You have always opposed caste politics. But your party is considered to be the party of Lingayats? Why do you think others should vote for BJP?
Suresh Kumar: Initially, our party had the label of ‘Urban Party’ and ‘Brahmin Party.’ Today, it is not the case. In fact, our party is very strong in all reserved constituencies. Our party believes in ‘Sarva Vyapi and Sarva Sparshi’ which means to spread everywhere and touch everyone’s lives irrespective of their community. There have been many instances where members of minority community have shown interest in joining our party. So such labelling does not work. If similar labels are given to other political parties, JD(S) is considered to be the party of Vokkaligas and after Siddharamaiah becoming the Chief Minister, the Congress has become the party of Kurubas. This labelling is not good for the society. BJP believes in taking all the communities together and work for betterment of the society.
SOM: How has your stay as ‘Vistarak’ in Mysuru helped the party?
Suresh Kumar: This is the first stay as ‘Vistarak’ for me and has been a real learning process. I am staying in a cowshed owned by our party worker. It is energising to meet different people belonging to various categories (in terms of profession).
These 15 days has given me knowledge about Mysuru’s political scenario and also the strength of BJP cadre.
SOM: Do you think BJP will win all three constituencies in Mysuru?
Suresh Kumar: That is what we desire for. In 1994, we had won all the three constituencies. During 1999 and 2008, BJP had won two seats each. Today, we do not have a single seat. Currently, our target is to win all three seats — Krishnaraja, Chamaraja and Narasimharaja. They are potentially strong for BJP as we have good vote base and cadre strength.
SOM: With elections scheduled for next year, have aspirants come to you asking for tickets?
Suresh Kumar: In all three constituencies we have many aspirants which itself is an indication that we have emerged stronger. Our leaders and election committee will definitely take a holistic view before announcing the candidates.
SOM: There are rumours about you contesting from Mysuru. Is it true?
Suresh Kumar: I had no idea of becoming a ‘Vistarak’ in Mysuru. I was asked to visit Mysuru Rural and then it was changed to Nelamangala and finally to Mysuru. I have won four times from Rajajinagar constituency in Bengaluru and I don’t want to contest from any other constituency. Previously, I had worked as District In-charge Minister of Mysuru. Let us not link my work as ‘Vistarak’ to my idea of contesting election in Mysuru or anywhere else.
SOM: There have been opinions on social media calling you the next Chief Minister. Any comments?
Suresh Kumar: I have been active on social media for the last 5-7 years. My posts will not be politically offensive. I post things which I come across during my daily interaction with people. There have been many posts which have earned appreciation from my opponents. So, if some people come up with such opinions it is just a fancy opinion for which I do not give any credence. Being a humble worker of BJP, I am clear about B.S. Yeddyurappa being our leader under whom we are facing election and we are confident of him becoming the next Chief Minister.
SOM: What if the party high command wants you to become the Chief Minister?
Suresh Kumar: It is a very hypothetical question. I hope such a situation does not arise.