The Congress will come to power on its own with 130-odd seats out of 224 in the Karnataka assembly elections and the BJPs alleged Operation Kamala of poaching MLAs post polls will not be successful this time, said senior Congress leader and ex-minister M B Patil.
“No internal fight”
Speaking to PTI, Patil, also the campaign committee chairman, denied “internal fight” in the Congress and defended the party leaders holding aspirations to become chief minister.
The former home and water resources minister also said he has neither been sidelined nor losing his importance in the party after Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi, the tall Lingayat leaders from BJP, joined the Congress.
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Patil is contesting from Babaleshwar, one of the eight assembly constituencies in Vijayapura district.
“Op Kamala will not be successful”
“If they carry out Operation Kamala this time, it will not be successful. The BJP and JD(S) together will not have enough numbers to form the government. Taking the support of JD(S) will not arise for Congress as it will get 130-odd seats,” he said.
BJP has come to power in Karnataka not by majority numbers. In 2018, the BJP had projected tall Lingayat leader B S Yediyurappa as its CM candidate but the saffron party at that time could not even win 115 seats and managed only 105, he recalled.
“Now minus Yediyurappa, there is no question of BJP coming to power on its own. It came to power by buying our 17 MLAs through Operation Kamala. It spent Rs 100 crore on each MLA. A total of Rs 1700 crore was spent,” he alleged.
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On being sidelined and losing importance as Lingayat leader in the Congress after two senior BJP leaders joined the party, Patil said, “If that was the case, I would not have forced Jagadish Shettar to join the party. I am an old Congressman and I have my importance. The party knows that I was instrumental in getting Shettar to the Congress. The party has to come to power and that is the larger interest.”
Former CM Jagdish Shettar belongs to the Baniga (traders) subsect of the Lingayat Community. He and Laxman Savadi (who represents Athani in Belagavi) are two most influential Lingayat leaders from north Karnataka and will influence the voters.
“Shettar will influence 20,000 votes in Vijayapura. Whereas Savadi makes a difference in at least 10-12 constituencies as he belongs to a Lingayat sub-sect Ganiga. He is a tall leader for that sub-sect in 10-12 constituencies. Laxman Savadi will be beneficial for us,” he noted.
Patil said there is no truth in rumour that he is being sidelined in the Congress as he is chairman of the campaign committee unlike Yediyurappa despite being former CM and tall Lingayat being made a mere member of the campaign committee.
“I have not been sidelined,” he asserted.
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On growing rift within the party amid several contenders for chief ministership, Patil said: “There is no such thing. Everybody will have aspirations, nothing wrong in that. Don’t BJP leaders have aspirations?”
Besides Siddaramaiah, D K Shivakumar and M Mallikarjun Kharge, there are many capable leaders and contenders for chief ministership in the Congress but the party High Command will take a final call, he opined.
“Many leaders capable of being CM”
Asserting that he is also a contender for chief ministership, Patil said, “I am there. G Parameshwara, Krishna Byre Gowda, Ramalinga Reddy, H K Patil, R V Deshpande are also there. There are many leaders who are capable of becoming a CM. In Congress, the party legislative committee will take a call after the election results.”
Asked if Lingayat leaders Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi joining the Congress threatened his aspirations to become a CM, he said: “In Lingayats, I am much more senior than Shettar and Savadi. It will take time for them to be an aspirant for CM.”
“Although I am capable of becoming a CM like many others, ultimately the party will decide,” he said, and added that except in Punjab, nowhere has the Congress party announced its CM candidate.
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Asked how the Congress plans to arrange funds to fulfill several poll promises made in the current election, he said the party in 2013 had made 165 poll promises like Anna Bhagya, Ksheera Bhagya schemes, out of which, it fulfilled 158.
“Apart from which were not announced in our manifesto, we had another 30 programmes, so we implemented a total 188 programmes, only seven were left,” he claimed.
Whereas BJP in 2018 had made 600 promises in its election manifesto. Out of which only 48 have been fulfilled. “We have fulfilled 120 per cent. It is not like PM Modi’s promise, we have delivered whatever promises we made,” he added.
Patil, a prominent Lingayat leader in the state, started his political journey in the year 1991 and successfully contested the assembly elections from Tikota. Following this, the Congress leader contested the Lok Sabha polls from Bijapur (now renamed as Vijayapura) and became an MP.
It was then in 2008 that he again contested the assembly polls from Babaleshwar. Since then, Patil has been representing the constituency and is preparing to win the 2023 polls.