Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru
Mangaluru, Dec 25: Congress is on shaky wicket as far as legislative council election from the twin-districts of Dakshina and Udupi is concerned, as two of its members, who are now expelled, have entered the fray as rebel candidates. The common issue raised by them is unreasonable allotment of ticket again to sitting MLC, Pratapchandra Shetty. While the leadership of the party has been talking in terms of the election turning out to be a cakewalk for the party, and defeat of rebels Jayaprakash Hegde and Harikrishna Bantwal, internal survey conducted by the party and also intelligence reports have given reasons for the party to be jittery about its prospects.
Jayaprakash Hegde has repeatedly called upon his critics from within the party for issue-based public debate. He has hit back at his detractors, Udupi district Congress president, Gopal Poojary, and former MLA, U R Sabhapathy, who had branded him as a rank outsider, to introspect as to which party they belonged before they joined Congress. He also has questioned their moral right to raise this topic.
Hopes of Jayaprakash Hegde, who was eyeing party's nod after Pratapchandra Shetty declared that he would not enter the election fray again, was disillusioned when party leadership coaxed and convinced Shetty to fight the election again. Hegde has well-wishers both in the Congress and the BJP. His unblemished and gentlemanly image as well development works initiated during his tenure have earned him lot of fans particularly in Udupi district. Although nothing can be said prematurely, Hegde is sure to give a tough fight to the official candidate of the Congress.
In an exclusive interview with Walter Nandalike in Public Challenge programme on Daijiworld 24x7, J P Hegde opens up on various issues, from his decision to contest, problems in Congress and much more.
You have been known to be a 'Mr Clean' throughout your political career, many people rather than seeing you as a politician, see you as a statesman. How does it feel to be ousted from the party despite maintaining such a good reputation?
J P Hegde: It has hurt me. If the reason for ousting me was anti-party activities, then there have been many before me who have engaged in anti-party activities. I should have been at least given a show cause notice. They could have asked me what the problem was. I had cautioned the chief minister and the KPCC president that such changes would take place and urged them not to commit any mistakes. When party workers asked me to contest, even I felt I should do so for the future of party workers. I did not think about my future. The party should not go in one set direction alone. There should be changes and there should be internal democracy in any party.
In an interview you said you do not have regrets because Congress party has expelled you, instead you regret entering politics. Why is this so? You had been a minister, member of parliament, and other than losing once or twice you have been a successful politician.
J P Hegde: Even though I have lost elections, I have never failed in life. Rather than calculating how many terms I have served as minister or MLA, what is important is what I have achieved during those tenures. And I am satisfied with my work. But I am dissatisfied about the happenings in politics. CM Siddaramaiah had told me that being sincere in politics in itself is a big achievement, and I have tried to do that. But in spite of doing so much, when people generalize politicians it feels bad. When people meet me personally, they express good opinion about me. I have satisfaction about the work I have done. It is the sytem that bothers me.
Today youngsters look upon good leaders like you in politics. When you say you regret entering politics, don't you feel it would have negative impact on them?
J P Hegde: I like interacting with children and I interact with them when I visit schools and colleges. I always say it is good if youngsters enter politics but they should not get adapted to the existing system. They should enter politics only if they can bring positive changes to the system. Changes such what we have seen in Delhi should take place.
You have climbed the ladder of success step by step from MLA, minister to MP. Why have you now decided to come a step down by contesting for the Legislative Council?
J P Hegde: There are two reasons - One, we are fighting against the ticket allotment system in the party. Second reason is party workers asked me to contest. Some people asked me why an ex parliamentarian should come to legislative council. I said S M Krishna was a central minister, but then again he came to Legislative Assembly. There he became speaker and then deputy chief minister, and thereafter chief minister.
Your fans and supporters feel that after becoming MP, you should have looked forward and tried becoming chief minister or minister or get any position in AICC.
J P Hegde: I can become minister but people like me will not get big portfolios, because it all depends on the person's fund raising capacity. Again, the position of chief minister is based on caste, Veerappa Moily being one of the few exceptions. Only some people get opportunities, not all.
You decided to contest this election only because Pratapchandra Shetty was given the ticket. Even Harikrishna Bantwal is contesting as a rebel candidate...
J P Hegde: I will not say we are rebel candidates. He has contested because of the system in the party. Internal democracy is important in any party. Power should not be in the hands of a few people, it should be given to party workers also. But someone who has been in power continuously and still did not help in building the party or make any contribution in the Legislative Council...if he is a good parliamentarian give him the ticket. I have been given opportunities and stood up to challenges. I did not sit at home even after I lost the elections. I have always been working for the people and also striving for the party. So my question is, why are you giving ticket to an inactive party member?
Harikrishna Bantwal had said that he would withdraw his nomination if the ticket was given to anyone other than Pratapchandra Shetty. Harikrishna Bantwal has been in the Congress for over 30 years without holding any position. In such a scenario, didn't it ever occur to you that you should support him?
J P Hegde: We had discussed this issue. I had told others who had filed nominations that I would withdraw my candidature and they should stand for the election. I respect Harikrishna Bantwal's decision and would not like to comment on it. Our intention is only that there should be changes.
You have a lot of supporters. What is the kind of response you are getting from voters?
J P Hegde: I have got good response wherever I have gone. But what pains me is that some people who consider themselves leaders have been calling meetings with party workers and warning them that the leaders would know who they vote for and it would be recorded on pen cameras. They are also told that they should disclose who they have voted for during polling. All this is detrimental to democracy. Even after so many years, they are saying such things to local reprentatives, so I have told the workers to record what the leaders tell them, so we can complain to the Election Commission.
Perhaps the senior leaders feel insecure?
J P Hegde: I would say they do not deserve to be representatives, whether as ministers or MLAs.
In case you win, what are the challenges before you?
J P Hegde: Most of the time, the discussion in the House are related to certain sectors and not on the state as a whole. There should be enough scope for discussions during the sessions. There are issues related to the coastal region, like problems faced by areca growers, forms 9/11 and sand transport which are not being discussed. This is because the people's representatives are not showing keen interest in them. When I was in power, I was able to help areca growers, and during my tenure, three new trains were flagged off from Mangaluru in a single day. We need to think ourselves what we can do to make things better.
Watch full interview