Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru (ANK)
Mangaluru, May 4: Pramod Madhwaraj, MLA of Udupi constituency and state minister for fisheries, sports and youth affairs, is a well-known leader of coastal Karnataka, popular among the masses. The first-time MLA, who is also a businessman was inducted in the Siddaramaiah cabinet in June 2016. During his political
Pramod Madhvaraj spoke on various issues from controversies to development and politics to daijiworld editor-in-chief on Daijiworld 24x7 channel's 'Public Challenge' programme.
Q: Before becoming MLA, you had close bonding with people and the representatives. There have been allegations that after becoming MLA and minister, you prefer to keep distance from them.
A: To some extent it might be true, because now I have responsibility on my shoulders. Earlier, before becoming MLA, I had no work other than running my business firm. MLA is a full time job and minister's job has lot of pressure; as a minister you need to look after your department, visit every district and taluk. Public meetings are held where officials from all departments, people and Congress representatives take part, and problems are discussed and solutions sought. But I have not heard any rumour about me being disassociated from the people and the representatives.
Q: Recently Srinivas Prasad who joined BJP and contested the by-polls faced heavy defeat. He made allegations against you that you paid Rs 10 crore as bribe to Digvijaya Singh to get ministerial post, which you have vehemently denied. Why are they targetting you?
A: I have not taken any bribe and I did not step into politics to make money, so there is no question of paying bribe to Digvijaya Singh. I was the parlimentary secretary of Srinivas Prasad. He gave me a lot of responsibility and he knows my sincerity, for which I respect him. I feel that some BJP representative might have made him deliver this statement.
Q: The second controversy is regarding sand mafia, where there was attempt to murder Udupi deputy commissioner. There were allegations that being the district in-charge minister you did not take this matter seriously.
A: I was in Gundlupet for by-elections as chief minister Siddarammaih had ordered that we should stay in Gundlupet till April 7. I received a text message from the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police about the incident and I responded to it as soon as I could. I was in frequent touch with both of them. I asked them to take stringent action against the offenders. When the allegation was looming around even the deputy commissioner stated that there was full-fledged support from the minister and that I had given all freedom to investigate. So far nearly 20 people have been arrested, so it is wrong to say that no action has been taken.
Q: You were closely involved in the recent Gundlupet and Nanjangud bi-elections, soon after which there were allegations of Congress using money power to win. It was said that the by-elections were fought not on the issue of development, but on money power. Your views?
A: If BJP had won the by-elections, they would have credited it to Modi or Yeddyurappa wave. Both the constituencies are dominated by Lingayaths. As per the information that I have, in some Lingayath booths Congress candidates were in the lead. So people have given fitting reply to the BJP and its president Yeddiyurappa who was touted as the undisputed leader of Lingayaths. BJP need to ponder over this. If Congress unites, we can definitely win elections.
I don't think money played a role during the by-elections. Also, there are obsevers to keep an eye on the elections. When chief minister arrived in Gundlupet, the assistant commissioner seized 55 cars which belonged to the Congress. This shows how strictly the elections were monitored. In both the constituencies BJP representatives were spread out everywhere, and in case money had been distributed as alleged, the BJP would have got an opportunity to complain or protest. I have not noticed any money has being distributed during the by-elections.
Q: There was a tussle between your company driver and a police constable, in which you were directly involved. You have said the driver was innocent. The constable was suspended and transffered.
A: The police constable assaulted my driver so badly that his spinal cord was damaged. Who gave him the right to do that? A cop of a rank lower than sub-inspector cannot beat anyone. In case my driver had done anything wrong, the constable could have filed a complaint, but unforunately he was dragged and beaten up in the police station. CCTV footage is yet to come out. It will reveal the truth - whether he really misbehaved with the woman or not. I did not say anything to the SP regarding the constable's suspension, I only asked him to investigate the case.
Q: Recently Dr Deviprasad Shetty alleged that Suzlon was using poisonous plastic substance for manufacturing blades. What is your opinion?
A: We have Pollution Control Board to look in to this matter. The complaint has not come to my notice. If the allegation is true, I will ask the Pollution Control Board to take neccessary action.
Q: Cricket has a huge fan base in the twin districts, and they are expecting world-class stadiums. Will that ever happen?
A: The Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) is willing to spend any amount of money building the cricket stadium, but the only thing is, we have to make land available for them. They are in need of 20 acres of land in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. We are now in the process of identifying 20 acres of land, we have also informed Udupi and Dakshina Kannada DCs to identify such land. It is quite difficult to find such a vast land near the city.
Q: Now coming to toll gate issue, there are several controversies involved, on people having to pay toll charges in Suratkal, Hejmady and Brahmavar. At the same time, ministers are stepping back from raising this issue with the government. What do you have to say on this?
A: Toll gates in these areas were installed by the central government. The state and the central governments had made a agreement that a toll plaza would be opened only after 90% of the corresponding road work is completed. If you do not collect toll when 90% of the road work is completed, the central goverment will issue a notice to the state government to pay the money.
Now Hejmady-Kundapur highway work is in progress which is a Rs 700 crore project. The government pays you only Rs 200 crore and the rest has to come from the toll gate money. When 90% of the road work is completed legally it is not possible for the state government to stop toll collection, but the central government needs to take a call.
Q: What do you have to say on the popular former MP Jayaprakash Hegde joining BJP?
A: J P Hegde is a senior leader and I will not comment much on this. If a party member contests against the official candidate of the party, then definetely he will get expelled. This is what J P Hegde did. If he had to be brought back, the consent of the party candidate against whom he contested was also required. When he was in Congress he was a ticket aspirant 5 times, and during the Lok Sabha by-elections we worked hard to make him MP. J P Hegde got a lead of 12,500 in my Udupi constituency which was the highest among all constituencies, and he needs to remember this. He cannot demand ticket for each and every election.
Q: After becoming MLA for the first time, within three years you were given ministerial post. What have you learnt in your journey from an MLA to ministerial position?
A: As a minister you get a lot of opportunities to do your work, and chief minister Siddaramaiah has always given us the freedom to work for which we are grateful. The budget alloted for the sports department was Rs 145 crore. Later I held discussions with Siddaramaiah to double the allocation. He responded and raised the budget allotment to Rs 285 crore. Lots of changes have been brought in the sports and the fisheries sectors. So far in my tenure as minister, I have already spent 98% of the funds alloted for fisheries development, and 95% of the funds in the sports sector. We have also brought in transparecy in the sports development. We have a dedicated kabaddi mat which was reccommended by ace kabaddi player Mamatha Poojary. There was quite a bit of delay in the work at the stadiums. We have formed a technical commitee of experts to look after quality control. If a minister has vision and is sincere in his work, he can achieve anything.
Q: Earlier there were frequent complaints and strikes from fisherman, but after you took charge of the ministry, they seem to have lessened.
A: I prefer to lend ears and respond to their problems individually, and I consider it my duty. If I do my work in a sincere manner there is no question of laying blame or needing to protest.
Q: The government has completed four years of administration and there's only one more year to go. What steps will be taken to bring in changes and strengthen the party in the next one year? When you look back on the 4 years of administration as an MLA, are you happy?
A: During the four years of our administration, nearly Rs 1,769 crore was spent for development works in Udupi constituency, where JNURM buses and provision of bicycles were introduced, and bridges and roads built. Major bridges worth Rs 77.5 crore were sanctioned, Rs 575 crore was spent on roads, bridges and vented dams. When several development works take place in one constituency, it indicates that chief minister Siddaramaiah is definitely prioritising development works in other constiuencies too.
Q: Is there any unfulfilled work in Udupi or in the coastal districts in this remaining one year?
A: Yes, we want to establish a government medical college and a super-speciality hospital. Six districts in the state have no government medical college and Udupi is one among them. There is also a demand for a government medical college in Dakshina Kannada too. We also need to construct a series of vented dams to conserve rainwater and drinking water. The Paschima Vahini Project has been started.
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