Exclusive: DK Shivakumar on outwitting BJP’s “dirty politics” in Karnataka
In an exclusive interview, DK Shivakumar tells National Herald how he and colleagues ensured Congress and JD(S) secured their newly elected MLAs and thus their chance at governing Karnataka
The drama that ensued after the Karnataka elections, which threw up a hung legislature, might have ended. But, the high-intensity battle will be remembered for a long time to come, because despite not having numbers, BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa was invited to form the government. BJP had only 104 seats, while the Congress and JD(S) combine had 116.
As soon as a hung verdict became evident, Congress and JD(S) moved to quickly secure their newly-elected MLAs. It was the political deftness of senior Karnataka Congress leader DK Shivakumar, who won the Kanakapura constituency with the second highest margin in the state, which ensured that all the Congress MLAs stayed together even while they were being shuttled from one place to another.
Shivakumar, in conversation with National Herald’s Ashlin Mathew, says that BJP thought they could form the government through dirty politics, but we outwitted them and ensured that our MLAs were not lured. He tells the whole story of how Congress and JDS MLAs were kept secure from BJP’s failed poaching attempts to make up for their lack numbers. Excerpts from the interview:
How did the Congress-JD(S) alliance materialise?
When the votes were counted, we realised that we would not get absolute majority and the party had decided that we would offer unconditional support to JD(S) in that case. We were asked to work to ensure that. Whatever differences may be there, we are against BJP. So, we kept aside personal politics.
Since BJP did not have the numbers, what do you think BJP would have done?
BJP would have definitely tried to purchase a number of Congress MLAs. They started to offer a lot of money. They were offering in some cases ₹5 crore, ₹15 crore, ₹150 crore. We had asked our MLAs to record such conversations.
Now, I’m sure the Income Department will help converting this money or they will come after these legislators. I will not be able to tell the names of all the MLAs to whom the money was offered.
DK Shivakumar: “The Hyderabad police were extremely helpful. The top leaders informed us that the Hyderabad police would escort the bus as soon as we would reach the state. The TRS leaders had spoken to us and said they would extend support too. We got support from a lot of quarters because we were coming together to ensure a secular government is formed in Karnataka”
How did you manage to keep the MLAs together and convince them?
We did find it difficult to keep the MLAs together. First, we asked all our MLAs to come to Bengaluru. After they all came together, we coached our MLAs on what they would do, what they wouldn’t. We knew [BJP] would start poaching as soon as the final results were becoming evident. They may have the money, but we decided to act fast. We were able to keep our flock together.
The families of these MLAs were also worried, because they were being taken from one place to another. They were also being called by BJP supporters, promising them money and other benefits.
We were able to keep the flock together because we were able to give them confidence and convince them that we would win. We told them that we had the numbers and if we stayed united, we could form the government, otherwise we would all be in the Opposition and that would not be good for them or the state. This has proved that if we present a unified face, there is nothing BJP can do.
DK Shivakumar: “A few MLAs did not come to Hyderabad, but we were sure that during the no-confidence motion, they would vote for the party. I was in touch with them. BJP played dirty politics, but we outwitted them”
Could you let us know a bit about the behind-the-scenes action?
We first took our MLAs to Eagleton Resort to ensure that no one would poach them. Unlike what has been quoted in the media, the resort is not run by my brother DK Suresh. It is in his constituency, that’s all. Only the Congress MLAs were there, not the JD(S) MLAs. Then we decided that they had to be taken out of the state to ensure their safety and also to ensure no one would reach these hotels either.
A few MLAs did not come to Hyderabad, but we were sure that during the no-confidence motion, they would vote for the party. I was in touch with them. BJP played dirty politics, but we outwitted them.
Then we were meant to take them to Kerala, but we were told that they would not have enough rooms for everyone. We needed at least 100 rooms. Then the Telangana Pradesh Congress informed us that there were hotels in Hyderabad that we could use. They provided us ground support.
We then looked at Park Hyatt in Hyderabad, which is owned by Congress leader T Subbarami Reddy. But, there too there weren’t enough rooms as other legislators were staying there. Taj Krishna, owned by the GVK group, had the required number of rooms. We booked around 90 rooms as there was support-staff along with most of the newly-elected MLAs.
Did you get assistance from the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti?
The Hyderabad police were extremely helpful. The top leaders informed us that the Hyderabad police would escort the bus as soon as we would reach the state. The TRS leaders had spoken to us and said they would extend support too. We got support from a lot of quarters because we were coming together to ensure a secular government is formed in Karnataka.
This is not the first time such things have happened. The party had anticipated such probabilities and I was asked to ensure all the MLAs would be kept together. We had done it earlier too. We had to do this last year and a few years ago too. In politics, we have come to expect the unexpected from the BJP.
DK Shivakumar: “We were able to keep the flock together because we were able to give them confidence and convince them that we would win. We told them that we had the numbers and if we stayed united, we could form the government, otherwise we would all be in the Opposition and that would not be good for them or the state. This has proved that if we present a unified face, there is nothing BJP can do”
Have you buried your problems with JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy?
I do have my issues with HD Kumaraswamy. It is a big wound which has lasted over a few decades. It takes time to heal. But, when the party decides for an alliance we all have to work towards it. We wanted a secular government to form in Karnataka. That is most important.
Will you be a part of this government?
That I’m not sure. All this the party will decide. These are not for me to decide.
Will there be a Congress-JD(S) alliance for later?
We are still planning that and all this will be decided by the party High Command. At the appropriate time, they will talk and announce their decisions. There are issues which will all have to be ironed out.
- Janata Dal (Secular)
- BS Yeddyurappa
- Eagleton Resort
- DK Shivakumar
- HD Kumaraswamy
- Karnataka Congress
- Congress-JDS alliance
- DK Suresh
- Kanakapura constituency
- Karnataka Assembly results
- Parliamentary constituency
- Telangana Pradesh Congress
- Park Hyatt
- Subbarami Reddy
- GVK group
- Hyderabad police
- Taj Krishna