Positions will come, positions will go; be honest to your conscience: DK Shivakumar     

DK Shivakumar is arguably one of the more prominent political faces from Karnataka and he was recently appointed as the new president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee

DK Shivakumar (Photo Courtesy: social media)
DK Shivakumar (Photo Courtesy: social media)

Ashlin Mathew

DK Shivakumar is arguably one of the more prominent political faces from Karnataka and he was recently appointed as the new president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee.

A steadfast Congressman, Shivakumar was the focus of several Enforcement Directorate cases in 2019 after he helped prevent the BJP from forming the government in Karnataka after the 2018 Assembly elections.

The Vokkaliga leader hopes to strengthen the party from the grassroots to win voters back and he believes that he can take everyone. Putting words to action, Shivakumar, after he was appointed, called on the Leader of Opposition and Congress floor leader Siddaramaiah, senior party leaders Mallikarjuna Kharge, KH Muniyappa, Veerappa Moily, MB Patil and former KPCC presidents G Parameshwar and Dinesh Gundu Rao.

Excerpts from an interview with National Herald show a leader who is willing to set aside differences to take everyone along.

What are your plans for the Congress in Karnataka?

I have been a Congressman for a very long time – all through my student days, youth, middle-age and now I’m 59. I have a legislator seven times and I have worked in the organisation at various capacities – from the booth level to the state level. I was also the NSUI working president for sometime. I know the mood of the party cadre and I am experienced in electoral politics.

With all these experiences behind me, my first agenda is that the voice of the party workers should be the voice of the party leaders. Whatever decision the party takes, it should not be the voice of the party leader only. Till a time that this is achieved will be our agenda.

Many people come and all they want are tickets, contest elections and want to become something. They come without realising the number of positions, political compulsions of every Assembly segment, what is the ward area, what is the social combination and what is the aspiration of the local people? They never look at these things.

We need leaders, of course, but any leader should first realise that he is a worker of the party. Then as a worker, he has to look at the voter; the worker should know what is happening at the booth level. I should be a representative of my booth first. If I don’t understand and get the support of booth-level voters, I am not fit to be a leader. If anyone has to be a leader representing the party at any level, even if it is the zilla panchayat, they must set right the place where they belong. They should win the heart of people in the area and only then will the person grow as a leader.Without a proper base or root, a person will not get votes. So, we have to go to the root of the matter- voters and party cadre. Until we make this party a cadre-base party, we will not grow.

I have not been made the President of Karnataka Congress only to speak to the leaders. Though I have been identified by Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, it was the voice of the workers which reached them. The leaders of the state have jointly supported me. They have given me this responsibility and for me it is not about power. I am accountable now and I have to deliver. And for me to deliver, I will have to take everyone together. And the most important aspect for that is to build a strong foundation.

You have been waiting in the wings for a few years to become the KPCC president. In all those years, did you think of switching parties?

We should always remember who we are. When I was a student leader in 1985 in Bangalore, I was given a chance to contest Assembly elections. Maybe I have not got several positions, maybe I did not become a minister or maybe I did not become KPCC president earlier, but I should remember which party identified me.

If I decide to hop to other parties, then my integrity is lost. Positions will come, positions will go. We can’t sell ourselves for power. Ultimately my conscience should also permit. Today, there are various leaders who have gone from the party. Look at their statements. Whatever they said when they were with the Congress party, they have reversed it and that too immediately. You should be honest to your conscience. When you speak something, you should mean it. 

If you switch parties, there are compulsions and I don’t want any position that comes accompanied with compulsions.

The Karnataka Congress is currently a divided house. How do you propose to address the factionalism within the state unit?

I would not like to identify or speak about groups within Congress and I would also not want to be identified as part of some group. My group is the Congress. I will take everyone together. It is a collective responsibility. One man’s decision cannot be paramount; decisions will come out of a group. Only a Shiva kumar can’t do anything. It’s only when all of us decide together, can we go ahead. The hand is made up of five fingers; just the thumb or the little finger can’t do anything. All the five fingers have to come together to make the hand, then only will I have a strong fist. I believe in it and I believe in unity.

The Congress has an uphill task when it comes to the urban BJP and Modi voters in the state. How do you plan to reach out to them?

I am not going to call them Modi voters. Our party might have failed in various aspects earlier and lost the electoral mandate. The voters switched. There is a lot of time for the next elections and we will convince the voters and the younger generation that we will work to help them grow. We will send the message that we are working for them.

There is a big generation gap between the older and younger people. The younger generation, between the age group of 20 and 40, are the decision makers in most households. They control their parents. These younger voters are the decision makers. We have to look at the aspirations of these voters. Any country which was looking at India as competition was not afraid of India; they are afraid of Indian human resources. India’s wealth is its human resources,knowledge and culture. Now, we should look at the minds of people and unite them.

The days of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi are over when there was mass support. Now, we have to rebuild the party as all sections of the society are divided. We will aim to bring those sections together.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has a strong base in Karnataka and as a result Hindutva politics dominates in Dakshin Kannada. How do you plan to oppose their communalism?

In politics nothing is impossible. We have our strategies but let me not speak about it too soon. When you build a house, you look at the soil to plan the foundation. We test the soil first. So, let us start to work and then the plan will reveal itself.

The opposition to CAA-NRC-NPR have rocked the country. What is your plan for it in Karnataka?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, National Register of Citizens and the National population Register are not the problems of only the Congress party. This will be a problem for not just for certain communities but for a large number of citizens. We have to save this country and the Congress will perform its duty to save the country. This is a movement of the common man and BJP has realised that. They are toning down their comments on NPR in Parliament. The voice of the people will defeat the Bill.

What do you see as the future of the Congress party?

We must first understand what the party stands for. The Congress has not got to where it is because of power. Even the Gandhi family did not hanker after power. When Sonia Gandhi was invited to become Prime Minister, she refused to. Even Rahul Gandhi refused to become a minister in either of the UPA governments. He could have become a minister twice, but he also refused. No one would have stopped them as everyone wanted them in positions of power, but they thought the welfare and economics of the country were more important. It was decided that Dr Manmohan Singh was the right person for India and that is how the country grew. The country was put ahead of personal gain.

Now, what is the situation? Though BJP got a very big mandate, the common man and the youth cutting across party lines have come to the streets. They are raising their voices. We will work on raising their voices.

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