Interview with H.D. Kumaraswamy, Karnataka State president of the JD(S).

H.D. KUMARASWAMY is one of the biggest stars of the Janata Dal (Secular), the other being his father, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda. A film producer who became Chief Minister in 2006, the 1959-born Kumaraswamy has had a a roller-coaster ride in politics. The State president of the party took time off his busy schedule to speak to Frontline.

Curiously, none of the parties is raising the issue of the Cauvery waters.

No, we have been raising it. The Congress and the BJP are not bothered because they have not been able to solve it despite being in power. We want to know what the stand of the Congress is.

What are your party’s priorities?

Farmer’s issues. We want farmers’ loans to be waived. On the irrigation side, during the past 10 years there has been no focus on the implementation of projects. Irrigation has been neglected. Scheme B of the Krishna Tribunal was not been taken seriously by the BJP government. In the social and health sectors, there are several issues needing attention.

Who do you see as your rival?

The Congress. Even in north Karnataka, where the JD(S) is thought to be weak, we are neck and neck with the Congress. People would like to say that the JD(S) is only strong in two districts. But that is not true. During the past one year, I have visited 150 constituencies, three to five times, including those in north Karnataka. I am in regular touch with the people. We also have a strong base among the minorities.

Is corruption an issue in these elections?

Village people don’t take corruption as an issue very seriously. They want their day-to-day problems, such as drinking water, price rise and unemployment, solved. Even intellectuals. Kannada writers recently said that they would support the Congress because they want a stable government. So, more than corruption it is stability that is the issue.

What do you think of the chances of B.S. Yeddyurappa’s party?

Candidates who are personally very strong [popular] will get elected.

What are your party’s chances?

We are hoping for a majority. In the southern parts of the State, from Chamarajanagar to Davanagere, where we are very strong, we will get between 50 and 65 seats, while in northern Karnataka we will get 30 to 35 seats. We are not strong in the coastal areas.

In the event of a hung Assembly who will you support?

We will sit in the opposition. We previously had bad experiences with both the Congress and the BJP.

Ravi Sharma