The Chief Minister also denied he had any differences with party state president, Nalin Kumar Kateel.
He assumed office in the midst of political mayhem as legislators of the previous coalition government resigned to make way for his government in July. And it hasn’t been an easy 100 days in office either for chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, with his government coming in for strong criticism on its handling of the flood situation in the state and on other fronts. But in a lengthy interview with Neena Gopal, Bhaskar Hegde and B. Aravinda Shetty, Mr Yediyurappa rebutted all such claims and said that his government was in fact giving priority to flood relief work over even development of the state for the moment. He was confident of winning over a dozen seats in the coming bypolls and asserted he would not need the support of the JD(S) even if it was willing to offer it, for his government’s survival. The Chief Minister also denied he had any differences with party state president, Nalin Kumar Kateel or party national organising secretary, B.L. Santhosh and rubbished reports that his son, Vijayendra was interfering in transfers of officers. Excerpts...
AA:You have completed a 100 days in office, but what is your response to the Congress saying your government has not taken off yet?
CM: Except (former Chief Minister) Siddaramaiah no one has spoken against our government. My request to you (media) is that you should take public feedback about our acheivements in these 100 days to gain clarity. We have taken up relief work on a warfooting in flood-hit regions of of the state. For the first time in the country, we have announced `5 lakh for construction of houses, when earlier the compensation was only `98,000. We have given a cheque to the beneficiaries and also money towards rent of houses for the flood victims. Who is Siddaramaiah to give us a zero? I don’t bother about his remarks.
AA: But there is a common criticism that the Centre has not released enough flood relief funds to the state.
CM: Home minister, Amit Shah, and finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman did an aerial survey of the flood- hit areas. There have been floods in many states, but the Centre released funds to Karnataka and Bihar. Siddaraiamah has criticised the Centre, but how much Central funds did he get when he was Chief Minister? It is easy to criticise us, but the reality is different. The Centre has released the first instalments and has promised more funds.
AA: You often said that once the BJP government came to power in the state, you would bring more funds to it for development as there is a BJP government at the Centre too. But nowhere is development visible.
CM: It needs time. I will bring funds for irrigation projects and I am sure the Centre will provide financial assistance for development. But we are busy with handling the flood situation in the state. . We will submit a proposal to the Centre with the help of the four Union ministers from Karnataka.
AA: But you have said the state is facing a financial crunch. So are there no funds for development?
CM: When MLAs and MPs asked for developmental projects, demanding funds of Rs 50 crore and Rs 100 crore , I categorically told them that I could not approve such projects owing to the present financial condition. I also told them that our main focus was to provide relief in flood -hit areas. I have already given the MLAs Rs 25 crore and promised to consider their demand for more after the year end. My situation is like that of someone walking on a tightrope. I have to adjust the funds for various schemes, including waiver of farm loans by the previous government.
AA: So your priority is now relief work in flood affected areas and not the state’s development?
CM : Yes, our government’s first priority is to provide relief in flood- hit areas. My entire team is working on this. Unfortunately, the media is not presenting the actual facts about the flood relief work and so I have decided to distribute a booklet to the people on the measures the government has taken. Siddaramaiah speaks against our relief work and release of funds, but as an opposition leader he can always cross- check the figures released by the government with the chief secretary or deputy commissioners.
AA: Do you agree that your government has gained a negative public image by its handling of the flood situation?
CM: There is no negative image. It is inevitable for us to face the consequences (of the floods). The Centre has responded positively to our request and released Rs. 1200 crore. No other state has got such a big amount. It is not correct to blame it.
AA: Your next challenge are the bypolls to 15 Assembly constituencies, but you haven’t chosen your candidates yet.
CM: I don’t know how many constituencies the Supreme Court will order the bypolls for. We will get a clear picture on November 4 or 5. I am 100 per cent confident of winning 12 to 13 Assembly seats. We will complete another three- and-a- half years without any hurdle.
AA: Will you take JD(S) support if it offers it?
CM: There is no question of taking JD(S) support. After the byelection results on December 12, our strength will increase to 113. In such a situation there is no question of taking the support of the JD(S). I welcome (former Chief Minister) Kumaraswamy’s statement that he will not destabilise the government when it is busy with flood relief work. I have a good relationship with all leaders, including Siddaramaiah. It is my duty to welcome Kumaraswamy’s comment on our work in flood-hit districts. His appreciation for our government is no way connected with the IMA or phone tapping case where he is facing charges.
AA: Are you not under pressure on selection of BJP candidates for the byelections as party cadres are opposed to giving tickets to disqualified MLAs?
CM: We have not taken a decision yet. We will take a decision only after the Supreme Court’s verdict. Selection of candidates will be done after discussion with the party’s central and state leadership. We have not finalised any candidates, including giving ticket to outsiders. We will take a call on this after November 6 or 7. It is not in my hands to select the candidates. I said this at the Hubballi meeting too and requested party leaders not to speak against the disqualified MLAs. We have not taken any decision on giving tickets to them. We have made no commitment on this.
AA: The BJP has lost seats in the just concluded elections in the flood- hit areas of Maharashtra. Do you think the party will face a similar situation in flood -hit constituencies of the state in the bye elections?
CM: Don’t compare the two states. People will vote for us because of our good work especially in the flood -hit areas.
AA: It is said that the party central leadership has clipped your wings and taken away all your powers.
CM: This is totally false. Party state president, Nalin Kumar Kateel and I are working together to strengthen the party and will go on a joint tour of the state. The rumour has been spread intentionally by a section of leaders in the media.
AA: But some say that BJP national organising secretary, B.L. Santhosh, is trying to take control of the party’s state leadership and appointed his supporter, Nalin Kumar Kateel as party president without informing you.
CM: Santhosh is in a top position in the party. We meet regularly and he is giving me his full cooperation. Mr. Kateel is neither from Santhosh or Yediyurappa’s side. The party has appointed him president and I will fully cooperate with him. There are no differences between us. It is not true that he was appointed without informing me. I was informed well before his appointment. No one had a clue about my appointment too as party president three years back.
AA: Do you agree there is lack of coordination between the government and the party?
CM: No not at all, we are both working together. Our relationship is much better than before. I will give all my cooperation to the president to build the party.
AA: But it is said that your son, B.Y. Vijayendra , is interfering in transfers.
CM: Many Chief Ministers lived with their families, but I live alone in my Dollars Colony residence. No one from my family lives with me. Vijayendra is being unnecessarily dragged into this. The allegation is baseless.
AA: Is it possible for you to appoint honest officers in key posts like Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing at the Centre?
CM: I am working on deputing honest officers to key posts. I have already discussed appointing them.
AA: You have said you have a plan for something better in your second term. What do you have in mind?
CM: I have completed 100 days and now we need to concentrate on the byelections. Over the next 100 days, you will see the changes in Karnataka, whether it be in irrigation, PWD, national highway or any other area. Our ministers are working day and night.
AA: What is your vision for the state ?
CM: Industry must develop. It is a very important sector to generate employment. And many schemes are already working out. Important is Bengaluru’s development. Dr, Sudha Murthy (of Infosys Foundation) has held two rounds of meetings for development of Bengaluru. I have held four or five meetings and now I have to release funds. One more meeting will be held very soon. Discussion is on on introducing a separate legislation for Bengaluru’s development.
AA: What do you think about using social media to reach out to people?
CM: I am working on this. The Prime Minister is using social media to reach out to people. I will discuss with my officers how best we can use it too to tell people about our
AA: You have the advantage of having a BJP government in both the state and Centre and 25 party MPs elected from Karnataka. Are you using the services of the MPs to bring more developmental projects to the state?
CM: I have held two meetings with officers and the newly elected MPs and a meeting has been fixed with the railway minister on Monday. We have got immense support from the railway ministry for the ongoing projects and maximum help from Union minister, Nitin Gadkari for the national highways project. The Centre is not neglecting Karnataka. What we need now are more funds for irrigation projects. Once the flood relief work is completed, I will look into pending Central projects in the state. We will bring more funds from the Centre for the next budget.
AA: Over the last 100 days, one common criticism against you has been over transfers of officers.
CM: When a new government comes to power, it is usual for MLAs of the ruling party asking for officers of their choice. This has happened in the past too. Regarding my personal staff at the home office and Vidhana Soudha, I have changed a few officers after receiving complaints against them.