Karnataka minister for irrigation and medical education D.K. Shivakumar. Photo: HT
Bengaluru: Senior Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar, who was inducted as the minister for irrigation and medical education in the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led Karnataka cabinet, is still in election mode almost a month after the state went to polls. Despite single-handedly thwarting off the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) alleged attempts to poach party legislators before the trust vote, the Vokkaliga strongman could not land the deputy chief minister’s post, which would have taken him one step closer to his dream of one day occupying the top post. Considered one of the most loyal lieutenants of the party, Shivakumar has now been meeting and trying to pacify disgruntled leaders of his party who did not land a ministerial berth. Edited excerpts from an interview:
How different or difficult were the cabinet allocations this time?
It is a coalition government. Even with different ideologies, we have somehow formed this government. Now, there is a big challenge. There were a lot of opposition party leaders who came to Bengaluru for a change in this country. The world was looking at Bengaluru and Karnataka, and India. When such is the case, having a stable government in Bengaluru is important.
There is a lot of unrest in your party ranks after many legislators missed out on cabinet berths?
They (disgruntled leaders) are all senior and eligible people. No doubt Mr (M.B. )Patil is a senior leader and worked well for the party. But the party has taken a stand. I was also not made a minister during Dharam Singh government (2004-06) and even in the Siddaramaiah government (2013-18) even though I was a senior. I only believed in Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and ultimately Mrs. Gandhi made me the minister. I am asking all my friends (legislators) not to take decisions in haste. Right now I am meeting all of them and trying to pacify them.
Your pet ministry, energy, was handed to the Janata Dal (Secular) as part of the understanding. Are you okay with it?
I just wanted some of my tasks to be completed, because in that ministry, you can create more jobs, industries, etc. like the world’s largest solar power park (Pavagada). I would like not only to make a mark in Indian history, but also world history.
Will your tempestuous past with H.D. Deve Gowda and H.D. Kumaraswamy affect your working together?
We did have a lot of differences politically, but the party has taken a stand in the nation’s interest and I do not want to take a different stand. Individuality does not matter here, nor do I look at petty politics. The fight with Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy has been there since 1985. They never allowed me to become a minister (then). For the sake of the state and country, all our individual egos must be thrown out. At no point of time will I be a backstabber. That is not in my blood.
Have your efforts to save the Congress made you BJP’s biggest target?
It is sad. The centre should not play vindictive politics and not target us. Nothing is permanent in politics. Now P. Chidambaram may be under the scanner. Even Amit Shah was in jail, but is now the president of a national party. Anything can happen, anyone can sit in power and anyone can be thrown out.
What about your aspirations to get into national politics?
For now, let me finish my term here. I have the age and, someday, when the opportunity comes, I will definitely be part of national politics. But not in 2019. I do not want to disturb my brother. (Shivakumar’s brother, D.K. Suresh is the MP from Bengaluru Rural). I would love to serve my state first.
Your aspirations to become chief minister and KPCC president remains unfulfilled?
I am a seven-term MLA, loyal to the party and I know my numbers. I cannot say that I am a sanyasi (saint). Having a vision and dreaming is not wrong. Is the prime minister of this county a sanyasi? He is also a politician. Everyone cannot become Rahul or Sonia Gandhi. They both could have become prime minister. I cannot be like that. Even for KPCC, I have not asked the party for anything.
Will working with Kumaraswamy be a problem for you considering you have had a turbulent past?
There is no friction, and I will not rock the house. The age for that is defeated and it is a coalition era now. It is up to Kumaraswamy to take us together. I did not backstab Siddaramaiah, why should I do it to Kumaraswamy. That much is assured.