Q / What is the idea behind Mission 123?
A/ It is a unique experience where we train our leaders and cadres to help the party get a clear majority and end coalition politics in the state. I have had difficult times in coalition governments and am now determined to reach a target of 123 seats in the 2023 Assembly polls. We started early to better organize ourselves and look beyond our strongholds. traditional.
Q / Is the coalition system a scourge? How have Congress and the BJP been your partners?
A/ The coalition system in Karnataka has always posed challenges. In 2004, we formed a coalition with Congress after a deadlocked verdict. But Congress tried to kill my party. I was forced to join the BJP. Our National President (HD Deve Gowda) had decided to go to the polls, but under pressure from MPs from my party, who were not inclined to contest the early elections, I gave in and formed an alternative coalition with the BJP .
Interestingly, the BJP had not tasted power in the state until then; it was not as strong at the Center. The BJP leadership in the state was therefore cooperative and there was no interference from the Delhi leadership. But after 20 months, when the time came to transfer power to the BJP, its national leadership intentionally created problems to tarnish my image. They were no longer interested in the coalition. BS Yediyurappa was chief minister for only nine days and the coalition collapsed.
Q / Do you see the BJP as a stronger opponent than Congress?
A/ The current BJP is stronger, without a doubt. But we have all witnessed their style of governance. Prior to the 2018 election, Congress had propagated that the JD (S) was the B-Team of the BJP. This benefited the BJP, which pocketed 105 seats; the Congress was reduced to 78. In its zeal to end a regional and secular party, the Congress ended up strengthening the BJP.
Q / What prevented your group from expanding beyond southern Karnataka?
A/ The JD (S) may be the victim of its own image. There is a perception that the party is limited to the Old Mysuru region and that it belongs to a particular caste or community (Vokkaliga). But the party is accepted in northern Karnataka and even on the Karnataka coast. However, the support is not yet translating into votes. So this time we decided to start early, identify candidates in each region and strengthen the party base in all regions and communities.
Q / In view of the last elections, a clear majority is a difficult task for any political party in Karnataka.
A/ In 2013, the BJP was reduced to 40 seats and Congress won only 122. Yediyurappa had left the BJP and started his own party. Congress would have won 78 seats if Yediyurappa had remained in the BJP. The share of JD (S) votes, since 1999, has remained around 20 percent. We are developing a strategy to increase our share by an additional 10 percent. An increase in the share of votes on its own might not help as it might not translate into more seats, especially if the extra votes lead to wins with huge margins.
By my calculations, a 28% share of the vote can still provide a clear majority [of seats] if we focus on seats where we have lost very low margins. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party had similar voting shares ranging from 28 to 32 percent each. But the seat conversion rate was better in the case of BJP. In Karnataka, Congress won only 78 seats with a 36 percent vote share; the BJP won 105 seats with 33%.