Karnataka polls: We provide ammunition for Congress' campaign, says AICC research dept chairman Rajeev Gowda

Maheswara Reddy | Apr 30, 2018 | 6 min read

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INTERVIEW:PROF M V RAJEEV GOWDA

“We are the ammunition factory of the Congress”

By Y Maheswara Reddy

That ammunition comprises “talking points for leaders during poll campaigns, attack and counter-attack materials, all fact-checked and data-driven, in real time,” said Prof M V Rajeev Gowda, former IIMB professor, now Rajya Sabha member and Chairman of the AICC Research Department. In a candid interview, Gowda said this internal think tank has four main action objectives: supporting Congress MPs in Parliament, preparing well researched material to counter the BJP government, assist Congress election campaigns with relevant analysis and talking points, and craft policy agendas for the future through widespread consultation. Excerpts from the interview: 


Q: What are the recent key findings of the research wing? And how is that going to help Congress in its campaign?

We provide detailed, fact-based reports on various policy issues. We work closely with the party’s communications, social media and data analytics departments. Our publication on the demonetisation disaster was used by party workers in the nationwide protests we organised. In Gujarat, our research exposed the hollowness of the Gujarat model of development forcing PM Modi to rely on divisive and communal issues. We also released the first “Real State of the Economy” report which explained how the BJP has completely mismanaged the economy. Currently we are working on a document focused on the “Four Wasted Years of Modi Sarkar”. 

Q: What are your key findings on the economic mess by the BJP?

During the UPA years, India achieved an average GDP growth rate of 7.6 per cent. The Modi government benefited from low oil prices, favourable macroeconomic conditions, and a first full majority government after 30 years. They completely squandered the opportunity through misguided attempts to amend the Land Acquisition Act, demonetisation and hasty implementation of a flawed Goods and Services Tax regime. Some of these spectacularly counterproductive moves have slowed down the economy by 1-2 per cent. The informal sector and micro, small and medium enterprises, which are the primary job creators, have been badly hit. Private investment is at an all time low. It is no wonder that the jobs have dried up. The agrarian sector is undergoing an unprecedented crisis.

Q: BJP is strengthening its cadre at the grassroots level. Is that not a worry?

Across states we have been strengthening our booth-level committees. The party is setting up communication channels for two-way engagement. In Karnataka, BJP cadres are disheartened with the public having utter contempt for the party, partly because PM Modi and Amit Shah have embraced Karnataka’s most corrupt looters and jailbirds in their cynical bid to come to power, with Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers leading the pack.

Q: A lot of people still do not believe in the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.

A lot of people still do not believe in the leadership of Narendra Modi. His ratings have been falling. In contrast, Rahul Gandhi’s stock is on the rise. This has been apparent to neutral observers since Gujarat elections. His recent speeches at the AICC Plenary Session and at the Jan Aakrosh Rally have been inspiring. His Jana Ashirwada Yatre in Karnataka drew huge crowds. His approach is to empower and decentralise, which has given tremendous confidence to the Karnataka Congress, where everyone is focused on reciprocating his faith by ensuring victory. 

Q: BJP is giving tough competition on social media. How is your team tackling it?

BJP may have been the first mover on social media, but ever since Divya Spandana took over, Congress has left it far behind. BJP and its troll army regularly use fake news and indulge in vicious and baseless personal attacks. The Karnataka social media team has taken them head on. They have used humor and plain speak to good effect to discredit the BJP.

Q: How big is your team?

Our team size varies from a dozen to around 20, including interns. We will be creating a fellowship programme soon, which may add another 25 to 50 young people.

Q: Are you happy as a Member of Rajya Sabha?

When I was at IIMB, I used to preach (about policy). Now, as a member of the Rajya Sabha, I get to practice. When I contribute to improving bills, participate actively in parliamentary committees, or when I help my colleagues through the efforts of the Research team, I am making a difference in a tangible way. There are many other ways I can contribute: policy ideation, political action, people’s problem solving, and so on. I am constantly learning and growing as an MP. One of the things I am proud of is amplifying the efforts of citizen activists and finally getting Suburban Rail launched in Bengaluru.

Q: Did you try to contest from Mulbagal to the State Assembly from where your father was elected twice?

I'm not eligible as the 2008 Delimitation reserved Mulbagal for Scheduled Castes. I have shifted base to Bengaluru city and contested the internal party primaries for Bengaluru North Lok Sabha seat in 2014.

Q: Are you happy with Congress contribution in making Bengaluru free from garbage and public nuisance?

Bengaluru is growing at a rapid pace and tackling the garbage problem requires a combination of infrastructure, equipment, behavioural patterns and attitudes to ensure that garbage does not become an eyesore or a health hazard. But the damage done to the city by the BJP when it ran both the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the state government is still taking time to reverse. The BJP transformed Bengaluru from a Garden City to a Garbage city. The Congress will ensure that garbage in the city is managed well and we have no more public nuisances.

Q: Are you confident of Congress winning?

As opinion polls are revealing, Siddaramaiah is the preferred Chief Ministerial choice of more than half the voters. There is a pro-incumbency wave as the state experienced 8.5 per cent growth last year, higher than the national average. Indeed, 90% of the 2013 Manifesto promises have been fulfilled. There have been no corruption scandals or crippling dissidence.

Siddaramaiah’s personal experience with poverty while growing up brings a fiery passion to his drive to expand welfare programmes and provide a social safety net for the poor and disadvantaged. At the same time, the government has ensured that Karnataka became India’s number one investment destination, building on Bengaluru’s cosmopolitan culture of innovation. Is it any surprise that Siddaramiah is the first CM to complete a full term in a long time?

In contrast, when people think of the BJP they can only recall the nightmare years of 2008-13, which were marred by corruption, mis-governance, attacks on freedoms, and criminal takeover of politics. There has also been a strong rejection of the BJP’s attempts to polarise the population on religious lines. 

Further, the JD(S) is strong in only a few districts in Old Mysore. People are wary of creating a hung assembly by voting for the JD(S), whose track record is one of untrustworthiness. Siddaramaiah has demonstrated that he is the champion of Karnataka and Kannada, leading our efforts on Cauvery and Mahadayi river waters, etc. Thus, overall, we can expect people to vote for the Congress.

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