It is a busy morning as I join INC candidate for Bangalore South, Krishna Byregowda on his way to Koramangala village, in his beige colour Innova. After participating in a television debate in the morning, he starts his campaigning for the day.
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This 36-year-old two- time MLA and currently President of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress is banking on his popularity amongst the youth. He feels that this is the time for change and Indian politics is now ready to see its young faces emerge to power.
We are about to move when a group of elderly men stop the vehicle to shake hands with KBG, as he is popularly known. “We are from BTM Layout. We are with you, we are with you. You will win,” says Dwarkanath, short heighted, grey haired, senior citizen dressed in neatly ironed formals, clutching KBG’s hands. His friends echo his words. KBG replies with a wide smile, “Thank you very much.” The vehicle moves and we start our conversation.
“You saw how everybody wants a young representative. It is time for change,” he says.
Krishna Byregowda, who writes his last name in one word, is an American-educated Congress leader. He has a master’s degree from the School of International Services of American University, Washington DC. After his PUC from National College, Basavanagudi, he joined Christ College, to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. He has also worked as project associate at Development Alternatives Inc, Washington DC, and joined politics after his father C Byre Gowda, a well known JD(s) leader, died in 2003.
The senior Byregowda was known for his honesty; he used to take on the bureaucracy, for people’s causes. He had served as agriculture minister in the Janata Dal government between 1994 and 1999.
Krishna Byregowda switched parties and moved to the Congress early in his political career. He is now the president of the State Youth Congress. He also represents Byatarayanapura in the assembly.
“My father was an honest politician, and his work was appreciated. People still remember him for his contribution as a minister to agriculture. I am following in his footprints and people give me a lot of love and affection,” explains KBG.
Following are excerpts from the ten minute interview:
Supriya Khandekar: How has your campaigning been?
Krishna Byregowda: It is a rigorous journey to say the least. I personally feel I came in a little late and therefore I am falling short of time. If I had some more time in hand I would have probably been able to plan my campaign in a better way. But my family and friends have given me an overwhelming support.
Supriya Khandekar: Why MLA to MP? Many quality of life issues in the country are local, most impacted by state government- education, health, agriculture, law enforcement..? Your previous interviews and statements indicate you are very concerned about your constituency wherever you go. Then why move to Parliament?
Krishna Byregowda: I have worked three terms as an MLA and have worked efficiently with people directly. I have worked with people to solve their day-to-day issues and therefore I can very well raise the relevant issues in the Parliament now. After winning the election also, my channels will always be open for the people. For example, even if I am not contesting from Vemagal now, I still work with the people of that place and they do come back to me even now.
SK: Some people think that MLAs and MPs are supposed to be legislating in the assemblies and not getting into directing local affairs and influencing local decision making. The reality is otherwise, where do you come in on this?
KBG: We should understand the changing nature of the system, reaching out to the people and asking their feedback is the new age politics. Young politicians are here to support this politics. As far as I am concerned I will keep in touch with my constituency people and will hold meetings time to time. At the same time letters, emails, open discussions and as many direct contacts as possible with my people.
SK: In your Vemagal Constituency MLA stint, you have spoken about the imbalance between the demands of the urban middle class, and the way the state government meets them and the complete lack of rural infrastructure. Do you feel the same way now – you then became an MLA for a relatively more urban constituency in 2008 state elections.
KBG: I still feel that the opportunities in rural India are less and should be increased. There has to be skill enhancement and investment in rural India, that is the only way to create opportunity for them. Otherwise everyone wants to come to the city and do thankless jobs here thereby leaving the rural India in its underdeveloped condition. Also over-crowding the cities. I feel there is an urgent need to promote tier two and tier three cities. Unless there are jobs and better opportunities for youth in rural parts, development cannot be expected.
About the question of coming to urban area to contest, even in this election I was expecting to contest from Chickballapur but our party decided to put me into Bangalore South. I am still in touch with people of rural India and whether I am in power or not I will be working for them always.
SK: When you vote in the parliament as MP, are you going to consult the voters of Bangalore South or not? And how? If your party whip asks you to vote in a certain way, and your constituency votes majority view is opposite, How will you vote?
KBG: This is a very hypothetical question and I can’t give you an exact answer at this time.
As far as being in touch with my constituency people is concerned I will certainly keep my channels open and consider all their suggestions.
SK: There is a popular independent candidate Capt. Gopinath, party veterans like Ananth Kumar and Professor Radhakrishna contesting from Bangalore South. What according to you makes you the likely winner? What are you going to do for the people that others might not do?
KBG: Each candidate has his own pros and cons. I am focusing on promoting my plus points, the advantages that I have. I have worked closely with people therefore I understand their concern better. I am young and experienced, I can relate to the next generation. It is the time when the society needs a change it needs a young face. I am having an impeccable track record and I have delivered my best in the past. This is my USP and will be reason for my win.
I consider myself a progressive candidate who wants to provide leadership on the dominant concerns facing this constituency. I stand for promoting the economy, supporting freedom of expression and creating the right infrastructure for living and working.
At this point the car stops at a traffic jam in Koramangala village, people start coming closer to have a look at their candidate. He is escorted by some of his party workers and he disappears in the crowds. People wait to have a glimpse of him and someone from the crowd shouts out “Byregowda, Rahul Gandhi of Karnataka!”