“I will never commit to any party”

For the past one month, former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde has been campaigning for Ashwin Mahesh, Lok Satta party’s candidate for the graduate constituency MLC election. This is the first time Hegde is endorsing a candidate in any election. He also goes door-to-door appealing residents to vote for Mahesh.

Justice Santhosh Hegde. File pic: Citizen Matters

In this interview with Citizen Matters, Hegde talks about his decision to start engaging with elections.

Why are you endorsing a candidate in this election?

I was against anyone in Team Anna campaigning in elections, as it would almost be like taking sides. There are lot of corrupt politicians. But on the other hand I have been speaking publicly that every person should go and vote, and only then will democracy work. Listeners have pointed out this contradiction – that on one hand I speak against corrupt politicians and on the other I want public to vote.

Then a few months ago Ashwin Mahesh contacted me. India Against Corruption (IAC) members were saying that Mahesh was contesting election and that they would like me to back him. By backing Ashwin I had an answer to public, as to the kind of candidate they can vote for.

Mahesh is a Lok Satta candidate. Why are you entering politics now, actively endorsing a party candidate?

Frankly, the party aspect never really occured to me. I have interacted before with Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, the founder of Lok Satta, but I do not know much about the party.

We (Ashwin and I) have worked together with the Anna team and IAC. Mahesh has done good work in civic matters and affairs of Bangalore. He has worked with traffic police, BMTC, adopted Puttenahalli lake along with his neighbours. This election is not about party anyway. Council is the house of elders where Mahesh has the qualifications to deliver.

In graduate constituency, voters are easier to convince than in general election. Being educated, they are supposed to take better decisions. This is a one-time effort from me to convince people that there are good candidates. And my endorsement is only on the basis of candidate.

Even then, are you not taking a political stand? BJP’s seasoned candidate Ramachandra Gowda is also contesting. And your report as Lokayukta was what had brought down BJP’s Yeddyurappa earlier.

I am not taking any political party’s name in the campaign, or speaking against any candidate. In future also if there is any outstanding candidate, purely on the basis of merit, I may ask people to vote for him.

Even if it is a BJP candidate?

Yes. But I will never support any party or commit myself to it. Also whether I will take up such campaigns in future will depend on my health, travel schedules and other commitments.

Tell us about your door-to-door campaigns.

I have committed five Friday evenings for the campaign, 3-4 hours per day. I go to the spots that the campaign team chooses. So far I have been to JP Nagar, Jayanagar, Malleswaram and Rajaji Nagar, and have two more campaign days left. People in these neighbourhoods and other eligible graduates gather in one house, and I interact with them.

There are others like Mohandas Pai and Kiran Shaw who also endorsed Mahesh. But only you have gone on door-to-door campaigns.

May be they don’t have the time (smiles). I am doing this to bring about awareness. I go and explain to people what graduates’ constituency is, who can vote etc. I have always voted in elections depending on candidate; it could be for any party.

You may also be the first former SC judge going on such campaigns

I have many firsts to my name (smiles). I was the first SC judge against whom cases were filed, and also the first to go on dharna on the street. Engagement with public is necessary for anyone who is concerned with democracy. It could just be discussing what is happening around you, so that others also get involved.

How is the campaign going, and do you think Mahesh will win?

Ashwin’s team has been getting people enrolled; if they vote, he will stand a chance. People are fed up of seeing the same old people coming to power. But I do not know what other candidates are doing.

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About Navya P K 317 Articles
Navya has 12 years of experience in journalism, covering development, urban governance and environment. She was earlier Senior Journalist, Citizen Matters, and Reporter, The New Indian Express. She has also freelanced for publications such as The News Minute, Factor Daily and India Together. Navya won the All India Environment Journalism Award, 2013, for her investigative series on the environmental violations of an upcoming SEZ in Bengaluru, published in Citizen Matters. She also won the PII-UNICEF fellowship in 2016 to report on child rights in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Navya has an MA in Political Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a PG Diploma from the Asian College of Journalism.