October 5, 2011
71-year-old Moodbidri Veerappa Moily, a loyal Congressman throughout his 39-year political career that saw him occupy top positions in the state of Karnataka as well as in the union government, and who is currently the corporate affairs minister in Dr Manmohan Singh government, was on a official visit to the UAE to participate in various community programmes in Dubai and Ajman.
In an exclusive interview with Daijiworld editor-in-chief Walter Nandalike, Dr Moily answers questions on state Congress, the UPA government and other issues.
"When I entered politics way back in 1972, I did not have any dream, nor did I think I would occupy some of the top positions. Having been attracted towards Indira Gandhi's leadership, my intention was to work towards the land reform bill and to break away from politics once the bill was implemented. Though the mission was acccomplished in 1978 and I wanted to go back to my profession to work as an advocate in the high court and Supreme Court, serving people is something special, and no one can take a break from that!" he candidly said when asked whether in his entire political career he ever felt like retiring from politics.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: The Congress party that once dominated Dakshina Kannada is now on the verge of extinction, with top three senior leaders like yourself, Oscar and Poojary having their own camps, which has resulted in the decline of Congress in DK. Don't you think these differences, if not sorted out, will lead to further collapse of the party?
A: Every political party has differences at the individual level, but they are personal. When you work for the party you work in unity. I don't think Congress party's popularity is declining in DK; if you can recall the 1983 assembly elections, we won only three assembly seats, but later we bounced back in the district as well as in the state. I am quite confident that Congress will bounce back in the next assembly elections which is due in 2013. Efforts are already on at the district-level to work out a strategy keeping the elections in mind.
Congress has done lots of developmental work in the district. No other government either in the state or at the centre has contributed to the progress of our twin districts as much as Congress has. Whether it was bringing MRPL to Mangalore, for which I was personally responsible, expansion of the Airport, expansion of the New Mangalore Port, four-laning of highways...you name it, and we have done it. But still people question what Congress has done in the last 60 years!
Q: Even at the state-level, your party's position has not been so encouraging. Who is the actual Karnataka Congress boss? Is it Parameshwar, Siddaramaiah, Deshpande, DK Shivkumar...?
A: (smiles)...I am aware of this, but we are working out a strategy which I have not disclosed to any media so far. Daijiworld will be the first to know that I am convening a meeting of top 20 Congress leaders next month. I have requested Oscar Fernandes to prepare a list of those leaders. In the meeting we will sort out all our differences and misunderstandings.
Q: Will you invite Janardhana Poojary also to the meeting? He is known to be your rival within the party...
A: Yes, why not? We will invite him. It's up to him to attend. We will be inviting all the important Congress leaders.
Q: Today in Karnataka, to fight elections you need to have money and caste also plays an important role. If you look at these two things, BJP is growing stronger day by day. Why can't you think of joining hands with the JD(S) and fighting the elections jointly to bring BJP down?
A: Congress has the capacity to win the elections without JD(S) assistance. The whole world knows what the Gowda family did when we jointly formed the government in 2004. Kumaraswamy cheated us and also cheated BJP. It's because of JD(S) that BJP became a martyr, and people sympathised with Yeddyurappa and elected him. JD(S) has betrayed Congress not once, but at least six times in the state on various issues. So there's no question of joining hands with them for the elections again. We will build our party.
As you said, caste is also an important factor in elections, but Congress has never played caste politics. Even today, Congress enjoys the support of all castes. A simple example - when I became chief minister in 1992, my caste/community (Devadiga) was of no consequence in the state. But all the MLAs from Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities supported my candidature ahead of S M Krishna and Rajashekhar Murthy. BJP may be playing caste politics, but we want to play clean politics.
Q: Why did you choose Chikkaballapura constituency, away from your hometown, to fight the Lok Sabha elections? Is it because you had no hopes of winning in Mangalore or you had no hopes of getting ticket from Mangalore ?
A: Yes, this is tricky question. But you already know the internal politics, so I need not explain to you. I had a desire to contest the 2009 Lok Sabha elections from Mangalore. I would have even won, if only I had been given the ticket. I had never won Lok Sabha elections before, so people were insulting me, teasing me. I thought, before I die I should win at least one MP election. Sonia Gandhi was not in favour of me contesting the polls, and offered me Rajya Sabha seat. She let me choose any constistuncy in Karnataka except Mangalore, because people in Mangalore had created a sense that only Poojary could win from there, not Moily.
I chose Chikkaballapura, and though in the assembly elections BJP gained the upper hand in 5 out of 8 assembly constituencies, I proved my ability, and won the elections by a huge margin. Eventually, I got the highest number of votes among all Congress candidates in the state during the 2009 elections.
Q: You had been given the powerful portfolio of union law minister, but after two years you have been removed from the law ministry and given the charge of corporate affairs. Don't you think this is a demotion?
A: No, never. There is nothing like promotion or demotion in the ministry. When I was allotted the law ministry it was for a special cause, I had to draft several bills. With due respect to my experience and profession, I was given charge of the law ministry.
Once I finished my assignment, I was offered the corporate affairs where my expertise was needed. Now I have a huge task in front of me of bringing in corporate reforms. The Competition Policy bill will be implemented in parliament this December. That will give a break to inflation as well help in enhancing GDP.
In law ministry I was restricted to using my knowledge of law, and it was a day-to-day tension-filled job. But here, I can use my knowledge of economy, administration and my experience as an advocate. Here planning is a very important part of the job, rather than the day-to-day activities.
It was a section of the media that created a buzz that I was given a low-profile portfolio, but that is not true.
Q: Do you think the UPA government will survive the waves of corruption cases like 2G, Commonwealth Games, etc?
A: Only the BJP and other opposition parties say that we will not survive. But there is no danger to the UPA government. Over the last few months there have been many allegations of corruption against the government. But people must remember that UPA is the first government in the history of Indian politics to take sincere interest in rooting out corruption.
The RTI Act was implemented by our government, and now this facility is being misused by some activists to create unnecessary scenes in the name of corruption. People ask for sensitive documents, and misuse them in the pretext of 'exposing' the government and give wrong information to the people. If the UPA was not serious in tackling corruption, why would it have initiated RTI Act?
Also, there was furore regarding the Lokpal bill. If you remember, Sonia Gandhi was the first person to encourage the introduction of the Lokpal bill in the parliament in December 2010. But before we could reach any consensus, Anna Hazare started his movement.
Q: If that was the case, then why was there a big drama by the central government inaccepting Anna Hazare's conditions? Why did you allow him to go on fast for 13 days?
A: There is a procedure for everything. If by sitting on fast all the problems can be solved, then what is the need for parliament or Constitution?
Q: But tell me frankly sir, don't you think Dr Manmohan Singh's image has received a blow over the corruption allegations against the UPA, the Lokpal issue and so on?
A: Not at all. It's the BJP that is frustrated. First they tried a lot to target Dr Manmohan Singh, but did not succeed, because Dr Singh has always been 'Mr Clean' and no one one can put him in trouble over corruption issues. Frustrated by this, BJP is coming up with a new list of scams every day. They cannot win elections, but want power through other means.
After the 2009 elections, there were assembly elections in five states, and BJP could not win a single state...
Q: But BJP had not been in power in those states...
A: Yes, but then they should have won at least some seats. It is because of efficient governance and popularity that people elect us again and again. Elections are the direct answers to the developmental work and progress we have achieved.
Q: Then you will agree that BJP is an efficient government in Karnataka and doing a great job because it is winning every byelection...?
A: No, that can't be right. In a state where there is already a party in power, it is easy for them to win byelections. It's the case in the history of any state.
Q: Mangalore or the coastal region is very close to your heart. Though my question is not connected to your portfolio, you can help us a lot. Other than Air India the government is not letting other private airlines to operate in Mangalore, though they are interested. Air India's fares, despite being a budget airlines is not consistent, and very high during festive and holiday seasons, even higher than commercial flights.
Secondly, people of Saudi Arabia have been deprived of direct flights, though they have been trying hard for the last four years. There are several issues related to Mangalore airport, which are significant to thousands of NRIs who travel regularly. Your comments?
A: Yes, I am aware of this situation. Many people told me about the inconsistency in Air India Express fares. Vayalar Ravi, the aviation minister was in Mangalore on Sunday, and I am sure he had discussions with the Mangalore airport director on providing international airport status and on issues regarding the runway. I have taken your concern seriously, if possible please follow up with me in the coming days. I will meet the aviation minister next week and address the issue.
As you said, Mangalore or Coastal cities are close to my heart, and I will do everything that I can. I have great dreams for coastal Karnataka. You have been patient, and I will try to resolve the issues of direct flights to Saudi Arabia and introduction of private airlines too, if there is no technical problems involved in this.