BJP national president and the second most influential person in the party Amit Shah visited the State last week and raised a storm of sort. He left messages not only to BJP but also to the opposition parties - Congress and JD(S).  Amidst all the hustle bustle of his hectic three-day schedule, Shah spoke to Ravi Hegde, Editor-in-chief of Kannada Prabha on the sidelines of dinner meet. Here's what Shah shared his strategies and calculations ahead of elections in Karnataka. 

For BJP, Amit Shah is a winning machine. Everyone agrees that you are an expert strategist. People who know you say you start the process two years prior to elections. Does this hold true for Karnataka elections too?

In some states, there was no presence of BJP at the grass root level. In some other states, BJP at the grass root level had been deteriorated. In such states, it is true that the process was started years ahead, for instance Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala. In Karnataka, the status is not similar. BJP here at the grass root are strong. As an institution, BJP is strong in Karnataka. Hence there was no need to focus on election preparations early. Yet, we are a political party and are always ready for polls.

It is true that BJP is strong in Karnataka. However, do you think, in the last 6 to 7 months, the party seems to have lost its grip due to internal problems?

Now, there is no problem. We are there to check that internal problems do not affect the elections. Keep watching, how we will plan the poll strategy. We are going to win with highest difference. BJP will definitely win 132 seats. We now have to calculate how many more we will get.

Everybody had the same opinion till last December. But now due to Siddaramaiah’s Ahinda and other caste equations strategies, Congress seems to have gained strength?

We do not go to polls with caste equations. In several states, including Uttar Pradesh, we did not have the backing of caste. Caste equation is only a small aspect of poll. Just you wait and see, with what margin BJP is going to win. Congress' bad governance, Siddaramaiah government’s corruption and several such issues will be the focus of this election. Broadly, corruption, bad governance, lack of development and farmers’ problems will be the main issues that the BJP will take up this election. 

Do you feel Siddaramaiah has dealt with the Lingayat - Veerashaiva divide and the Kannada identity cards well?

Such emotional issues play a limited part in the elections. Kannadigas and Lingayats are not fools to not understand this election gimmick by Siddaramaiah. Congress’ love for caste and Kannada will be there only till the day of counting of votes.

In India polls run on one or the other emotional issues. Do you think the Kannada identity and Lingayata - Veerashaiva issues don’t have any impact on poll?

If we have to reply on emotional issues for election we have several other arms in our cache. But we wish to fight the election on reformatory issues like administration, corruption, development and farmers’ problems.

BJP seems to be in confusion over issues like Linagayat, Kannada flag and Hindi imposition. There is no response from your party to Siddaramaiah’s strategy.

There is no need to respond to such issues. We have not responded to such issues in other states as well.  We respond to issues that require response. Elections must not be fought based on responses.

For a party like BJP, the national framework is significant. It is alleged that, in the slogan of one nation one culture, BJP is imposing Hindi on southern states.

BJP respects unity in diversity. We will not impose one culture, one religion and one language on the entire country. Our leaders have proved earlier that in Karnataka, Kannada is of primary importance. Our party is strengthened only by strengthening the local culture.

Recently, whichever state you step in, you create confusion and division in the respective ruling government that is beneficial to BJP.  It is not just coincidental?

All parties have internal problems. We are not responsible for that and we have no connection with such problems. But, if BJP can benefit from such problems, we definitely make use of the opportunity. We are here to do politics. We are a political party not a Bhajan mandal.

There is a rumour that you are going to give tickets to new faces, just like in Uttar Pradesh. You prefer new faces to current legislators?

Definitely, we will give tickets to new faces to say but where do we have so many new faces? We do not differentiate between old and new. Winnability is the only criteria.

When you give tickets to new faces and not the seniors, old and influential will get disgruntled. Such chaos on the threshold of election will not affect the party?

As I said earlier we do not differentiate between old and new, winnability is the only criteria. In case there is problem in the party we are there to resolve it. We are appointed for such responsible posts to resolve such problems, aren't we?

This time in Karnataka, election is going to be very a close fight. In this tri-party competition, no one may get clear majority. Do you expect JD(S) to be the king-maker in such an event?

Tell me…. After Bihar elections, in which big state, we have formed coalition government? Now, people want clear majority. In Karnataka too, we will form the government with clear majority. We are confident of that.