Udayavani Interview: ‘Guarantee schemes to continue, no opposition to them from ministers’ says Hebbalkar


Team Udayavani, Jun 19, 2024, 9:59 AM IST

Bengaluru: In a candid interview with Udayavani, Women and Child Welfare Minister and Udupi District In-charge Lakshmi Hebbalkar addressed several critical issues affecting the Karnataka Congress and its recent electoral performances.

Hebbalkar provided insights into the dynamics within the party, the reasons behind election losses, and the future of the state government’s guarantee schemes.

Belagavi Politics and Leadership Discord

When questioned about the setbacks faced by Congress in Belagavi despite having prominent leaders like herself, Public Works Minister Satish Jarkiholi, and former Deputy CM Laxman Savadi, Hebbalkar acknowledged the defeat but stressed the unity and support her son Mrunal received throughout the election process.

She attributed the loss to broader political dynamics and insisted that the reasons behind the setback are still being analyzed.

“From the beginning to the end of the election process, everyone supported Mrunal. There was no discord regarding Mrunal. No one objected to his candidacy. Everywhere we held meetings and events, people gathered and encouraged us. True, I am a minister, Satish Jarkiholi is also a minister, and Laxman Savadi is a senior leader. There are many seniors in the district, yet we faced defeat. We have accepted this respectfully and are still looking for the reasons behind the loss,” she said.

Reviewing Lok Sabha Defeat

Hebbalkar highlighted the distinct nature of Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, suggesting that different factors influence voter behavior in each. She mentioned the BJP’s effective use of local issues in Hubli and the impact of Hindutva politics, especially in border areas like Belagavi.

“According to my understanding, the BJP effectively used the Neha Hiremath case in Hubli. Being a border district, issues like Hindutva and Marathi might have influenced the results. People leaned towards Hindutva. I have never engaged in politics based on Hindu, Muslim, or other communities. I have always included everyone. Even BJP leaders didn’t expect to win. MES and BJP seemed to have merged,” she explained.

Despite the shock and disappointment within the party, Hebbalkar emphasized the importance of learning from mistakes and moving forward.

“We will review what went wrong and correct any mistakes. Overall, the results have hurt everyone’s feelings, and everyone is in shock. We won’t blame individuals for the mistakes,” she added.

Congress Leadership and Future Prospects

Addressing concerns about leadership at the national level, Hebbalkar defended Rahul Gandhi, describing him as a serious politician and a future leader. She expressed confidence in the state Congress’s ability to return to power in Karnataka, given its strong leadership and successful implementation of guarantee schemes.

“Congress may have lost the Lok Sabha elections, but if Karnataka Assembly elections were held now, Congress would come to power again. People’s choices differ in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. In Karnataka, we have guarantees and good leadership. That doesn’t mean there is no leadership at the center. The situation is different now compared to ten years ago. Everyone sees Rahul Gandhi as a serious politician and a future leader,” Hebbalkar claimed.

Guarantee Schemes and Their Impact

Hebbalkar robustly defended the state’s guarantee schemes, asserting their success and widespread reach. “There are 1.52 crore families in the state. Excluding taxpayers and APL cardholders, we aimed to provide the Gruhalakshmi scheme to 1.30 crore families. The scheme has reached 1.22 crore families, which is 90% of the target. It’s easy to design a big scheme but challenging to implement it successfully. All five guarantee schemes are being implemented successfully. This is our pride,” she noted.

“As the in-charge minister for Udupi district, I can say Jayaprakash Hegde is a good politician. Congress lost there too. 99% of people are benefiting from the guarantees. We need to increase people’s confidence in us,” she said.

Hebbalkar dismissed internal party concerns about the schemes’ efficacy in elections, emphasizing the need to continue these initiatives to build public trust. “Regardless of the election results, the CM and Deputy CM have said we must continue with the guarantees. There was no opposition from ministers. We must keep our promises to the people,” she added.

Fuel Price Hikes and Treasury Concerns

In response to BJP allegations that the guarantee schemes have drained the state treasury, Hebbalkar attributed the empty coffers to the previous government’s inconsistent policies.

“The treasury is not empty because of the guarantees. The previous government’s inconsistent policies led to an empty treasury. The rise in petrol and diesel prices is unrelated to the guarantees. This is a natural process, not a sudden development,” Hebbalkar claimed.

She clarified that the recent petrol and diesel price hikes are unrelated to the guarantee schemes, pointing out that fuel prices in Karnataka remain lower than in several BJP-ruled states.

“The BJP is responsible for the diesel price crossing ₹100 from ₹54 and petrol from ₹62. Despite lower crude oil prices, they kept increasing fuel prices weekly. Even now, in Maharashtra, where the BJP is in power, fuel prices are ₹9 higher than in Karnataka. In Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry, prices are at least ₹6 higher than in Karnataka. The BJP ruled without any restraint in the last four years,” she explained.

Debate on Deputy CM Positions

Regarding the necessity of having three Deputy Chief Ministers while D.K. Shivakumar serves as KPCC President and Deputy CM, Hebbalkar refrained from commenting, suggesting that such decisions rest with the party high command.

“It’s not appropriate for me to comment on the creation of the Deputy CM post. Ministers Satish Jarkiholi and K.N. Rajanna might have spoken about this. Ultimately, it is a high-command decision. The high command decides who should be CM, who should be Deputy CM, and how many Deputy CMs there should be,” she said.

Resolving Internal Discord

On the reported discord between Satish Jarkiholi and Laxman Savadi, Hebbalkar downplayed the issue, expressing hope that any disagreements would be resolved through dialogue. She urged party leaders to address conflicts constructively for the party’s overall benefit.

“Both (Savadi and Jarkiholi) are senior leaders of our party. Whether there is any discord between them is unknown. If there is any issue, they should sit together and resolve it. This is my opinion. I hope they consider this as my request. Resolving issues through dialogue is always better,” she said.

Translated from a Kannada interview by Samaaga Sheshadri

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