Bengaluru, Apr 03, 2019 : Why does a successful actor decide to get into the unpredictable world of electoral politics, that too, not by joining an existing party but by striking out alone as an independent? When asked this, Prakash Raj, multi lingual actor and independent candidate from Bengaluru Central, said, "I think, I believe, I can feel the disillusionment of the people that both the national parties, they have not delivered. And if people are coming to me now, though I started voicing alone; I believe they have realised I am saying what is there in their hearts. An election is actually a conversation between the candidate and the person who elects", NDTV reported.
The actor is taking on sitting lawmaker, PC Mohan of the BJP, who has represented the constituency for the last 10 years. And from the Congress, Rizwan Arshad is the candidate.
Prakash Raj told NDTV, "The last ten years we see a decade that they sit at home when they win the election... This has become a business. So as I walk down, I tell them this is not the time to blame anyone. We need to blame ourselves because all non-governance or corruption, the root is our electoral process. And as I talk about the issues which are really haunting the city and they realise - yes we are also responsible for electing the wrong people. I think Karnataka, India is ready for alternative politics."
He is critical of the contribution of the sitting MP. "They have seen (PC Mohan’s) report card for the last ten years. They have not seen him on the streets. They have seen him again in the last 20 days of election. I think they are waiting to answer it," he said.
But if the aim of many in the opposition was to unseat the BJP and the NDA, wouldn’t his presence divide the non-BJP votes?
"That is what Congress is claiming," he said. "Somebody who claims this should have won this seat before. When they have failed in the last decade, I don’t think they should complain about that. Ask them to win again."
When asked if he felt that independent candidates stood a realistic chance when two big national parties were contesting, Prakash Raj admitted his fame was an advantage.
"It depends who is the independent," he said.
"They know me for the last two decades. It is not that I have to... that nobody knows. There are people who don’t know PC Mohan. There are people in this constituency who don’t know Rizwan. I don’t think there is anyone who don’t know who is Prakash Raj. It is not just because I am an actor. They know me as a writer. They see a personality. They have seen me voicing for the last two and a half years. Thanks to the communal forces. And they know what I stand for. They know that I don’t mince words. They know I am very straight and I am also presenting them the vision and also discussing with them the reasons why we are here today."
And what about the frequent criticisms of film stars turning to politics - that they are ’just actors’ with no political grounding.
He said, "I don’t deny I am a film actor but I am not just a film actor. I have political thinking. I have stood up on issues. I have spoken on issues. I am ready to not to be popular too. And people I believe see me as a personality, not just another film actor. They know me as a writer. They know me as a director. They know me as an activist. They know what I do with my foundation. It is there everywhere. And they know how much of passion I have of what I do and what I am speaking. I am not speaking about film dialogues here. I am talking about real issues."
He lists out the challenges facing Bengaluru Central and the city as a whole.
"Look at the traffic condition. Look what they have done. We have 3 lakh private taxis and we just have 6,500 government buses; where 50 per cent of them depend on that. We need at least 15,000 of them. What about the suburban railway. And look at Bengaluru. Bengaluru is not just Vidhana Soudha, MG Road, Brigade Road, and the IT corridor. There are 2,000 slums. It is like taking a broom and just sweeping them aside. Why has nobody had a vision about it? Look at the health of the city. Look at the government hospitals. Look at the public health of the nature here. Look at the education system. Look at how government institutions, government schools which was built by the people, for the people. Look at its plight. Look at the lakes. Look how there is no clear vision of where to throw the waste. There is no recycling. We need to understand why we have failed and reached here. And we need to find a way out of it."
Prakash Raj says he is against the Elevated Corridor project - planned by the state government to ease the city’s notorious traffic.
"Look at the corridor they want to build. Rs. 33,000 crore, the next 10 years dust. Politically, romantically if you say ’I’m going to miss my sky. I am going to miss my trees.’ And then in 10 years what is the suffering. Will you spend 33,000 crores to make elevated corridor or spend it on making the public transport better and affordable."
The actor says he is critical of the campaigns of both the BJP and the Congress. "(The BJP) - empty promises. Look at the whole thing, ’we want Namo again.’ Common man does not elect the prime minister! 18 hours NaMo works, how many hours are you working? How much can PM take? What are you guys doing? What is Congress doing? Regional calculations? They call BJP a communal party? Congress has opened doors - who has given Congress the right to say they are Muslim, Dalit, Christian party? People want education, water, health."
On Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Kerala’s Wayanad, Prakash Raj said, "I don’t understand, Modi is also standing from two seats. Why are you not sure of the constituency you have worked in? Lose both of them and have a re-election? Whose father’s money? My tax money? What is this tamasha? Deliver guys! What is this language of winning?"
Prakash Raj was a close friend of journalist Gauri Lankesh, who led a Bengaluru-based edition of a weekly Kannada newspaper, who was shot dead outside her home in 2017 - allegedly by members of right wing groups.
Prakash Raj said, "Gauri made me feel responsible, shiver, guilty. If I was not silent, if I had voiced with her, she wouldn’t have been killed? We can’t get her back, but I don’t want another Gauri. We need to leave the comfort zone."