Will you go with Congress or BJP in the event of a hung assembly?

That situation will not arise. I think we will get about 100 seats and some independent MLAs will be there. If not, we will sit in the opposition, or go for fresh elections. I have made a lot of promises to the people, I will not be able to fulfil them if I join hands with Congress or BJP. If I go for fresh elections, I will benefit the most as the people will empathise with me.

Which of them is your bigger rival?

In about 100 seats, I am fighting Congress directly. It is a triangular fight in North Karnataka in about 60 constituencies, the rest is Congress-BJP, JDS-BJP or Congress-JDS. I have learnt from earlier elections. I have concentrated only on about 150 to 160 seats rather than on all 224. That will pay dividends this time.

You did form a government with BJP earlier…

We had a bitter experience forming governments with both Congress and BJP(in 2004 and 2006). At that time, BJP got power for the first time because of me. So, compared to Congress, they worked with us comfortably, with gratitude. Now, the situation is different. We can’t depend on BJP… Within two months of sharing power with BJP, they charged against me through this MLC that I collected Rs 150 crore from the mining business. Then one minister complaint in the police station that I have given supari to kill him. They have grown in Karnataka and become financially strong because of my support. Now they behave just like Congress.

How does this election play out in the background of national politics?

It is crucial, even for 2019. For all parties, national parties also. If we get clear majority on our own with BSP, I think, in a major way, political turmoil will happen. Several times earlier central politics have changed from Karnataka. Even (former PM) V P Singh ultimately succeeded because of Karnataka.

How important is your tie-up with BSP for these elections?

The tie-up is going to bring us 2-3% extra votes. Chief minister Siddaramaiah tried to destabilise original Congress leaders from the Dalit community. They are nowhere in the picture now, whether it is Mallikarjun Kharge, G Parameshwara or Srinivas Prasad, all of whom are Dalit icons. It will certainly help our party get a big chunk of Dalit votes. BSP has a base of 1,000-2,000 votes in several constituencies. I lost 38 constituencies (in 2013) with a margin of 300-3,000 votes.

Will your bitterness against Siddaramaiah keep you from continuing programmes like Anna Bhagya?

He gives a relaxation of Rs 85 for four people in the free rice scheme (Anna Bhagya), but he is extracting Rs 1,500 from the same people who are depending on it. A quarter bottle of liquor costs Rs 15 to manufacture, but his excise department puts taxes and the price is Rs 75-80 per bottle.

A minimum of Rs 50 profit per bottle. The people who use this rice pay the price for these bottles. I will change it. When I was CM, I banned arrack. I have, however, studied his programmes and pro-people ones of Telangana, Israel, Thailand. I will give better programmes. I am speaking to the people in questions and answers in all my programmes and working things out.