Mohan Dasari, a techie-turned-politician is contesting the upcoming Karnataka State Assembly elections (May 12th, 2018) from CV Raman Nagar in central Bengaluru as an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate and is confident of winning.
In the C. V. Raman Nagar constituency of Bengaluru, one of 28 in the state capital, Mohan Dasari is pitted against S Raghu, a two-time BJP MLA in this constituency reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates. Despite being unable to match Raghu in money and muscle power, Dasari is confident of entering the Karnataka Assembly by defeating the BJP candidate. As far as his campaign is concerned, Dasari is conducting a campaign at a very personal level, meeting people at parks, undertaking a door-to-door campaign and using social media. He took time out from campaigning, to speak to Y Maheswara Reddy, about his life, his causes and his confidence.
What can you tell us about your background?
I am from Hagaribommanahalli in the Ballari district. I belong to a middle-class family – the son of a telephone mechanic in the government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). His meager salary was not sufficient to manage our family needs and my school fees. My mother started a firewood depot to supplement the family income and provide for my education. I have witnessed poverty and inequality from close quarters.
Most of my friends left school midway. They were unable to complete their education because of poverty. Almost all of my tribesmen are poor and socially ostracized. I was lucky that my parents, especially my mother, worked really hard to send me to engineering college. I got my bachelor’s degree in engineering (BE) from the National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK) and followed it up with an MS from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, Rajasthan.
With your educational background and skills, you could have led a comfortable life in the corporate world. Instead you chose the rough and tumble world of politics – why?
After doing engineering from NITK, I joined a multi-national company in Mumbai. I was earning well and leading a comfortable life but I wanted to give something back to the society, especially my native state- Karnataka. I decided to move to Bengaluru.
Once here, I joined an IT company. Seven years ago, a couple of friends and I started Aarushi Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO). The NGO works for the education of needy children – financing the education of underprivileged children in private schools. The goal is to give them quality education and restrict their dropout rate. Till date, we have helped send at least 200 children to private schools. Our yearly budget was Rs. 1 lakh. As a couple, my wife and I donate Rs 20,000 and collect Rs 80,000 from friends and well-wishers. My wife Vanishree, a software engineer, is very supportive of the venture.
My association with Aarushi Foundation taught me about social problems and how to solve them. I also realised that without political power, one can't bring real change in the society. That is why I joined politics. I made my debut in politics by contesting the Assembly elections in 2013 from Hagaribommanahalli in the Ballari district as an independent. I got 1963 votes.
In December 2013, when AAP won 28 seats, I didn’t think twice before joining the AAP to practice honest and pro-people politics. In 2014, I had to contest in the Lok Sabha polls from Chitradurga constituency, since there were no candidates at the time imbibing the AAP philosophy of honest politics. I had very little time to campaign. But, my experience tells me that people want change. I campaigned for only 15 days and got 15,000 votes. It was a big morale booster for the party as well as for me.
Despite being a Dalit facing discrimination, you are now a part of mainstream society and appreciated as such. To what do you attribute this transformation?
It was only recently that I actually learned about my community background from Mr. Dwarakanath, Chairman of the State Backward Class Commission. When you have good quality education and employment, everything changes. I am a prime example of this. With the kind of education I have, everyone treats me equally and I am part of, and more importantly, feel that I am a part of the mainstream society. All the doors are open. What this implies is that if everyone from the oppressed community gets a good education and secures decent employment, equality in society will automatically emerge.
Now as a part of the mainstream, how do you visualize the social situation vis-à-vis Dalits in the state and can you tell us what you have been doing about it recently?
The suicide of Rohit Chakravarti Vemula disturbed me a lot. It prompted me to take up issues facing Dalits in Karnataka. I toured almost all the districts in the state and organised protests wherever Dalits are facing discrimination and untouchability. It is very sad to see Dalits are being discriminated in Chikballapur, very close to Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka.
What is your strategy to win the CV Raman Nagar assembly seat?
There is a lot of anti-incumbency against the sitting BJP MLA S Raghu who is like Manmohan Singh of the UPA government. The MLA boasts a number of parks in his constituency but, most of them are in New Thippasandra only. There are no basic amenities such as drinking water, public toilets and roads in other areas in the constituency. I must ask the question - if he is so popular, why did his supporter lose the election to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Council from New Thippasandra ward?
I have visited around 50,000 households out of a total 90,000 dwellings as a part of our door-to-door campaign. My friends and well-wishers started campaigning door-to-door in November itself. We are also organising street plays to create awareness among the voters. I have also done a lot of social and civic work in the constituency. People know me because of my work. I am hopeful that this time CV Raman Nagar voters will vote for honest and clean politics and more importantly, for development.
We have also organised protests against the encroachment of the Kaggadasapura lake. In addition to that, we have highlighted how the tax-payers’ money is being misused under the guise of lake development. The MLA’s supporters tried their best to have an understanding with us but we refused to be part of the corruption. The MLA used filthy language against us. We staged a protest in front of his residence. The people in the constituency are watching all these developments. I am confident that they will take the right decision when they exercise their franchise on the 12th of May to elect a candidate to represents them in the State Assembly.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha Assembly elections, the AAP candidate V Balakrishnan, the former Chief Financial Officer of Infosys, polled 9,000 votes from C V Raman Nagar. A large number of voters are techies and being a techie myself, I see an advantage when I seek their support and votes.