Abdul Rauf Puthige is a quite familiar name in Mangaluru. Son of a doctor-turned-cleric from Puthige locality in the temple town of Moodbidri, the 51-year-old ever-enthusiastic gentleman is a well-established realtor, social worker and philanthropist who gives priority to charity rather than publicity. His sudden entry to politics as the Karnataka state general secretary of Janata Dal (Secular) has raised many eyebrows. Despite being a novice in politics, Mr Puthige has frank and ‘politically correct’ answers for all the questions. Here are a few things that Mr Puthige said in his exclusive interview to coastaldigest.com.
CD: What motivated you to enter politics? Do you fully agree with the policies and principles of JD(S)?
A R Puthige: Today almost every citizen in India feels politics is a dirty pond. But you will never be able to clean the pond merely by calling it dirty. I think if you seriously want to see the pond cleansed, first of all you must enter into it. In my case I don't depend on politics for my bread and butter. I have always believed that for people who want to serve the society and the masses, politics can be a very effective platform. In fact, politics has never been totally alien to me. A good number of my close friends are active in politics either as leaders or as activists at the grass root level. I have good friends in all the prominent political parties. Some of them have been insisting me to join their respective parties. Coming to the second part of your question, yes, I agree fully with the declared policies and principles of my party.
CD: Do you think JD(S) will make gains in coastal belt of Karnataka by having you as its State General Secretary?
A R Puthige: Ours is a party with a national vision. Our concern is the welfare of the entire country. Already our party has many senior leaders in coastal belt and a huge number of committed cadre in this region. They are all sincerely striving to strengthen the party in this region. My focus will be on improving the prospects of the party throughout the Karnataka state, which was once ruled by our party.
CD: What’s your take on the possibilities of split of ‘secular votes’ in Karnataka?
A R Puthige: It is quite obvious that we do not want any division in the secular votes. It is very much possible to work out a strategy to avoid it. JD(S) leaders have always been concerned about it. But then, secularism is not the exclusive domain of any particular party. When there are many secular parties in the fray there will be apprehensions about division of secular votes. Congress too claims to be a secular party. If they are really serious in this claim, they should come forward to shoulder their share of responsibility in this regard. By the way, I look at the situation positively. In my view compared to competitive communalism, competitive secularism is always beneficial to the society. Therefore let there be many secular parties and let all such parties sit together and work out a strategy to ensure that division of secular votes does not benefit communal elements.
CD: Can a political platform expand your social service activities?
A R Puthige: If you are talking about Talent Research Foundation (TRF), an NGO launched in 2005 by myself along with a team of friends, it has nothing to do with politics. It will always remain politically neutral. Personally, while serving humanity and the human society is your passion, you will see opportunities to serve humanity in every platform. By joining politics, I have entered a new world. Here I see plenty of fresh opportunities to carry on with my passion.
CD: The activities of TRF are praiseworthy. Are you planning to expand its services? What’s the financial source of TRF ?
A R Puthige: It has always been my dream to see TRF serving humanity at the national level. We will do it gradually. My friends in TRF are already planning to extend its services to the neighboring districts. TRF is run by a well-knit team. All its finances come from donations contributed by myself, my business partners, my close associates and members of my family.
CD: Can you tell about a time when you almost gave up? How did you feel about that and what did you do instead of giving up?
A R Puthige: Ups and downs are essential parts of one’s life. There have been a number of such ups and downs in my life too. My faith in God helps me to overcome all the hurdles, remain positive and optimistic even under the most challenging circumstances. It’s my belief that God does not close a door on you before opening a dozen doors for you. You just have to positively look around and you will see those doors. I am from a very humble back ground. God has always been extremely kind to me. I am sure he will always be so in future too.
‘Secular parties should work out a strategy to prevent vote split’: An interview with AR Puthige