Capt GR Gopinath, who founded India's first low cost airline Air Deccan and revolutionised the air transport by making it affordable to millions of Indians, is daring to do another big task. To become a change agent in the society; to get rid of divisive forces, communalism, terrorism and corruption. The task is not exactly like launching an airline, but Gopinath feels this is time to awake citizens and make them stand up for their own rights. The fight for this starts from you, the citizen. Gopinath speaks to VCCircle's Ruchika Sharma on why he is entering electoral politics. Excerpts:
What triggered your decision to enter politics?
Two things. One is the terrorist attack in Bombay. I was in Bombay that night. I was in a different hotel. The whole night I didn’t sleep – I was disturbed like most of us. I kept thinking - are we a weak state? Are we a failed state? Then it occurred to me that may be we are failed as citizens.
We are weak citizens. We are in this state because of our own weakness. We don’t need to just blame political parties. We are to blame ourselves.
Then I came to Bangalore and learnt about the attack on churches. It completely created a state of tension and christians then called for retaliation which has now stopped. And then there were these moral goons - the moral brigade which attacked women, taking the law into their own hands. Taking up on themselves the right to decide our moral code of conduct while the police watched them helplessly and then of course I was feeling very unhappy.
And I realised that I am doing nothing. Am I like everybody else, looking the other way and not doing anything myself? Therefore I thought I must do something. Some of my friends said that you must contest the elections.
The second reason is corruption. Today, political parties are spending crores of rupees to win election. Even good people in political parties fight with money when it comes to elections, they are shameless in looking the other way and in spending crores of rupees. Basically it’s all ill-gotten money, it's all illegally amassed wealth that they are distributing to buy votes. I want to put a stop to it and the only way to do it is to stand up and speak out. I am giving a call to all the youth and all professionals to come and join this movement.
Why did you chose to contest as an independent candidate rather than joining a political party?
Like all of us I was frustrated as to which party to join because all of them are political parties dividing the society on communal lines and on the basis of caste.
I realised that we can’t afford indifference anymore- we are going to go up in the communal flames. I felt the only way out is to get engaged and to enter political activities. And even if you don’t become a politician, you can spare some time for these kind of civic issues to bring upon a change.
That’s the reason why I am contesting as an independent candidate - to give a call to the youth, to make a point that you can’t sit in your house, in your clubs, in your coffee shop, in your cosy comfort because that cosy comfort is very fragile. If the community goes up in communal flames, you will not survive. Your club is irrelevant; your business may not survive. Who will invest in a city where there are communal problems everyday.
As a Lok Sabha contestant, what would your agenda be?
First and foremost I want to put all the religious leaders and prominent citizens on a platform and ask what is good for all of us and not what is good for only a single religious community. I want to work actively in creating a citizens’ platform and ensure that we first create an ecosystem of harmony.
I think with my experience in business, I am sure if we can reduce corruption, which starts with elections because votes are also bought, we can bring in good governance. Good governance is important for creating infrastructure, rules and regulations, for creating an ecology to create jobs. What is important in India is to create jobs.
What can the masses expect from you if you win?
They can expect from me to represent their voice. There is a common frustration- I am giving a voice to that frustration. I am giving voice to that anger. I am giving support- shoulder for shoulder. Secondly, there is a common dream to build a new India. We all share a common vision for India. I want to give wings to those dreams.
You launched the first ever low cost airline in India for the masses. There were people who could not even imagine using air transport and you made it possible for them. Do you think these acts of yours in the past will help you gather more votes?
People always support you for your past records. But of course, votes are also garnered when someone is a son of somebody or when a lot of money power is used to win elections. So I am basically winning on the platform of bringing in change. I think the electorate always judges who the person behind the movement is. You know my record, I have built an airline for the masses and I don’t need to be in politics for fame or money, Fortunately, I have created enough of wealth for myself. I don’t need to make money from politics.
What kind of voter profile are you targeting?
I am not targeting any kind of voter profile but I am appealing to all sections of the society. Not just every community but also all economic strata. Even the unemployed youth have the same frustration and the same dreams. I am appealing to every one and not just one particular section to come and make the change. It is in your hands.