Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with Siddaramaiah. (File photo)
With the Lok Sabha elections next year and Karnataka having a crucial 28 seats, the Congress would have risked a rout like 2019 here had it disregarded Siddaramaiah’s case, as the voter bloc loyal to him would have felt ‘orphaned’
“There are two reasons why the Congress is strong in Karnataka – one is its organisation and the other is that it has a mass leader in Siddaramaiah,” a senior BJP leader told News18 last month in the middle of the hectic Karnataka campaign. When we cited this anecdote to Siddaramaiah in a subsequent meeting, he just smiled and said, “For once, the BJP is right.”
Moving in the political circles in Bengaluru or the dusty villages of far-off districts of Karnataka, it was clear who the Congress’s tallest leader in the state was. Some would even chide the “Delhi journalists” for propping up other names and saying they don’t realise why Siddaramaiah gets the crowds on the ground. From leading the Bellary Padayatra from Bengaluru that put the BJP on the back foot before the 2013 assembly elections, to the Praja Dhvani Yatra now to take the Congress’s 5-point guarantee card to every door, Siddaramaiah has batted on the front foot for the chief minister’s chair.
There is a compelling arithmetic behind Siddaramaiah becoming the CM, which in the end was also not a matter of choice but a given eventuality. The former chief minister has a strong hold over the all-important AHINDA vote bank, which is a Kannada acronym for the minorities, backward classes, and Dalits that brought the big win for the Congress. Siddaramaiah has championed their cause since his early days as a politician as publicly on many occasions said that the AHINDA were marginalised without due opportunities and needed social justice measures both in political and administrative spheres.
With the Lok Sabha elections next year and Karnataka having a crucial 28 seats, the Congress would have risked a rout like 2019 here had it disregarded Siddaramaiah’s case, as the voter bloc loyal to him would have felt ‘orphaned’. The former CM had in plain words told the Congress president that if he were not chosen as the CM, he would simply retire. The Muslim voters also associate most closely with Siddaramaiah. BJP’s state vice president and union minister Shobha Karandlaje had in fact told News18 during the elections that Muslims consider Siddaramaiah as their leader “and were feeling emboldened thinking he is becoming CM again”.
Also, compared to his main rival in the party DK Shivakumar, Siddaramaiah does not face any major corruption cases and has a clean image. That has been buttressed by the work he did for the poor as CM in his earlier term which became his legacy – mainly the schemes of Anna Bhagya (providing food grains to the poor for free or at subsidised prices), Ksheera Bhagya (providing milk), and Vidyasiri (providing assistance for education).
Born in 1948 in Siddaramanahundi of Varuna Hobli in the Mysuru district, Siddaramaiah is a qualified lawyer who attributes his political initiation to the inspiration he took from socialist thinker Dr Ram Manohar Lohia. He may have lost his first Lok Sabha election in 1980 from Mysuru but he tasted his first electoral success from the Chamundeshwari seat in the 1983 assembly elections on a Lok Dal ticket. He first became a minister in the state after midterm elections and also served as a minister in the cabinet of SR Bommai. But Siddaramaiah lost the next two elections on a Janata Dal ticket – first of the assembly and then the 1991 Lok Sabha polls.
However, he was back in the assembly with a win in 1994 and became the finance minister in the cabinet of HD Deve Gowda. This was Siddaramaiah’s big moment as he went on to present 13 budgets in his career as finance minister. His political career also soared as he became the deputy CM in 1996 and became one for the second time in 2004. A crisis then befell him, as he has cited in the past how he was expelled from the JD(S) due to “altered political circumstances and lost the opportunity to become CM due to the manoeuvres of unseen hands”. He then joined the Congress on July 22, 2006.
The Congress chose him as the leader of the opposition in 2008, realising his mass appeal. In 2013, Siddaramaiah’s dream to become the chief minister was finally fulfilled as the Congress won the assembly elections.
Those close to him say Siddaramaiah will now be the chief minister of ‘Karnataka 2.0’ and his top priority remains fulfilling the five guarantees. No one else ever stood a chance to deny him the CM’s chair, the Siddaramaiah camp says.
Aman SharmaAman Sharma, Senior Editor (Politics), at CNN-News18, and Bureau Chief at News18 in Delhi, has nearly two decades of experience in covering the wide s…Read More