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‘Seniors being forced out of Congress’, says Karnataka’s Ramalinga Reddy

In an interview with Vikram Gopal, Reddy says it is natural for senior leaders like him to lose interest in the party if they are overlooked in favour of juniors

india Updated: Jun 04, 2019 22:53 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka Congress,Ramalinga Reddy,Congress-JDS coalition
Seen here is seven-time Congress MLA from Karnataka Ramalinga Reddy (middle).

Former Karnataka home minister and seven-time Congress MLA Ramalinga Reddy criticised the state Congress leadership in a series of tweets and said that seniors were feeling sidelined in the party. He said this was one of the reasons for the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition’s poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls, where it won only two of the 28 seats in the state.

In an interview with Vikram Gopal, Reddy says it is natural for senior leaders like him to lose interest in the party if they are overlooked in favour of juniors. Edited excerpts:

Q. Your tweets caused quite a stir. Did you react the way you did because of the election results?

It isn’t just about the election results, if it was only that then I would have spoken out earlier. Over the past year, when the Cabinet reshuffle happened many seniors, like me, were left out and we decided against speaking out. I have never approached anybody seeking a ministerial berth. However, the party said newcomers were being accommodated at our expense even though others like [revenue minister] RV Deshpande, [heavy industries minister] KJ George and [deputy chief minister] G Parameshwara were included in the Cabinet. So, there was a different yardstick for them and for us. Additionally, from the Reddy community there is only one person in the Cabinet, but there are four Brahmins in significant posts like the state president Dinesh Gundu Rao,

Deshpande is there in the Cabinet and the Assembly Speaker [KR Ramesh Kumar] is also from the same community. My struggle is against this discrimination. This doesn’t mean I will ask for Cabinet berth. I have been in this party for 45 years now. It’s a humiliation for seniors like us who have built the party when those who joined yesterday are given ministerial berths.

Q. Was dissidence the reason for the poor performance of the coalition in the Lok Sabha polls?

Coalitions in Tamil Nadu and Kerala have some sincerity, which was absent here. In some places the Congress and the JD(S) didn’t work together.

In any party it is natural to have differences, but the party leaders must overcome these and ensure the victory of the party candidate because only they will stand by us.

Q. Will your anger be placated if you are included in the Cabinet?

I am not asking for that although I am capable of becoming minister. I am capable of handling any position in the party. Are there any charges against me, or do I not have a good reputation in party? It is discrimination that is the problem. It is not the party of a few people alone.

What is happening in our party is that those who threaten to quit the party are being rewarded. The two Independent MLAs in the state worked for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls but now it looks like they might be included in the state Cabinet. How will workers be enthusiastic in their support for the party if this is the case.

Q. Will you call for a meeting of other seniors to discuss these issues as you suggested in your tweet?

I have made a suggestion and it is for Gundu Rao to follow through on this. Leaders are those who take others along with them including party workers. People will not have confidence in the party if only some people are picked over others.

Q. Do you foresee any problems for the Congress if these issues aren’t addressed?

If we are sidelined like this what interest will we have. If juniors are accommodated at our expense it is natural that senior leaders will lose interest. I don’t have any desire to become an MLA again, what thrill does it hold for me after I have won for seven times. Are we foot soldiers? I’d rather not be an MLA at all.

Q. Are you hinting at quitting the Congress?

No, this is my party. But we seniors feel like we are being forced out of the party.

Q. Have you tried approaching the party high command?

I never go to New Delhi. I am not the kind to complain about others. When they ask me for my opinion I give it to them, but I don’t volunteer it.

Q. Is there any threat to the coalition government from your side?

No, there is no threat from my side.

First Published: Jun 04, 2019 22:52 IST

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