When Siddaramaiah opposed the rise of Kumaraswamy and was kicked out of JD(S)
Back then, Siddaramaiah was against the rise of H D Kumaraswamy, the son of the party chief H D Deve Gowda. Now, he has offered the coveted post to the man he once opposed.
Life has come a full circle for Siddaramaiah, particularly since his ouster from JD(S) in 2005.
Back then, he was against the rise of H D Kumaraswamy, the son of the party chief H D Deve Gowda.
Having formed his own party, the All India Progressive Janata Dal, which later merged with the Congress, he rose through the ranks to become the leader of the opposition party and then the chief minister of Karnataka.
Now, 13 years after getting kicked out of JD(S), the 69-year-old leader from Kuruba community, has offered the coveted post to the man he once opposed, Kumaraswamy, whose party finished a poor third with barely 37 seats in its kitty.
The move was forced although Congress had 78 seats but which was well under the magic mark of 112. Together with JD(S)’s 37, the coalition’s tally stood at 115, and Siddaramaiah had to concede to the smaller partner’s demand to make Kumaraswamy the CM of Karnataka.
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Born into a poor farming family in Siddaramanahundi village in 1948, Siddaramaiah, the second of five siblings, did not have formal education initially, and joined school in Class 5.
Overcoming adversities, he did his BSc and obtained a degree in law. He practised law and even taught it for a while in Mysuru.
Siddaramaiah, who goes by the single name, joined politics under the influence of Nanjunda Swamy, a farmer leader who campaigned against agricultural patenting by multinational corporations.
He made his debut in the assembly in 1983 from Chamundeshwari constituency on a Lok Dal ticket. He later joined the Janata Dal.
Admired for his canny political sense and his rustic, down-to-earth personality, Siddaramaiah climbed up the ladder in the Janata Dal, and served as minister in the party’s governments. He also served as deputy chief minister twice.
A seven-term legislator, Siddaramaiah followed his mentor H D Deve Gowda after the Janata Dal split and the former prime minister formed the JD(S).
But the differences over the growing influence of Kumaraswamy — and his active participation in the AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) movement — meant he had to be expelled. Castes and communities constituting the AHINDA were considered the bedrock of the Congress’s support base in Karnataka.
Siddaramaiah later floated his own party, All India Progressive Janata Dal, which later merged with the Congress.
In the 2006 Assembly elections, he contested from Chamundeshwari on Congress ticket and won by a wafer thin margin of 257 votes against the JD(S) candidate. However, he had exacted a sweet revenge.
He was appointed chairman of the publicity committee of the Congress in the 2008 assembly polls, which the BJP won. He was then appointed the leader of the opposition, a reflection of his growing clout in the Congress.
The BJP’s stint in power was marred by intra-party feuds and allegations of corruption.
When the BJP lost the 2013 polls, Siddaramaiah was appointed the chief minister. Despite being considered an “outsider” by a section of the Karnataka Congress for his socialist roots, he became the first chief minister since Devraj Urs (1972-77) to complete a full five-year term in office.
Known for taking bold decisions, Siddaramaiah decided to celebrate ‘Tipu Jayanti’, a move denounced by the BJP as “appeasement politics”.
His government also took the controversial decision of recommending religious minority status for the influential Lingayat community in the run up to the polls.
The Congress leader launched a plethora of populist schemes like the Annabhagya for free distribution of rice, Ksheeradhare subsidy for milk, Vidyasiri hostel facilities for students, and many others.
The Siddaramaiah government also substantially raised the budgetary allocations for Dalits.
These populist measures were expected to effectively insulate Siddaramaiah against allegations of corruption as Modi mounted an aggressive assault, calling him a “Seedha rupaiah government” and “10 per cent commission government”.
The charges did puncture his sway, as he suffered a humiliating defeat in Chamundeshwari to G T Deve Gowda of the JD(S) by over 36,000 votes, but managed to win Badami by a slender margin of 1,696 votes against BJP’s B Sriramulu, a sitting BJP MP and close aide of the controversial Reddy brothers.
(With PTI inputs)