Will Siddharamaiah’s long wait be over?
Siddharamaiah has been Karnataka’s chief minister-in-waiting for more than a decade now. A report by GC Shekhar.Updated: May 05, 2008, 01:27 IST
Siddharamaiah has been Karnataka’s chief minister-in-waiting for more than a decade now.
He first lost out when JH Patel pipped him to the post after HD Gowda became the UF prime minister in 1996. In 2004, after projecting him as CM, Deve Gowda gave away the post to Dharam Singh of the Congress, just to keep Siddharamaiah in check.
After being deputy CM under Dharam Singh, Gowda expelled Siddharamaiah from the JD-S, and into the waiting arms of the Congress, which was looking for a powerful OBC leader after Bangarappa had left its fold. “Gowda thought I was the biggest obstacle to his son becoming chief minister. That is why even when the Congress was ready to back me, he gave away the post to the Congress,” recalled the lawyer-turned-politician as his sports utility vehicle snaked through the lush fields of his new constituency — Varuna.
According to Siddharamaiah, this shift is Gowda’s doing. He says the JD-S chief ensured two revenue taluks populated by his Kuruba community were moved to the newly created Varuna constituency during the delimitation exercise. So, Siddha left Chamundeswari and stepped into Varuna.
“He will definitely win for he gave this area the Varuna irrigation canal in spite of opposition from the farmers of Mandya district. Also, he knows virtually every village in this belt,” said Muthanna, a farmer from Ranganthapura village.
The familiarity is plain to see as Siddharamaiah easily recognizes a waiting Congress worker or a village elder and amiably chats him up. When villagers complain about irregular supply of rations due to confusion over the location of a fair price shop, he responds politely: “If you can wait for another 30 days, I’ll sort it out when we are in power.” How is he so sure people will vote for the Congress? “They want a stable government and for that they’ll give the Congress a simple majority.” In that case, will he be in the race for the CM’s post? “The Congress high command normally selects the CM. But I am a strong contender,” the 60-year-old says politely.
Taking him on at Varuna is the BJP’s Revan Siddaiah, a retired DGP who lost to Siddharamaiah in 2004 as a Congress candidate.