Senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah on Thursday said party’s national leader Rahul Gandhi has agreed to attend the big bash, organised by loyalists and well-wishers, on his 75th birthday in August.
The event is seen as an attempt to project Siddaramaiah as the Congress’ Chief Ministerial candidate in Karnataka for the 2023 assembly polls.
The Congress Legislature Party leader, who was CM between 2013-18 and has declared that 2023 will be his last election, is nursing ambitions for a second term in office, if the party wins the next assembly polls.
”Is it not a fact that I’m completing 75 years? I’m not organising it, my friends and well-wishers are doing it….” Siddaramaiah said in response to a question on the BJP criticising the grand birthday plans, calling it an attempt to revive his ‘AHINDA’ (minority communities, backward classes, Dalits) politics.
Noting that he has always been in favour of social justice, AHINDA communities and the poor from all communities, he said, ”I have always stood for justice to all sections and will continue to do so. It is my commitment and not for politics.” Rahul Gandhi has said that he will be attending the event, as it is a ”special occasion”, he told reporters in Delhi in response to a question.
Siddaramaiah’s supporters and well wishers including several senior Congress leaders and former Ministers from his camp, have planned a massive convention at Davangere on August three, which is also being seen as a show of strength by the former CM’s camp.
Also, ‘Siddaramotsava’ will be organised in every district and Assembly constituency, till September 3, aimed at projecting Siddaramaiah and his contributions, which is being seen as an attempt to send a message to high command and detractors within the party, ahead of polls, while consolidating his ‘AHINDA’ vote base.
This is seen as another bout in the game of one-upmanship between Siddaramaiah and state Congress President D K Shivakumar, who have been nursing Chief Ministerial ambitions and also want to consolidate their clout within the party.
Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah were in Delhi discussing the party’s preparedness and campaign strategy for the polls with Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi, along with general secretaries K C Venugopal and Randeep Singh Surjewala.
Responding to a question on reports that it is certain that the Congress’ internal survey projecting 120 plus seats for the party in 2023 assembly polls, the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly said that the grand old party will comfortably win the election and no one can deny this.
”Our aim is to win 150 seats, in my opinion we will win more than 130 seats…I haven’t seen the survey report yet,” he said, adding that in a constituency the party has 10-12 winning candidates which at times is creating issues.
He also claimed that several BJP and JD(S) leaders are in touch with him and the party intending to join Congress, but can’t reveal their names for now.
Noting that the five years GST compensation to states by Centre comes to an end today, the former CM said, it should be continued for another five years, which is also the demand from opposition-ruled states, while BJP ruled states including Karnataka have remained ”silent”.
Karnataka alone used to get Rs 20,000 crore annually as GST compensation and it will be stopped now, he said. ”I demand that GST compensation to the states should be continued for another five years, because before GST state growth was 14 per cent, now it is 6 per cent and that loss should be compensated by the Centre.” Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai who represented Karnataka in the GST meet held for the last two days in Chandigarh did not make any such demand on GST compensation, he alleged.
Criticising the decision to hike GST rates on several products at the time when there is inflation, Siddaramaiah who had held the state’s finance portfolio in the past said, this ”indiscriminate” hike in indirect taxes is affecting the common man, while corporate tax has been reduced from 30 to 22 per cent.
Calling it a ‘crime,’ he demanded that the hike in GST rates be withdrawn.
Condemning the barbaric act of beheading the ”innocent man” named Kanhiya Lal in Rajasthan, Siddaramaiah said nothing can justify such brutality and the perpetrators should be punished by hanging them.