Amid attempts to project Siddaramaiah as the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate in Karnataka for the 2023 assembly polls, another aspirant for the post and state unit president D K Shivakumar on Sunday asserted about collective leadership, and said he has no respect for personality cult in the party.
Claiming his commitment and loyalty to the Congress to be unparalleled, by pointing out that he had not voiced any dissent when he was not inducted into the ministry in the past, Shivakumar highlighted that the party under him despite not being in power has gained the grounds that it had lost while in power.
Congress was last in power independently from 2013-18, during which Siddaramaiah was the chief minister, and it was subsequently a part of the coalition government with JD(S) from 2018-19, when H D Kumaraswamy was the CM.
”Rahul Gandhi (Congress national leader) has said and the party has decided that we will face the election (assembly) under the collective leadership. I’m saying it as the party president,” Shivakumar told reporters here in response to a question.
Replying to a question on differences between him and Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah, he said, ”Why should I fight? When I was not appointed by him as a minister itself, I had not raised my voice, I had not uttered a word. Show a committed worker like me in the state.” Pointing out that at former prime minister H D Deve Gowda’s insistence, for ensuring JD(S) chief’s defeat in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections by fielding a woman candidate, he was not inducted in the Dharam Singh-led coalition government (2004-06), the KPCC chief said he had then remained quiet in the interest of the party.
”Even in 2013 when Congress came to power, he (Siddaramaiah as CM) did not take me as a minister. I had worked for his victory, but I kept quiet. After three to four months, AICC chief Sonia Gandhi gave instructions, then I was taken in. Even then I did not speak. We all had fought elections under his leadership, I had then worked as campaign committee chief,” he said.
Despite Siddaramaiah losing in one (Chamundeshwari) of the two seats he had contested in 2018 elections, Shivakumar said, he and then KPCC chief Parameshwara had ensured that he gets elected as the legislature party leader, Shivakumar further said.
”For me personality is not important, party is important. Our existence is because of the party. I don’t respect personality cult, I respect party worship. I ask workers to follow the same,” he added.
This comments have come at a time when 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 3, which is also being seen as a show of strength by the former CM’s camp as he turns 75 years.
Also, ‘Siddaramotsava’ is said to 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 both the high command and detractors within the party, ahead of polls, while consolidating his ‘AHINDA’ vote base.
AHINDA is a Kannada acronym that stands for Alpasankhyataru (minorities), Hindulidavaru (Backward Classes) and Dalitaru (Dalits).
This is seen as another bout in the game of one-upmanship between Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar, who have been nursing chief ministerial ambitions and also want to consolidate their clout within the party.
Siddaramaiah has recently said Rahul Gandhi has agreed to attend the big bash, however Shivakumar said he was not aware of it.
Stating that he doesn’t know much about Siddarmaiah’s 75th birthday celebrations, Shivakumar said his supporters and well-wishers are organising it, and the former chief minister himself invited him for the event on August 3, and that he will be there.
Noting that he celebrated his birthday at the feet of Lord Kedarnath, Shivakumar said, ”Each one celebrates things in their own way. If organising such things benefits the party, why not? Some supporters of Mallikarjun Kharge want to commemorate 50 years of him being elected as MLA (public representative), similarly Parameshwara’s supporters have discussed a book release. While, I had asked not to even put my photo.” Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah were in Delhi last week to discuss 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.
Regarding the outcome of his meeting with Rahul Gandhi, Shivakumar said discussions were regarding not missing an opportunity to form a government this time because of ”our own mistakes”.
”Everyone is speaking about the Congress coming to power (in Karnataka) after 2023 polls, including the BJP. With an intention not to miss this chance because of our own mistakes we have held discussions. They (AICC) had got some surveys done, I too had got two-three surveys separately,” he said.
Not sharing details of the surveys, he said, despite not being in power, Congress was able to match the ruling BJP in recent MLC and local body polls.
”In the old Mysuru region, you are aware that while we were in power we had lost Tumakuru, Kolar and Mandya local bodies, we have now got them back. We have won graduates’ and teachers’ constituencies we had never won, so not only poor, even educated and conscious voters have voted for us…people have decided to give power to Congress,” he added.