For a man rooted in ‘Janata Parivar’ for two-and-half-decades and once known for strident anti-Congress stance, it has been a remarkable turn-around for Siddaramaiah, who is now all set to be sworn in as Karnataka’s Chief Minister for the second time, after consolidating his position in the grand old party.
From early 1980s to 2005, Siddaramaiah, who comes from a poor farmer’s family, was a die-hard anti-Congressman, but his ouster from JD(S) of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, brought him to political cross-roads, and made him join the very party he had opposed.
For his patience and persistence, the seasoned politician known for his bluntness, Siddaramaiah, realised his life-time ambition and went on to become the Chief Minister from the Congress party in 2013. Those qualities have once again catapulted the nine time MLA, to the same position now, after a gap of five years, as he has been re-elected as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party, to lead the party’s government in the state for the second time.
The 75-year-old Congress leader, who made no secret of his ambition to occupy the post of Chief Minister one last time, will be finally signing off on a ”high”, as he has already declared that the recently held Assembly polls to be his last.
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Siddaramaiah has the credit of successively edging out Congress’ heavyweights from the race to become the Chief Minister. While it is state Congress President D K Shivakumar now, it was M Mallikarjun Kharge (now the AICC President and the then Union Labour and Employment Minister) in 2013.
After the fractured verdict in 2004, the Congress and JD(S) formed a coalition government, with Siddaramaiah, then in JD(S), being made Deputy Chief Minister with Congress’ N Dharam Singh becoming Chief Minister. Siddaramaiah holds the grudge that he had the opportunity to become Chief Minister, but Gowda scuttled his prospects.
Following this, in 2005, Siddaramaiah, a Kuruba — the third largest caste in Karnataka — chose to position himself as a backward classes leader, by spearheading AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) conventions, coincidentally at a time when Deve Gowda’s son H D Kumaraswamy was seen as a rising star of the party.
Siddaramaiah was sacked from JD(S), where he had earlier served as its state unit chief, with critics of the party insisting that he was removed as Deve Gowda was keen to promote Kumaraswamy as the party’s leader.
Siddaramaiah, an advocate, at the time talked about ”political sanyas” and even toyed with the idea of going back to his law practice. He ruled out floating a regional outfit, saying he can’t muster money power. Both the BJP and the Congress wooed him to join them.
But Siddaramaiah said he did not agree with the BJP ideology and joined the Congress with his followers in 2006, a move considered ”unthinkable” only a couple of years earlier then.
Rustic in appearance at times, and not known to mince words, Siddaramaiah never hid his ambition to become chief minister and had repeatedly stressed on it unapologetically and unhesitatingly.
Besides in 2004, Siddaramaiah had missed the Chief Minister’s ”gaddi” in 1996 also after the incumbent Deve Gowda went on to become the Prime Minister.
Siddaramaiah was pipped by J H Patel in whose Cabinet he was Deputy Chief Minister. Both under Deve Gowda and Patel, he served as Finance Minister.
Siddaramaiah, who had grown to become a mass leader, has the distinction of presenting as many as 13 state budgets as Finance Minister.
His friends say he has a somewhat ”overpowering” personality and remains steadfast in his goals.
A product of ‘Janatha Parivar’, influenced as he was by socialism advocated by Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, he bade adieu to his profession as an advocate to pursue political career.
Making his debut in the Assembly in 1983, elected from Chamundeshwari constituency in Mysuru on a Lok Dal party ticket, he later joined the ruling erstwhile Janata Party.
He was the first Chairman of ‘Kannada Kavalu Samiti’, a watchdog committee which had the mandate to supervise the implementation of Kannada as official language formed during Ramakrishna Hegde’s chief ministership. Later, he became Sericulture Minister.
In the midterm elections two years later, he was re-elected and served as Minister for Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services in the Hegde government.
However, Siddaramaiah tasted defeat in the 1989 and 1999 Assembly elections. He was Chairman of the KPCC Publicity committee of elections in 2008.
With Congress losing that election, Siddaramaiah became the leader of opposition and strongly took on the BJP government on the issue of corruption and scams, especially illegal mining.
In 2010, he had even led Congress’ 320 km padayatra from Bengaluru to Ballari to expose illegal mining in the state, which according to many in the party, laid the foundation for Congress’ win in 2013 Assembly polls with a clear majority.
Known for his administrative acumen, Siddaramaiah led a successful five year term as Chief Minister of Congress government between 2013-18. However, despite being popular because of populist ”Bhagya” schemes, Congress was defeated in 2018.
According to political observers and many within the Congress, Siddaramaiah government’s decision to accord ”religious minority” status to the dominant Lingayat community had, in part, resulted in electoral losses for the party in Assembly polls.
Not only did the Congress lose badly in the Lingayat-dominated constituencies then, but a majority of prominent leaders who were actively involved in the ”separate Lingayat religion” movement, suffered defeat.
As the then sitting CM, Siddaramaiah himself lost the 2018 polls in Chamundeshwari in Mysuru to JD(S)’ G T Deve Gowda by 36,042 votes.
He, however, won from Badami in Bagalkote district, the other constituency from where he had contested then and defeated BJP’s B Sriramulu by 1,696 votes.
After Varuna became a constituency in 2008 following delimitation, Siddaramaiah represented it till he vacated the seat for his son Dr Yatindra (MLA) in the 2018 assembly polls and went back to his old constituency of Camundeshwari, but faced defeat there. He has won five times from Chamundeshwari constituency and tasted defeat thrice.
After the 2018 polls, Siddaramaiah served as chief of the Congress-JD(S) government’s coalition coordination committee, and following the collapse of the coalition government and BJP coming to power, he became the Leader of Opposition. Announcing 2023 polls to be his last, Siddaramaiah went back to his home constituency of Varuna and once again won from there. He has made it clear though this may be his last polls, he will continue to remain in politics thereafter.
Born on August 12, 1948 at Siddaramanahundi, a village in Mysuru district, Siddaramaiah graduated from Mysore University with B.Sc. degree and later did his Law degree from the same University and pursued it as a profession for some time. He also served as a guest lecturer at Vidyavardhaka College in Mysuru for some time.
He often during his speeches has recalled that he was forced to discontinue education for some time due to difficult circumstances at home and was asked to tend the cattle, but the teachers of his village school recognised his interest towards studies helped him to directly get admitted to class 4.
Siddaramaiah is married to Parvati and has a son Dr Yathindra, who was MLA in the previous Assembly from Varuna, the constituency Siddaramaiah won this time. His elder son Rakesh, who was once considered his political heir apparent, died in 2016.