A renewed energy seems to have been infused into the 75-year old Congress leader Siddaramaiah’s gait as he walked to address a packed press conference in Mysuru on Saturday.
“This (election result in Karnataka) will be a stepping stone for Congress’ victory in 2024,” Siddaramaiah said, losing no time in sending the signal that he has set his sights on the future.
In the run-up to the elections, Siddaramaiah’s appeal was sombre.
“This is my last election. I will retire from electoral politics,” the senior Congress leader had repeatedly said.
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And now it appears that the sprightly Congress leader, who made no secret of his ambition to occupy the post of chief minister, is looking at what lies ahead.
The main race for top post is between Siddaramaiah, who served as chief minister from 2013 to 2018, and Congress state unit president DK Shivakumar.
In fact, he edged out M Mallikarjun Kharge, now the AICC president and the then Union labour and employment minister, at the 2013 legislature party meeting to become chief minister.
A man rooted in ‘Janata Parivar’ for two-and-half-decades and known for strident anti-Congress stance, Siddarmaiah joined the grand old party in 2006 after his ouster from JD(S) of former prime minister Deve Gowda brought him to political cross-roads.
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 leading the dispensation.
Siddaramaiah, influenced as he was by socialism advocated by Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, held the grouse that he had the opportunity to become the CM but Gowda scuttled his prospects.
In 2005, he chose to position himself as a backward class leader — he is from the Kuruba community, the third largest caste in Karnataka, 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.
He was sacked from the JD(S), where he had earlier served as its state unit chief, with critics of the party insisting he was removed as Deve Gowda was keen to promote Kumaraswamy as the party’s leader.
Siddaramaiah, an advocate, at the time also talked about “political sanyas” and even toyed with the idea of going back to practising law. He ruled out floating a regional outfit, saying he can’t muster money power. Both the BJP and the Congress wooed him to join their ranks.
But he 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 insisting that there is nothing wrong in aspiring for the post.
Siddaramaiah, who had grown to become a mass leader, has the distinction of presenting as many as 13 state budgets as finance minister.
Some of his friends say he has a somewhat “overpowering” personality and remains steadfast in his goals.
Making his debut in the Assembly in 1983, Siddaramaiah had got elected from Chamundeshwari on a Lok Dal Party ticket. He has won five times from this constituency and tasted defeat thrice.
Born on August 12, 1948 at Siddaramanahundi, a village in Mysuru district, Siddaramaiah graduated from Mysore University with a BSc degree and later studied law from the same institution and pursued it as a profession for some time.