Davanagere: The stage is set for senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah’s 75th birthday bash here on Wednesday, amid some unease within the party about the event, with a section of the party men perceiving it as a promotion of a ”personality cult”, ahead of Assembly polls.
With party leader Rahul Gandhi attending the ”Amruta Mahotsva” in the form of a mega convention, senior State leaders including its President D K Shivakumar will be participating in the event, in a show of unity.
Organizers are expecting nearly 10 lakh people from across the state to attend the event at Shamanur palace ground here in central Karnataka district headquarters town, for which food and other necessary arrangements have been made.
Siddaramaiah’s fans and followers from Belagavi have prepared a 3,000-metre-long pictorial biography of the former Chief Minister, which is likely to be inaugurated by the leader of the opposition in the assembly tomorrow.
Also, a Kannada music video has surfaced coinciding with the event, which goes like ”Siddaramaiah avare mundina CM” (Siddaramaiah is the next CM).
Ten years ago in 2012, Siddaramaiah, ahead of 2013 Assembly polls following which he went on to become Chief Minister, had celebrated his 65th birthday on a grand scale.
Both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar are nursing Chief Ministerial aspirations in the event of the party coming to power.
There is also palpable worry within the party about a virtual division getting created between the camps of both leaders and its adverse impact on its prospects in the polls.
Though both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar have on a record maintained that the CM will be decided by party’s newly elected MLAs and high command on gaining a majority in the polls, their loyalists and camps are hellbent to project their respective leaders, making things messy.
The 75th birthday is being organized by ”Sri Siddaramaiah-75 Amruta Mahotsava Sameeti”.
It consists of senior Congress leaders considered close to Siddaramaiah like R V Deshpande as honorary president, K N Rajanna- as president, H C Mahadevappa- president of the reception committee, and Basavaraj Rayareddy- General Secretary among others.
The event is being seen in some quarters as an apparent show of strength by his camp, as it comes ahead of the party sounding a bugle for Assembly polls.
His critics see it as an attempt by Siddaramaiah’s camp to protect him and his contributions, with an aim to send out a message to both the high command and his detractors within the party, ahead of polls, while consolidating the Kuruba leader’s ‘AHINDA’ vote base.
AHINDA is a Kannada acronym that stands for ‘Alpasankhyataru’ (minorities), ‘Hindulidavaru’ (Backward Classes), and ‘Dalitaru’ (Dalits).
The state Congress initially seemed confused in its response to the event, as it first tried to see it as a private event organized by Siddaramaiah’s supporters; then amid fears that the event may turn into a show of strength, the word was spread that it would be held on the party forum.
Finally, it was packaged as an event organized by Congress leaders and workers, but not on the party forum, as Siddarmaiah and his camp succeeded in going ahead with the event, despite resistance from within especially from the Shivakumar camp and some of Congress’ old guards, by warning against the promotion of ”personality cult”.
Siddaramaiah though has rejected claims that the event is being organized to protect him ahead of polls, he has however maintained that there will certainly be a political message from the event, as none in politics are ‘Sanyasis’.
Narrating how his date of birth was recorded, Siddaramaiah has several times in the past said that neither his family nor he knew his exact date of birth.
”According to records, I am 75 years old now, but no one knows for sure. This is why I generally do not celebrate my birthday….but my friends, well-wishers, and followers wanted to celebrate this time, as 75 years is a milestone in one’s life,” he said.
Recalling that he was enrolled in school straight away for class 5, he stated that ”At that time, my school headmaster Rajappa wrote down my date of birth as 03-08-1947 which has stuck till now.” He has also repeatedly stated that 2023 will be his last election.
The event is not being organized to glorify Siddaramaiah, Mahadevappa had recently said, it is to celebrate his services in 40 years of political life as a farmer, farmer activist, socialist, fighter with morality, language activist, economist Finance Minister and the Chief Minister who fulfilled the promises made to people.
Having switched to Congress from JD(S), Siddaramaiah was popular as CM (2013-18) because of his populist ”Bhagya” schemes and his pan-Karnataka image, but he failed to bring the party back to power in 2018, despite all his populism.
A Congress leader, not wanting to be named, said Siddaramaiah is the only CM in the state to complete a full term in 40 years; he is hit among the masses, ”but, doesn’t have a sense of closure as he could not retain power in 2018. Looks like this is the reason why he wants to be CM for one last time at any cost if the party wins.”