For a clean, pro-poor government

Print edition : May 31, 2013

STILL considered an outsider in some sections of the Congress, Siddaramaiah, a Kuruba leader of some standing from Karnataka’s Old Mysore area, must consider himself lucky because of the speed with which the Congress high command settled the issue of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leadership. The Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader, who as Finance Minister had presented a couple of innovative, pro-farmer and progressive budgets, will now have the State’s reins in his hands.

The 1948-born Siddaramaiah started his career as a socialist but won his first big election on the symbol of the Bharatiya Lok Dal (which had merged with the Jan Sangh, the Indian National Congress (O) and the Socialist Party to form the Janata Party in 1977) from the Chamundeshwari Assembly constituency in 1983. Later he became a Minister in the Janata Party government led by Ramakrishna Hegde.

He was trounced in the 1989 Assembly elections in which the Congress under Veerendra Patil returned to power. He moved to the Janata Dal in 1992 and was chosen the party secretary general in Karnataka. He went on to win the 1994 Assembly elections.

After H.D. Deve Gowda vacated the Chief Minister’s post in 1996 and J.H. Patel took over as the Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, in an indication of his growing political stature, was chosen the Deputy Chief Minister. Though he lost the 1999 elections, Siddaramaiah was back in the Deputy Chief Minister’s saddle when the Congress joined hands with the Janata Dal (Secular) to form a government. When Deve Gowda betrayed his keenness to promote his son H. D. Kumaraswamy as the undisputed leader of the JD(S), Siddaramaiah left the party and joined the Congress in 2006. Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline.

Your elevation as the CLP leader has come very soon. No delays, no procastination.

The people have given the Congress a mandate for stability. It is our duty not to disappoint them by delaying the choosing of a leader or having differences over it. I want to thank the Congress president Madam Sonia Gandhiji and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for their decision.

Did you expect a victory of this magnitude?

Yes. I was sure that the Congress would cross the 113-mark. People were fed up with the poor performance and misrule of the BJP government and wanted a stable and clean government. The Congress is the only alternative. People didn’t want a coalition government.

Which sections of the electorate voted for the Congress?

We benefited from our traditional vote banks, the minorities, Dalits and the OBCs; more than anybody else the OBCs supported us the most.

What are the tasks and the challenges before the party?

To provide an administration that is corruption-free and pro-poor. First we have to put the government back on track. The administration has collapsed and the State’s finances are a shambles. There has been no fiscal discipline. All economic indicators have gone down, and there has been very inadequate resource mobilisation. These are the challenges.

Did Rahul Gandhi have an effect on the Congress’ prospects?

Yes. He is a dynamic leader and he was able to attract the youth.

Ravi Sharma

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