'MLAs, High Command Will Choose the CM': Siddaramaiah on Karnataka Polls 2023

Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had earlier said Karnataka elections 2023 will be his last electoral contest.


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Repoter/Producer: Pratiba Raman

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It was a month-long chase that climaxed at Chikkanayakanahalli, around 140 km from Bengaluru. The Quint found it best to catch up with Siddaramaiah during one of his campaign trails for the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections 2023. Soon after his public address, we hopped into his campaign vehicle. As we embarked on our journey to his next campaign spot, Tiptur, the details of Congress leader Siddaramaiah’s road ahead unfolded.

'Siddu,' as Siddaramaiah is fondly called, is a law graduate-turned-politician. From being the former CM of Karnataka to the current leader of Opposition representing the Congress, Siddaramaiah is back in the election race as one of the CM aspirants. The Quint asked him if he would become the CM of Karnataka, if the Congress gets voted to power. 

Siddaramaiah was quick to respond. “See, people are telling like that. But, in the Congress party, the newly elected MLAs will have to elect the Leader of the Legislature Party. And the High Command has to approve this. This is the procedure followed by the Congress party in Karnataka,” he said, evasively. 


On Shivakumar, Varuna, and 'Clear Majority'

When you talk about key contenders to the CM’s post, another name crops up from the Congress side – KPCC President DK Shivakumar. Since this is the last election that Siddaramaiah would be contesting, will he be able to grab the Chief Minister’s post, even from Shivakumar?

“I’ve already answered this. Once again, I am telling you that elected representatives, the newly elected representatives, have to decide on who the next leader of the Legislature Party will be. And who should lead the government."
Siddaramaiah, Former CM of Karnataka and Congress Leader

Was the Congress leader making sure that his last innings as an electoral contestant remains successful? Is this why he chose Varuna, his safe seat, while giving up Kolar, a seat that he aspired to contest from? “Since this is my last election, the people of Varuna constituency wanted me to contest from Varuna itself because I won in 2008 and in 2013. While in 2008, I became leader of the opposition, in 2013, I became the Chief Minister. People wanted me to contest from Varuna and become the Chief Minister. So, that is their desire,” he explained.

In 2013, under Siddaramaiah’s leadership, the Congress won a clear majority. Will the party see that repeat this year? Predicting a clear majority for the Congress, Siddaramaiah said, “People have decided to bring back the Congress party to power because they are fed up with the present BJP government. With a strong anti-incumbency wave against the BJP government, I am very confident that this time, the people of Karnataka will bless the Congress party.”

Siddaramaiah, however, was sure of one thing. He said, with absolute certainty, that the Congress will get clear majority. "A lot of political experts are discussing and predicting a fractured mandate. But a number of surveys show that the Congress party would get a clear majority...There will be no fractured mandate in the coming election," he said.


On Alliance With JD(S), Rahul Gandhi and Reservation

In 2018, the Congress and the JD(S) surprised all with a last-minute coalition. This time, with many poll experts predicting a fractured mandate, is the Congress already trying to woo the JDS? “A number of surveys show that the Congress party would get a clear majority. There will be no fractured mandate in the coming election,” insisted Siddaramaiah. 

Rahul Gandhi fighting the defamation case will increase the chances of the Congress coming to power in Karnataka, Siddaramaiah seemed convinced this.

“There is no defamation in the statement. He has not mentioned Narendra Modi’s name. He has not mentioned the man, who is the complainant in the court. He was not there when Rahul Gandhi made the speech in Kolar. How does it lower the dignity of the person who approached the court?” the Congressman questioned.

Siddaramaiah also found an opportunity to criticise the BJP’s reservation move, which is now being fought in the court. He termed it a “political gimmick, which has backfired.”

“The BJP was never committed to social justice. They were never for reservation. This is a political gimmick to increase the SC reservation and ST reservation, while also abolishing 4% reservation to Muslims and distributing that - 2% to Vokkaligas and 2% to Lingayats,” he commented.

While BJP’s Yediyurappa is banking on his son Vijayendra to take over his legacy, will Siddaramaiah do the same with his son Yathindra?

“Yathindra is a right-thinking man. He is in constant touch with the people of Varuna constituency. And he only suggested that I contest from Varuna constituency. Of course, the people there too wanted me to contest from Varuna. Since this is my last election, I go by the opinion of the Varuna people, and also my son."
Siddaramaiah, Former CM of Karnataka and Congress Leader

While Siddaramaiah was reaching his next destination, he seemed tired and exhausted. “I am not tired...There is a viral infection on my left hand. That is why I am not getting sound sleep at night. That is why I look tired,” he vouched.

Siddaramaiah immediately drank a glass of water, cleared his throat and stepped out to be greeted by his followers as he waltzed on to the next stage. Will his final contest lead him to the CM's chair?

(Pratiba Raman is a senior journalist based in Bengaluru)

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