Siddaramaiah, Congress' Mass Leader, Gets a Second Shot at Being Karnataka CM

Siddaramaiah, a Kuruba leader, will be the chief minister of Karnataka for the second time.


Video Producer: Vishnu Gopinath

Video Editors: Prashant Chauhan, Abhishek Sharma

On 13 May, as the counting for the Karnataka Assembly elections was underway and the Congress was yet to reach the halfway mark of 113 seats, Siddaramaiah was spotted sitting in the front seat of his car and sipping a cup of coffee, without a care in the world.

To reporters who gathered around him in Varuna, where he had contested against BJP Minister V Somanna, Siddaramaiah spoke in his calm, reassuring style, "Congress will cross 130 seats."

Later that day, Siddaramaiah beat Somanna by a wide margin of 46,163 votes, as the Congress beat the Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (Secular), winning a whopping majority of 135 seats.

As he interacted with the media after the Congress' victory, Siddaramaiah continued to smile, assuring everyone that the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) would soon decide its leader – the Chief Minister of Karnataka.


On 15 May, after two days of a mild tug of war between Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President DK Shivakumar and himself over the CM's role, Siddaramaiah seemed to have got the support of a majority of the newly elected Congress MLAs.

Later, on 17 May, The Quint reported first that Siddaramaiah will be made the Chief Minister and DK Shivakumar the Deputy Chief Minister. On Thursday, 18 May, Congress' General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal made an announcement stating the same.

He was sworn in as CM of Karnataka on 20 May.

Siddaramaiah had announced before the elections that 2023 would be his last electoral contest – and he appears to be going out with a bang. Soon to be a two-time Chief Minister of Karnataka, here's all you need to know about Siddaramaiah.


From JD(S) to Congress; AHINDA Leader to CM

Siddaramaiah is a law graduate-turned-politician, who served as the Karnataka Chief Minister from 2013 to 2018. Born on 12 August 1948 in a remote village in Mysore, Siddu, as he is fondly called, began his political career in the early 1970s.

He contested on a Bharatiya Lok Dal ticket from Chamundeshwari constituency and became an MLA for the first time in 1983. He later joined the Janata Dal – and after it split into the Janata Dal (Secular), he joined hands with HD Deve Gowda.

But in 2005, Siddaramaiah had a fallout with the former Prime Minister and JD(S) supremo, and was subsequently expelled from the JD(S) party. He had plans to form a regional party called 'ABPJD' in the state, but ultimately decided against it due to the unsuccessful track record of previous regional parties in Karnataka.

Siddaramaiah, a Kuruba (OBC) leader, then joined the Congress and gained a significant following among the Backward Classes. He won the Chamundeshwari byelection in December 2006 by a narrow margin of 257 votes against M Shivabasappa of the JD(S), despite a fierce campaign against him by Deve Gowda.

In the Congress, Siddaramaiah steadily built a following and became a mass leader, popular amongst AHINDA voters (Dalit, Bahujan, and Minority). In 2013 and 2023, Siddaramaiah had claimed that it would be the AHINDA vote that would bring victory to the Congress.

In the recently concluded Assembly elections as well, Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi, and Muslim vote swung to the Congress, giving Siddaramaiah a visible edge.

In 2018, Siddaramaiah had contested from two Assembly seats. He won the Badami seat from Bagalkot district with a slim margin of 1,696 votes, defeating BJP candidate B Sriramulu. But in the Chamundeshwari seat, he lost to Janata Dal (Secular) candidate GT Devegowda by a margin of 36,042 votes.

This time, however, he contested from Varuna, claiming that "the people of Varuna asked me to contest from here." The Varuna constituency, which was carved out in 2008, has since been held by the Congress party. In fact, Siddaramaiah's son Yathindra was the sitting MLA in Varuna till the recent elections.

However, it is not just his Varuna win or the AHINDA power that has propelled Siddaramaiah to the CM's chair. "His administrative track record has been good. Under the BJP, Karnataka has plunged into debt. We need someone experienced to clean the house," a Congress leader told The Quint.

Even as KPCC President DK Shivakumar lobbied for the CM's role, the MLAs in his camp, too, could not deny the administrative prowess of Siddaramaiah. "He is a good administrator and that is his advantage," a Congress leader said.


Siddaramaiah as Chief Minister

During his tenure as CM from 2013-2018, Siddaramaiah implemented several policies aimed at promoting social welfare and economic development, such as the creation of the Indira Canteens, which provided low-cost meals to the urban poor.

He also launched the ambitious Karnataka Industrial Policy, aimed at attracting investment to the state and boosting employment.

Siddaramaiah was also touted to be the best CM for 40% of voters versus 15% for Basavaraj Bommai, as per the CSDS pre-poll survey this year. 

In 2023, he was one of the two CM faces of the Congress – the other being KPCC President DK Shivakumar.

Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah have had their differences – over control of the party, ticket distribution for candidates, and policy matters affecting the state. "But both were clear that the Congress needs to come to power and that they need to stand together for it. They are both master politicians, and neither weighed their rivalry over the Congress' aim to come to power in Karnataka," a Congress source told The Quint.

As a testimony to this new found unity, on 7 and 8 May – the last two days of campaigning for the Karnataka Assembly elections – the Congress released two videos of the two leaders having a 'heart-to-heart'. Though clearly scripted, the video sent a message that the two leaders, who are considered rivals in Karnataka Congress, are willing to work together.

Siddaramiah was quoted as saying by the media that his relationship with Shivakumar "is cordial and that differences exist in democracy, but are not detrimental to the interests of the party." Several party leaders in the Congress now call the rivalry between the two "a friendly contest," which will not affect governance.


What Lies Ahead for Siddaramaiah?

Siddaramaiah's term in office could be testing as his Cabinet's performance will shortly be assessed, as the country inches close to Lok Sabha polls in 2024.

During the first few months of his term, Siddaramaiah will not just have to govern impeccably but also fulfil a chunk of the Congress' promises before the party approaches Karnataka's public for Lok Sabha votes. He will also have to keep nurturing the cordial relationship he seems to have forged with DK Shivakumar, so that the Congress' rank and file don't collapse from within the party.

It will be trying times, but will Siddaramaiah be seen sipping coffee and taking the fight head-on again?

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