Addressing a rally at Davanagere on Sunday, 24 February, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara claimed that he had been denied the chance to be the CM three times because he belonged to the Dalit community.
Parameshwara is the first Dalit deputy CM of the state.
He reportedly made the comments at a Chalawadi rally in Davanagere, where he was invited to participate. Chalawadis are a scheduled caste community, which primarily resides in north Karnataka.
“PK Basavalingappa & KH Ranganath missed the CM post. Mallikarjun Kharge also couldn’t become CM. I missed it thrice. Somehow, I was made Dy CM.”G Parameshwara, as told to ANI
According to a report in The Times of India, he went on to say that he unwillingly accepted the post of second-in-command.
“I am a victim of suppression and hence couldn’t get the CM’s post. I reluctantly accepted the deputy CM’s post, in which I was not interested,” he reportedly said.
Ahead of seat-sharing talks between the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition in the state before the Lok Sabha polls, his hints of an alleged caste bias have stirred controversy.
Don’t Know in What Context He Made Statement: Siddaramaiah
Reacting to his comments, Congress Legislature Party leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that it was, in fact, the Congress party that had been working for the welfare of the ‘neglected’ communities.
“It's the Congress party which is taking care of Dalits and other neglected sections of society. I don't know in what context he made a statement like that, it's better you ask him,” Siddaramaiah told ANI.
PTI reported that Parameshwara further hinted at attempts made to suppress Dalit leaders within the party.
Seeking support from the community, TOI reported that Parameshwara also spoke about how Dalits continue to face oppression and are subjected to ‘rampant untouchability’ in rural areas.
He went on to say that similar to politics, Dalit community members was also denied promotions in government jobs. He promised that promotions Scheduled Caste officers, who were allegedly ‘demoted’, would be implemented in 15 days, reported Deccan Herald.
Dalit Leaders Snubbed?
Parameshwara’s comments have thrown light on the Congress party’s claims of being pro-Dalit and working for the benefit of underprivileged communities.
Along with PK Basavalingappa, KH Ranganath and Mallikarjun Kharge, whom Parameshwara said had been overlooked for the role of CM, Mallikarjuna Swamy, a former minister from Mandya, has also been listed in this 2018 Economic Times report as one of the leaders not appointed as chief minister.
The SC/ST communities, which reportedly make up a fourth of the population of Karnataka, had pinned their hopes of cabinet representation on Parameshwara last year.
ET reported that Parameshwara had brought up the idea of a Dalit CM in the past, expressing the need for one occasionally and other times, chalking down the absence of one to a ‘party decision’.
(With inputs from The Times of India, Deccan Herald, The Economic Times, PTI and ANI)