By M.K. Ashoka
Bengaluru, Mar 26 (IANS): Opposition leader Siddaramaiah, who is in the race for the chief minister's chair if the Congress is voted to power, is confident of making it to the highest post backed by the Kuruba and AHINDA communities.
Siddaramaiah has emerged as a darling of the minorities, the OBCs and the oppressed classes. He hails from the Kuruba community, which is regarded as the third most influential caste in Karnataka after the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas.
Siddaramaiah's style of handling the feudal approach by the influential Lingayat and Vokkaliga castes by taking on the influential leaders of both the communities; his scathing attacks on the RSS, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindutva philosophy has made him a leader with mass appeal.
Siddaramaiah is one of the few leaders who has not been targeted by the central agencies after his fierce attacks on the saffron party and Hindutva. His mimicry of PM Modi at public platforms is quite popular. He recently announced that he will oppose the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh until his last breath.
The Kuruba community plays a decisive role in 50 to 60 assembly seats across Karnataka. About 12 to 14 contestants from the Kuruba community get elected to the assembly in the polls.
Siddaramaiah has established himself as the unparalleled leader of the Kuruba community. But his strength comes from the AHINDA groups. AHINDA stands for the Alpsankhyas (minority) Hindulida (backward) and the Dalits.
Sources close to him said that he is the only leader who is committed to the welfare of the AHINDA groups. There is a presence of minority, Dalit votes in all the 224 assembly constituencies of the state and Siddaramaiah has influence in 70 to 80 constituencies.
Anand Nyamagouda, Congress MLA from Jamakahdi constituency, states that the Siddaramaiah factor will play a big role because he belongs to the Kuruba community which is there throughout the state in good numbers. Moreover, the government led by Siddaramaiah was a clean administration.
A lot of development activities were taken up then. People have confidence that if Siddaramaiah becomes the CM they will witness development in the state, said Nyamagouda.
He explained that Siddaramaiah will have an impact in north Karnataka where he has a large number of followers. As of now, for the Congress it is good going be it D.K. Shivakumar or Siddaramaiah. The ruling BJP has lost face.
How did Siddaramaiah become the leader of the Kuruba community? M.T. Ravikumar, former Mysuru taluk panchayat president, said that before Siddaramaiah the Kuruba leaders hesitated to take the name of the community. The scenario was much worse in north Karnataka.
The capability of Siddaramaiah to take on Lingayat leader B.S. Yediyurappa and Vokkaliga leader H.D. Deve Gowda, challenging them on the floor of the assembly and at the ground level, earned him a special place.
"K.S. Eshwarappa, BJP MLA and former minister who hails from Kuruba community is facing a difficult situation in Shivamogga city to win this time. Siddaramaiah was the first CM to make diversion of funds from SC/ST grants a criminal offence.
"When the Supreme Court struck down the promotions for SC/ST and reserved categories, he was the one who enacted a legislation and protected lakhs of officers from getting demoted. Siddaramaiah was the one who brought reservation in contracts up to Rs 1 crore for SC/ST groups," Ravikumar stated.
The steps to empower SC/STs and the minorities against the mafia which wants status quo have made him the leader of the masses, he added.
Siddaramaiah, though having the capacity to ensure the victory of the party in a large number of seats, is still finalising which seat to contest. He is not contesting from Badami constituency, from where he won in 2018. He suffered a humiliating defeat in Chamundeshwari constituency against the JD (S) candidate.
Sources say that the opposition's game plan is to restrict Siddaramaiah to a constituency by making the contest difficult. So he is being careful in choosing his constituency.
According to statistics in the 2018 assembly elections the BJP garnered 36.35 per cent of the votes while the Congress managed 38.14 per cent of the votes. The JD (S) got 18.3 per cent votes. Though the Congress under Siddaramaiah's leadership garnered more votes, it failed to win seats.
In the 2013 assembly elections, when the Congress won, it got 36.6 per cent, JD (S) 20.2 per cent, BJP 19.9 per cent and the KJP a 9.8 per cent vote share. Then the Congress had won 122, the JD (S) 40, the BJP 40 and the KJP 6 seats. Siddaramaiah went on to become the CM following a clear majority for the Congress.
Siddaramaiah is hoping to make it to the CM's chair this time also riding high on anti-incumbency against the BJP. It is a challenge for Siddaramaiah to bring back the SC/ST, OBC voters who had gone to the BJP in the last elections. Sources said as the margin is very narrow, these voters will come back to the Congress.