Fine if Congress picks a dalit CM, says Siddaramaiah
Mysuru: Virtually admitting that the Congress may fall short of a majority in the Assembly polls and pulling himself out of the race for the top post, chief minister Siddaramaiah said it was fine if the party decides to have a dalit chief minister.
His statement has fuelled speculation that veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, or state Congress chief president Dr. G. Parameshwar could be the chief minister choice if the Congress falls short of the magic figure of 112 for the 222 Assembly seats on which voting was held on Saturday and is forced to strike a pact with the JD(S) to form a coalition government.
The chief minister’s comment is also in sharp contrast to the stance taken by him during the poll campaign that he will become chief minister again.
“If the high command wants to make a dalit the CM, I have no problem with that. I will ask them to go ahead. I am not against anybody. But MLAs have to give their opinion and the high command has to agree. It can’t happen forcefully, if that happens, they can’t run the government. I have completed five years today. There was no dissident activity,” he said, announcing that this will be his last election.
The chief minister compared his tenure with former chief ministers Devraj Urs, Veerendra Patil, S. Bangarappa and Veerappa Moily and said they all had to deal with dissatisfied MLAs. “But for the first time, there was no dissatisfied MLA during my tenure though one or two may have made statements against me. By and large, I was able to secure the co-operation of the high command, all ministers, MLAs and MPs. I have served people honestly. People liked my work, there was no anti-incumbency in the state,” he said.
Siddaramaiah’s comment come in the context of conflicting projections by exit polls that the state is heading towards a hung Assembly. The exit polls have indicated that the May 15 results with throw up a fractured verdict — a situation in which the JD(S) headed by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda could play kingmaker.
The chief minister’s ties with JD(S) leaders have been anything but cordial in recent months, sealing his chances of making it to the top post if the Congress cobbles together a coalition with Mr Gowda’s party.
Despite his comments favouring a dalit chief minister, Mr Siddaramaiah continues to assert that the Congress will get a clear majority and return to power winning 120 seats. On the exit polls, he remarked, “They may be true to some extent but not completely true.”