He has been involved with Karnataka politics for the past 35 years. Known in the political circles to have sharp financial acumen, Siddaramaiah has won six elections and is credited to have overseen the roll-out of the value-added tax (VAT) system in the state. He is well known for his stint as finance minister and has presented six budgets during his terms in various governments. Siddaramaiah is credited with presenting revenue-surplus budgets, including the 2006-07 state budget, when surplus had hit a record of Rs 4,000 crore.
An atheist, Siddaramaiah comes from the backward community of Kurubas. If he becomes chief minister of Karnataka, he would be the first non-Vokkaliga and non-Lingayat one in the state in two decades. The Vokkaliga and Lingayat castes are the dominant ones in Karnataka and have shaped the fortunes of political parties in the state.
Born on August 12, 1948, at Siddaramanahundi in Mysore district, Siddaramaiah secured bachelor’s degrees in science and law and entered the Mysore Bar council, before stepping into politics in 1978. He was elected to the Mysore Taluk board and entered the state Legislative Assembly in 1983, under the guidance of legendary Karnataka politician and then chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde.
After a split in the Janata Dal, he joined the Janata Dal (Secular) faction under Deve Gowda and became the president of its state unit. He lost in the 1999 elections in the state.
Siddaramaiah served as minister in various departments — sericulture, animal husbandry, transport, finance and the state planning board. He was deputy chief minister on two occasions — as a Janata Dal (Secular) leader in the cabinets of J H Patel and the N Dharam Singh-led coalition government with the Congress between 2004 and 2006.
In 2006, after differences with his mentor Deve Gowda over the Janata Dal (Secular) aligning with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Siddaramaiah joined the Congress. He won the Chamundeshwari bypolls by a slender margin of 257 votes against Shivabasappa, the joint candidate of the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular). In the 2008 state assembly elections, he contested from the Varuna constituency and was re-elected for the fifth time.
When asked about the prospects of being elected chief minister, Siddaramaiah said the decision on the chief ministership would the Congress high command’s and the legislature party’s. “The people have given the mandate to the Congress, as they wanted a stable and clean government; they were not in favour of a coalition,” he said.
In case he becomes finance minister, it is likely he would reverse the populist budgetary allocations to mutts and religious institutions by the BJP government earlier this year. “It is public money; governments have no business to distribute money to religious mutts,” he had said, while commenting on the budget presented by outgoing chief minister Jagadish Shettar.
In the past, Siddaramaiah had come close to becoming chief minister twice---first in 1996, after Deve Gowda moved to Delhi as prime minister, and in 2004.
Would he be lucky this time? It’s a difficult question, considering there are many other contenders for the post.
Others in the fray
Among those in the race for the chief minister’s post are Mallikarjun Kharge, Union minister for labour and employment. Kharge, who hasn’t lost an election till date, represents the Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency in north Karnataka. Today, he said, “I don’t want the post because of my caste (dalit). I am not interested because of long-standing service to the party. If they think I am fit for the post, it is up to them to take a decision. I will abide by any decision the high command takes.”
The main competitor to Siddaramaiah is Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwar, who lost the election from the Koratagere constituency.
The name of Union Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily is also doing the rounds.