At 64 Siddarmaiah has taken a long journey from his rural beginning to be the first Kuruba (third largest and OBC shepherd community) and 28th chief minister of Karnataka. Known for his rustic manner and sharp tongue, lawyer by professional training Siddaramaiah now plans to bring back on track the administrative machinery which many believe was derailed by the previous BJP government. Hands on Man Siddaramaih has been twice deputy chief minister; and finance minister; and has the distinction of presenting the state budget seven times. A Janatha Parivar man, Siddaramaiah in 2006 had to part ways with the former chief minister HD Deve Gowda’s JD(S) over differences. He took up the cause of AHINDA movement (a Kannada acronym for backward classes, minorities and Dalits) before joining congress. For the past five years, he was the party’s opposition leader and has been credited for cornering the previous government on several issues concerning people. To a challenge thrown by mining baron and former BJP minister Janardhan Reddy daring to step in ‘ Bellary’, he led a congress padayatra to the erstwhile ‘Republic of the Reddy’s’ in turn garnering support for himself and the party. Siddaramaiah, a lohiate by ideological affiliation, shared his vision of the state, he dreams of, and claims that, his government will work for the welfare of the poor and create equal opportunities for people as enshrined in the constitution.
What are your priorities as chief minister of the state?
I face many challenges. But the immediate challenge would be to provide drinking water, electricity to both farmers and people. As you very well know, due to the drought, farmers have suffered a lot. Also, because of problem in drinking water, people of Bangalore have suffered. Priority will be to set right these issues. Thankfully, we have received good rains this time.
Any promises you want to make as the next CM?
People have seen in the past five years how corrupt the earlier government was. Hence, they have reposed faith in us and given us a mandate. So, to provide a stable and corruption free government would be what I would promise as CM. Apart from that, I would like to create equal opportunities for people as enshrined in the Constitution. There would be greater focus on farmers, Dalits, women and backward classes.
Karnataka has got the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt state. How are you planning to change it?
It would be wrong to say Karnataka is the most corrupt state. We can say that there were some corrupt people who were part of the state. Anyways, I believe that if the CM and his ministers are honest and non-corrupt, this blot will go on its own.
Some of the Congress legislators who won this time also have cases registered against them. Will any one of these candidates be inducted in your Cabinet?
The elected MLAs are not habitual offenders. Here and there, there might be some minor cases against them. However, we cannot brand them as criminals.
As part of your poll promise, you had said that action will be taken on the Lokayukta mining report. Are you still firm on it?
I will form a special team to look into this issue. Apart from that, efforts will be made to strengthen Lokayukta, both in terms of manpower and in terms of legislation.
The Congress manifesto has also promised action on officers responsible for implicating Muslims in terror cases. Since you are in power now, will you be acting on your promise?
I will be tightening the administration over all. Good and honest officers would be brought, so that we can have a transparent government. Keeping the right officers in the right place would undo most of the damage.
Analysts say that in the past five years, the state’s finances have not been in good health. How are you planning to rectify this?
Karnataka had achieved financial stability in 2004-05. But since then, various governments have brought it to this present situation. A number of measures are required to set it right. Over and above financial stability, we need to improve Human Development Index (HDI), which is most important.
“Bengaluru has lost its charm due to bad policies of previous governments,” said Congress President Sonia Gandhi. How is your government going to change it?
For the past 10 years, Karnataka has lost its sheen. I would do my utmost to change its image. My dream is to make Karnataka the number one state.