Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has declared himself a Dalit in the wake of some Dalit groups demanding that the ruling Congress party install a CM from the community for the remainder of its five-year term. The Congress government in Karnataka will complete 50 per cent of its term later this year.
“I am also a Dalit,’’ Siddaramaiah said in Mysore last week. The statement came soon after some Dalit groups announced a plan to stage a rally on March 31 in demand of installation of a Dalit CM.
“The poor and oppressed from all communities are also Dalits and I cannot be separated from them, he said, adding that to uplift the state’s SC/ST community, he has allocated funds from the state budget proportional to their population (24.1 per cent).
The call to install a Dalit CM in place of backward caste Kuruba leader Siddaramaiah was suspected to be backed by Dalit Congress leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge and state Congress president G Parameshwara. Both leaders have however, distanced themselves from the issue.
“This is another attempt to create division among Congress leaders on caste lines. Those raising this issue had not made such a demand when there was an opportunity for a Dalit leader to become CM,” Kharge had stated last month when talk of installing a Dalit CM began doing the rounds.
KPCC president G Parameshwara has also distanced himself from the issue.
Dalit groups Samata Sainik Dal, Madiga Dandora and Dalit Sangarsha Samithi recently met and decided to rally Dalits to push forward their cause. Former IAS officer K Shivaram, who attended the meeting, said Dalits had so far supported Siddaramaiah but would now like Congress to install a Dalit CM.
Siddaramaiah, on his part, has said the demand for a Dalit CM was coming from outside the Congress and not from within the party and hence is not a subject to be raised with the party high command.
In the wake of the row, several Dalit cabinet ministers in Siddaramaiah’s government publicly expressed support for the CM, stating that the timing of the demand is not right.