From grazing cattle in the fields to completing his Bachelor of Law from Mysore University without any formal schooling, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah – who goes by this single name (a rarity in the region he comes from) – has etched his name in the record books as only the second CM, after Devaraj Urs (1972-77), to complete a full five years in office in the state.
Not known to mince words or hide his ambitions, Siddaramaiah was a member of various Janata Parivar factions before finally joining the Congress in 2006. While Urs is hailed as the greatest social reformer from the state, Siddaramaiah has left a mark for introducing several Bhagya schemes – particularly the Anna Bhagya and also in approving a separate flag for Karnataka.
Born to Siddarame Gowda and Boramma in a remote village called Siddaramanahundi of Mysore district, Siddaramaiah belongs to the Kuruba (shepherd) community, which constitutes about seven per cent of the state’s population. Interestingly, Siddaramaiah does not like to wear the tag of “leader of the Kurubas” on his sleeve and prefers to be known as the champion of the backward classes. This is not just a mere statement. Throughout his political career in Karnataka, the 69-year-old has burnt the midnight oil and framed policies to consolidate AHINDA (the Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) votes.
A self-confessed agnostic, Siddaramaiah is not one to visit temples and his trademark attire of a white kurta and panche, a sort of lungi, and an angavastra has carved an image of a rustic politician in the minds of the people.
Siddaramaiah, who has his roots in the Janata Parivar, was influenced by the Dr Ram Manohar Lohia brand of socialism. However, if not for one lawyer in Mysore, Siddaramaiah might not have tread the political path. In 1978, Nanjunda Swamy, a lawyer in Mysore, spotted Siddaramaiah at the district courts and asked him to take the political plunge. The decision bore fruit as Siddaramaiah was elected to the Mysore taluka and in 1983, he entered the Assembly from Chamundeshwari on a ticket from Bharatiya Lok Dal, headed by former Prime Minister Charan Singh. The election earned Siddaramaiah instant fame in the Old Mysuru region.
Later, Siddaramaiah went on to become the first president of the Kannada Surveillance Committee that was set up to supervise the implementation of Kannada as an official language. This was after he joined the Janata Party. In the 1985 mid-term polls, Siddaramaiah got re-elected and became minister for veterinary services and animal husbandry. However, all was not rosy for Siddaramaiah, and in 1989 he was defeated. In the 1994 Assembly elections, Siddaramaiah retained his seat and was made the finance minister in the Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal government.
He was made deputy chief minister when JH Patel became CM in 1996. After the split in the Janata Dal, Siddaramaiah joined the Janata Dal (Secular) faction of Deve Gowda and was made the president of its state unit. In 2004, when Congress and JD(S) formed a coalition government with Dharam Singh as CM, Siddaramaiah was again appointed as deputy chief minister. Soon, differences cropped up between him and Gowda and Siddaramaiah was subsequently expelled from the party.
After quitting the JD(S), Siddaramaiah wanted to form a regional party “ABPJD”, but shelved the plan later. JD(S)’s loss became Congress’ gain as Siddaramaiah joined the Grand Old Party and registered a thumping victory in the 2006 by-polls in Chamundeshwari constituency despite aggressive campaigning by Deve Gowda. There was no looking back thereafter and in 2013, Siddaramaiah was made the leader of Congress legislative party in Karnataka. After leading the Congress to victory by achieving an absolute majority in the 2013 state elections, Siddaramaiah was made the 22nd chief minister of Karnataka.
Siddaramaiah is married to Parvathi and has a son: Yathindra, who is a doctor and contested from the Varuna constituency in the 2018 Assembly elections. His another son, Rakesh, who did a few film roles, died in July 2016 in Belgium due to multiple organ failure.