The Congress party in Karnataka got a jolt on Monday as senior party member and former Revenue minister Srinivas Prasad quit from the party.
Srinivas Prasad is the second senior member to snub the party in recent times, in August actor and politician Ambareesh had quit as legislator.
The two leaders had one man to blame- Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Srinivas Prasad who hails from Nanjangud in Mysore district was known to be Siddaramaiah’s close confidante and the two had come together years ago for the AHINDA movement. He lost his cabinet berth during the reshuffle in June. “The reshuffle was a perfect modern day example of Julius Ceaser’s assassination,” says Srinivas dramatically.
The 66-year-old leader in an exclusive interview with The News Minute, talks about why his relationship with Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah soured.
Excerpts from the interview:
What brought you close to Siddaramaiah? How did you both form a good working relationship?
We were good friends, were together in the JD(s) and then came to the Congress. We have come a long way. We started working closely when he left JD(S) and formed AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and dalits) or MOD (Muslims, OBCs and Dalits). His only aim in life was to become the chief minister and I understood that very early. However, I genuinely supported him because I wanted him to grow.
In fact, even as a leader in JD(S) I backed Siddaramaiah’s AHINDA during its formative stages. As a Kuruba leader he couldn’t have single-handedly wooed the Dalits without my support.
There was a point when he was not allowed to enter a scheduled caste village in Chamundeshwari constituency, when AHINDA was still in its formative stage. During the 2006 by-polls, 90% of votes from that village were for him. This was because of the support I gave him.
But now, Siddaramaiah remembers nothing.
But how did this rift happen?
First, this was planned by six Congress leaders- Digvijay Singh, KJ George, DK Shivakumar, G Parameshwara, Siddaramaiah and Mallikarjun Kharge. They misled the high command and got me removed.
Second, Insecurity. Siddaramaiah was afraid that I might gain over him if I remain a minister. I have been in a minister in the union cabinet and Siddaramaiah is still like a fish in the pond. He is parochial and his only aim was to become the chief minister.
After the cabinet reshuffle, you said Siddaramaiah had done a lot of damage to the party. Why did you make these allegations?
I don’t mind younger people taking over office but that has not been in my case. If it was about non-performing ministers then why retain someone like HC Mahadevappa, a PWD minister who is swindling money.
Revenue ministry is a big portfolio. During my tenure as the revenue minister I brought in various land policies, social security schemes like pension for widows, elderly and disabled people, and even common burial ground in villages etc. Agricultural minister Krishna Byre Gowda and I handled the 2015 drought very well, to the extent that even the party high command congratulated us.
However, even before the reshuffle there were signs and rumours against me. I tried to speak to Siddaramaiah but he never wanted to discuss and was not ready to hear a word against him. I am sure I was not a non-performing minister to just throw me away, I was rather a competition for Siddaramaiah.
The cabinet reshuffle has angered not just me but many people.
What are the problems that the Congress faces right now? What is needed to revitalise the party among the people and the party workers?
A lot of damage has already been done. Siddaramaiah must not be so parochial in his approach. He must look at the larger picture.
AHINDA is fake. Siddaramaiah has no support. He could be a mass leader for the Kuruba community, but AHINDA holds no value today and it will be difficult for it to re-emerge. Parameshwara, who is also a Dalit, has done nothing for the scheduled caste since he became the minister. In the last few years, atrocities on Dalits have only increased.
It is going to be difficult for the Congress to re-establish themselves among the minority communities during the 2018 elections.