Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised the Congress government for allegedly betraying Dalits by choosing Siddaramaiah over veteran Dalit leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
Speaking at a rally in Ballari on Thursday, PM Modi said, "Congress asked for votes in his name, promising a Dalit will be made Chief Minister but then made this guy (Siddaramaiah) CM. They have betrayed Dalits."
He further said that the BJP appointed Abdul Kalam, a Muslim, as President of India and also pointed out that the current President Ramnath Kovind is a Dalit. "To all our haters who said that BJP was a Baniya Brahmin party, we made a Dalit the President and we made a OBC, a chai waala the Prime Minister," he said.
Mallikarjuna Kharge is currently the MLA of Kalaburgi constituency and has previously been Minister of Railways and Minister of Labour and Employment in the central government.
The question of a Dalit Chief Minister or a Deputy Chief Minister for the state had cropped up from time to time. In November 2017, Janata Dal (Secular) supremo HD Kumaraswamy promised that the party would appoint a Dalit Deputy Chief Minister if it came to power.
There is also talk within the BJP that Dalit leader B Sriramulu is a dark horse for the post of Deputy Chief Minister.
In 2011, the central government initiated the Socio-Economic Caste Survey that covered the entire country. It put the number of Dalits in the state at 1.08 crore, a significant 18% of the state population.
All the three major parties in the state – ruling Congress, BJP and Janata Dal (S) – have been trying to woo Dalit voters ahead of the May 12 election.
Modi questions Congress over lack of mining policy
PM Modi also trained his guns on CM Siddaramaiah for not formulating a comprehensive mining policy during his time in charge.
“Karnataka in the last 5 years was not able to make a comprehensive Mining Policy in spite of doing Padayatra from Bengaluru to Bellary,” he said at the rally in Ballari.
Siddaramaiah replied immediately on Twitter and asked why the PM was blaming the state government when mining policy was being decided by the centre.
In 2010, Siddaramaiah had famously led a ‘padayatra’ from Bengaluru to Ballari against mining baron and BJP Minister Gali Janardhana Reddy who is the prime accused in the 2011 Ballari Mining Scam.
While Janardhana Reddy’s imprint was nowhere to be seen when Modi visited Ballari, he is still involved with the BJP and is working out of a rented house in Hanagal on the border of Chitradurga and Ballari. He is campaigning for B Sriramulu, BJP’s candidate from Molakalmuru as he is banned from entering Ballari, the heart of his mining empire.
Modi, who is on a whirlwind tour of Karnataka in a late push to sway votes ahead of elections, also spoke at rallies in Kalaburgi in North Karnataka and Kengeri in Bengaluru on Thursday.