Journalists should not insult politicians by constantly asking about a Dalit chief minister for Karnataka, Mallikarjun Kharge has said.
In an interview with Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka, Kharge discussed his views on the performance of the state government, and also stated at length, his position on the question of a Dalit chief minister for Karnataka.
Kharge is one of Karnataka’s most respected political figures, not just among politicians, but also in the public. He is also one of the few Dalit politicians to rise to his stature in the state. Elected to the Lok Sabha from Gulbarga, Kharge told Vijaya Karnataka:
“Please don’t ask me about a Dalit CM, I don’t wish to talk about it. You journalists constantly ask us about Dalit CM, don’t insult us (by asking this). There is only one CM for a state. The Constitution doesn’t say there is a Dalit CM, Vokkaliga CM, Lingayat CM, a Kuruba CM. This question is inappropriate.”
When the journalist prodded him further, he said that such demands only brought a bad name to the party, and the state government. While some people were doing this because they believed it would please him, other people would simply think Dalit leaders were behind this.
The question of a Dalit chief minister or deputy chief minister for the state has cropped up from time to time.
In February this year, several Dalit groups from Siddaramaiah’s home district Mysuru had held a meeting and resolved to urge the Congress to appoint a Dalit chief minister. Although the demand appeared to have no political backing, it was widely perceived to have been orchestrated by Parameshwara in order to have the upper hand over Siddaramaiah. The two have been locked in a power struggle since Siddaramaiah was appointed chief minister.
In March, the demand had changed slightly, other groups wanted a Dalit deputy chief minister. Again, the candidate they had in mind was Parameshwara.
To a question on whether it was wrong for someone from the Dalit community to be made the CM when the community has always stood behind the party, Kharge said that he did not think that the Congress had made him railway or labour minister because he was a Dalit.
“Assess us too on par with leaders of other castes, in my opinion we should opportunities on the basis of seniority, experience and capabilities and not under any quota. I have already said in the past that if I am made CM because I am a Dalit, then I do not want the post.”
He added that in his 45-year political career, he had “never thought of anything but the good of the party. That is why I will never think about such things.”