The one-upmanship in the State Congress between Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and KPCC President G Parameshwara was evident at a party function on Monday with the latter lashing out at two ministers close to the former for leaving the event midway.
The event was a huge convention of Scheduled Castes organised by KPCC SC department at the Palace Grounds in Bangalore. Public Works Minister H C Mahadevappa and Revenue Minister V Srinivasa Prasad left the event soon after they addressed the gathering. Railway Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge also left after his speech but he had a press conference to address in Yelahanka.
When it came to Parameshwara’s turn to speak, he took exception to those who had left the event midway but did not take any names. “This is an important event. I did not like ministers leaving the dais. If they are very busy let them not attend our functions at all. They can stay away,” Parameshwara thundered.
He wondered what could be expected of ministers who could not spare two hours to listen to the grievances of dalits. “We have not come here to listen to your speeches. We want you to address our grievances,” Parameshwara said.
The meet also witnessed Parameshwara and Kharge present divergent views of the rights of dalits. Kharge in his speech had said that the government should take steps to provide reservation for dalits on basis of their population.
Parameshwara had a different point of view. He said dalits had become vote bank. “They want our votes and enjoy power. We do not want reservation but want social empowerment. We ask them to make us ministers and they talk about left and right (the two sub-sects among SCs),” he said. Political circles have been rife with speculation that Parameshwara has been lobbying hard with the party central leadership for the post of deputy chief minister (DCM). Soon a section in the crowd raised slogans, “We want DCM,” but Parameshwara asked them to calm down.
The KPCC chief said he would also strive towards reservations for SC/STs in the private sector. Dalits, who fulfil eligibility norms should be given an opportunity to become vice-chancellors, he said apparently referring to Prof Gomati Devi being denied the post of Davangere VC recently.
In his address, Siddaramaiah, tried to defend his ministers, both considered close to him, stating they might have left the function as they might have had important work. “Even I had work, but was compelled to stay back as I am supposed to speak last,” he said.
Siddaramaiah alleged that the policies of the BJP clearly indicated that the party was against reservation. “If there was no constitutional obligation for social justice, the BJP would not have extended reservation benefits at all,” he said.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the state government would consider the demand that the reservation for SC/STs should be based on their population. “We will take it up actively, consult constitutional experts and see what can be done about it,” he said.
Earlier, Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said the State should switch to reservations for SC/STs based on their population. The present reservation for SC/STs is 18 per cent while their population is 22 pc.