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Outlook.com

Shepherd Leads Backward Flock

The Congress CM is into subtle social engineering tactics to retain power

Shepherd Leads Backward Flock
Social Justice | Photograph by PTI
Shepherd Leads Backward Flock
outlookindia.com
2017-07-29T11:04:40+05:30

Just over three months ago, Karnataka’s ruling Congress won two byelections in the state when its chips were down elsewhere in the country. The results invited the characteristic drawl from chief minister Siddaramaiah. “Karnataka is not UP,” he said, the victory seemingly shoring up his confidence. Then, on July 21, as he took the centrestage at a conference in Bangalore on social justice, Siddaramaiah, had a word for critics who often labelled the four state budgets he presented so far as ‘Ahinda’. “I take it as a compliment,” the 68-year-old leader said about the Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits—the pol­itical plank he has claimed for himself for over a decade now.

Plenty has happened in between, especially that a beleaguered Congress appe­ars to rouse itself, unlike in many other states, for a stiff fight in Karnataka, where assembly elections are due in less than a year. Siddaramaiah, as some put it, is calling the tune at the moment. And, rattling the BJP while he is at it. Over the past fortnight, he has touched off the Kannada pride debate over a state flag. Then, he has hosted a large gathering of scholars and activists to commemorate Dr B.R. Ambedkar—the largest such assembly veteran social theorist Ashis Nandy says he’s seen in his lifetime—that appeared to be consolidating the two prominent Dalit secti­ons. Equally significantly, he has opened up the old faultline of Linga­yats—followers of a distinct Shaivite tradition—vis-a-vis their fitting into the Hindu fold.

To some, Siddaramaiah has taken a leaf out of the BJP’s book. Others say he has borrowed from his role model, late politician and two-time CM Devaraj Urs, but tweaked things a bit. “These are all very calculated moves...a kind of eyeball-to-eyeball...

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