The state Congress, which is still recovering from the blow it was dealt with during the Lok Sabha elections, was embarrassed yet again when former minister and senior Congress leader, Ramalinga Reddy lashed out at the party recently for sidelining seniors like him and demanded to know the rationale for inducting other members into the Council of Ministers. He did not make any attempt to hold back either on his disenchantment with the party in a chat with Shyam Sundar Vattam.
Why are you upset?
After the 2018 Assembly polls, a coalition government came to power as the people gave a fractured verdict. In the first expansion, all senior Congress legislators, including I, had expected to be inducted into the Cabinet. But that didn't happen. We were not considered efficient although I have been associated with the Congress since 1973 and my performance as home minister was good. Even during the second expansion, many seniors were left out without explanation. I have never lobbied for a ministership. It was only on the basis of my abilities that I served as minister in the Veerappa Moily , S M Krishna and Siddaramaiah governments. But now I feel that some leaders are trying to sideline seniors in the name of infusing young blood into the party. I am not someone to take injustice quietly. I say what I feel without hesitation.
What is the rationale you are questioning for inducting ministers?
My question is simple and straight. I have no objection if the party wants to induct youngters into the Council of Ministers. But in the name of encouraging young netas, they have kept me and H K Patil out of the cabinet and inducted seniors like D K Shivakumar, Dr G Parameshwar, R V Deshpande and K J George. What they have done is just pick and choose. When I questioned them, they told me that Mr Shivashankara Reddy had been made a minister in the Reddy community quota and it was not possible to make another Reddy a minister. But all four Brahmins elected have been given posts. K R Ramesh Kumar is the Speaker, R V Deshpande is revenue minister, Dinesh Gundu Rao is KPCC president and another person is chairman of a corporation. Besides, Dr G Parameshwar, who has absolutely no connection with Bengaluru, has been made Bengaluru City Development Minister and Krishna Byre Gowda, who hails from Kolar, has been made RDPR minister. When I spoke of this injustice, AICC general secretary, K R Venugopal, promised me a Cabinet berth after the Lok Sabha polls.
Are you angry that newcomers are being given plum posts?
I am not angry, but annoyed. Chamarajapet MLA, Zameer Ahmed Khan, who was in the JD(S) till the 2018 Assembly poll , has become a minister due to the blessings of those who brought him to the Congress. I feel disgusted to see juniors and sub-juniors being made ministers at the cost of the dedicated seniors. I have learnt that two independent MLAs, who were till recently with the BJP, are now being made ministers. I am stunned at where the Congress party is heading. The so-called senior leaders have built coteries around them and only listen to their psycophants.
Who do you think is responsible for the neglect of the party's senior leaders?
Who else? It is CLP leader, Siddaramaiah, KPCC president, Dinesh Gundurao and AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal.
Are you saying these party leaders are biased?
It goes without saying. They talk of quota if it comes to me. But two Lingayats from one district are in the Cabinet, three out of four Brahmins are in top posts and a good number of ministers are Vokkaligas. If the party really wanted to accommodate new faces, why were Dr Parameshwar, Deshpande, and Shivakumar inducted? Let them resign. My request is that the rationale has to be the same for all. Dr Parameshwar begged senior leaders to become a minister, but I am not going to do it as I have self-respect. What can an MLA from Koratagere in Tumakuru do to help Bengaluru?
Do you want the party high command to address the seniors' grievances?
Naturally. I don't have any personal interest in raking up such issues. My only objection is to the discrimination. I am not in the least interested in becoming a minister.
In your opinion have Mr Siddaramaiah and Mr Dinesh Gundu Rao failed in discharging their duties?
I don't want to say they have failed, but they are building a coterie and keeping others at bay. Mr Siddaramaiah is CLP leader for all Congress legislators and not for a few MLAs. Similarly, Mr Dinesh is party president and his duty is to protect the interests of one and all. Building a coterie is not healthy in a democracy.
Are you speaking out because you want to join the BJP?
Not at all. No one from the BJP has contacted me. But our party leaders are pushing us out by trampling on the seniors.