Bengaluru: If Saturday’s cabinet rejig has left one affable and mild mannered politician an angry man, it's veteran Congressman Ramalinga Reddy. In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, Mr Reddy for once did not shy away from naming senior leaders who had deprived him of what he had always coveted – a cabinet berth.
“According to my knowledge, seniors like me, Roshan Baig and H.K. Patil were not considered to give an opportunity to those who have not become ministers despite being elected to the state assembly a second or third term. Okay fine. If this is the yardstick, why has it been made applicable to only me, Mr Baig and Mr Patil? Why not Major Industries Minister K.J. George, Water Resources and Medical Education Minister D.K. Shivakumar, newly sworn-in minister M.B. Patil and Deputy Chief Minister Dr G. Parameshwar who have been ministers more than five times? I want to know why this special rule is imposed on us and not on others,” said the former minister, baring his anguish on being left out.
And who does he blame for this injustice? Was it because the Reddy quota was already taken over by another Reddy – Shivshankar Reddy – leaving him with no slot? “Community is definitely not the reason I was left out. My observation is that under the garb of giving representation to North Karnataka Congress legislators, the party has given the ministerial berths to those who had threatened to join the BJP.''
He also suspects that the “lies” conveyed by Deputy CM Parameshwar and RDPR Minister Krishna Byre Gowda to those who matter did him in and spoilt his prospects.
Question and Answer with Ramalinga Reddy veteran Cong MLA.
Why ‘berths for new faces only’ not applicable to Dr G, DKS, KJ?
The cabinet expansion done to fill up the vacant berths in the Congress quota has caused severe heartburn among senior party leaders. One among the upset leaders is former minister and BTM layout MLA R Ramalinga Reddy who wields huge influence in Bengaluru assembly constituencies. He spoke frankly with Deccan Chronicle and said a few leaders who are unable to stomach his growing popularity in state politics, are trying to sideline him. But it’s not possible as long as people are with him. His daughter and Jayanagar MLA Sowmya Reddy refused to accept the post of parliamentary secretary saying that veteran Congress leaders, including her father, have been ignored by the party high command. Here are excerpts from an interview with Ramalinga Reddy.
Why were you denied a berth in the Congress-JDS coalition government?
The reason for this is simple. According to my knowledge, seniors like me, R Roshan Baig and H.K. Patil were not considered to give opportunity to those who have not become ministers despite being elected to the State assembly a second or third term. Ok fine. If this is the yardstick, why has it been made applicable to only me, Mr Baig and Mr Patil? Why not Major Industries Minister K.J. George, Water Resources and Medical Education Minister D.K. Shivakumar, newly sworn-in minister M.B. Patil and Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwar, who have been ministers for more than five times? I want to know why this special rule is used on us and not on others. This point has not been brought to the notice of the Congress high command and All India Congress Committee President Rahul Gandhi. I know quite well that both Dr Parameshwar and Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Krishna Byre Gowda have spoken lies on us. I don’t have a personal grudge against them as they are ‘experienced’ and it’s a ‘honour’ to have them in the council of ministers.
Your leaders say that Mr Shivashankar Reddy has been made a Cabinet minister under the Reddy quota. So, they haven’t considered your name. Your comments?
What sort of logic is this? Mr Shivashankar Reddy was elected from Chikkaballapura district and made a minister to give representation to that district. If caste had been considered, how come KPCC President Dinesh Gundurao, revenue minister R.V. Deshpande and Legislative Assembly Speaker K. R. Ramesh Kumar, who are all Brahmins, in top posts? How are Health and Family Welfare Minister Shivananda Patil and Mr M.B. Patil who are both Lingayats, in the Cabinet? Let state Congress leaders have the heart to admit discrimination has been done to me. It is being done systematically to sideline and push me into a corner in state politics.
Were you promised a minister post before the recent cabinet expansion?
In my 40-year political career, I have never begged anyone to make me a minister. I did not lobby when the coalition government came to power this year. I have never asked anyone for a minister’s post and I will not do this in future too.
Has the Congress neglected senior leaders in the recent cabinet expansion?
Not all of them but some of them have been definitely neglected or sidelined. Apart from this, I cannot say anything.
Is it true that seniors like you have been given a raw deal in a bid to give more representation to north-Karnataka region keeping in view the coming Lok Sabha polls?
I would have definitely kept quiet if it was the real intention. It’s true that North Karnataka region has been neglected and it should be given a big chunk. But my observation is that under the garb of giving representation to North Karnataka Congress legislators, the party has given the minister posts to those who had threatened to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. The state leaders have identified such legislators and appeased them. It’s purely appeasement politics by some of our party leaders.
Why are your party leaders against you?
I know very well that a few leaders are conspiring against me to keep me out of Bengaluru politics. All sorts of baseless allegations are being hurled at me to portray me badly before the high command.
A lot of Congress councillors in BBMP are protesting against the Congress for denying you a berth in the state cabinet. Will you continue to take an active role in strengthening the relationship between Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) in the BBMP?
I am indebted to all my friends (followers) for reposing faith in me. I have already appealed to them not to hold any rally or dharna against the Congress. It's true that they are very sad that I was not made minister.
Having being denied the cabinet berth, will you campaign for the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha polls?
I have complaints against a few individuals and not against the Congress which has given me everything. I will definitely work to ensure a majority for the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
According to you, what played the most important role during the cabinet expansion- was it money or caste?
I totally rule out money in the selection of ministers. Seniority has been totally neglected and there was partiality in this exercise. It is nothing but a pick and choose method adopted to select MLAs for minister posts.