Siddaramaiah, BK Hariprasad, Karnataka, Congress
Veteran Congress leader BK Hariprasad (right), who is close to Karnataka party president DK Shivakumar, has become a critic of chief minister Siddaramaiah (left). File photo

Karnataka: Disgruntled Congress leader Hariprasad targets CM Siddaramaiah

The development is embarrassing and worrying for the Congress although it is widely known that Hariprasad’s anger stems primarily from Siddaramaiah’s decision not to make him a minister.

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At age 68, BK Hariprasad remains a force in Karnataka having served the Congress loyally for decades. But he has now become a very vocal rebel, all his anger directed at Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

The development is embarrassing and worrying for the Congress although it is widely known that Hariprasad’s anger stems primarily from Siddaramaiah’s decision not to make him a minister.

Now a member of the Legislative Council in Karnataka, he has been a Rajya Sabha member for as many as four terms, stretching to 18 long years. He has also been in the inner circle of Congress leaders from the time of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi now.

On September 14, a reluctant Congress issued a notice to Hariprasad over his anti-party conduct but the man is in no mood to call off his tirade against Siddaramaiah.

Caste support

Hariprasad, who hails from Mangaluru but was born and raised in Bengaluru, has now started rallying his backward Ediga caste in a show of strength.

At a rally of his community members, a BJP leader from the same community attended. There too Hariprasad, popularly called BKH, made umpteen allegations against Siddaramaiah, who played a key role in leading the Congress to victory in May.

This is what prompted the Congress to issue the notice to the party veteran.

There was a time when Hariprasad was closed to former chief minister R Gundu Rao

He supported Gundu Rao's infamous statement – "Throw the journalists into the Arabian Sea" – and, in response to the former’s attack on free media, locked the gate of a newspaper office in Bengaluru.

But once Hariprasad catapulted to national politics, there was a distinct change in his personality. “He has a rare worldview of national politics as well as intellectual vigour,” senior political commentator C Rudrappa told The Federal.

Siddaramaiah factor

Unlike most others in the Congress today, Hariprasad has never been close to Siddaramaiah, having kept a distance from the former Janata Dal (Secular) leader right from 2013. After the Congress stormed to power in May this year, Hariprasad did not hesitate to stand by party leader DK Shivakumar amid a keen internal tussle to grab the chief minister’s post.

Others in the Congress say that Hariprasad has always been a dissident.

Even when Devaraj Urs, S Bangarappa and M Veerappa Moily were the chief ministers of Karnataka from the Congress, he was counted as a mentor of the dissidents from the state in Delhi.

Precisely because the chief minister ignored Hariprasad when he came to selecting ministers, Shivakumar included Hariprasad in his inner circle when he was named the president of the Karnataka Congress.

Communal politics

Like Siddaramaiah, Hariprasad has also been a fierce critic of the Sangh Parivar and its communal politics. Although he worked for the Congress in states like Punjab, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, the long stint in the Rajya Sabha kept him largely away from active Karnataka politics.

Now, he has started to flaunt his caste roots and is taking part in meetings of the Ediga, Billava and Deevaru communities in Mangalore.

At one such meeting, he gloated: "I know how to make a CM, I know how to keep him down. I do not beg from anyone. Whether I will become a minister or not is another matter. I have played a crucial role in making five chief ministers."

He has since repeated this several times, even going to the extent of suggesting that the chief minister had covert RSS connections and so he cannot be a socialist.

Siddaramaiah has kept him away as Hariprasad seems a competitor from a backward community. Nor did he give him a ministerial post. All this has upset Hariprasad.

When the Federal spoke to Hariprasad, he said a huge convention of backward classes and other communities will be held soon but refused to comment on political developments. A senior Congress leader said that Shivakumar, the other pole in the Karnataka Congress, is said to be trying to support Hariprasad to create his own support base within the party.

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