Bengaluru: A self-confessed introvert and a public speaker who is learning on the hoof, the man they call “Doctre" is an unlikely entrant into the hurly burly of Karnataka politics. Still, he stands a good chance of winning his seat in the 12 May assembly elections.
That’s because Yathindra Siddaramaiah, a pathologist by profession, is the son of the Karnataka chief minister—one of several sons and daughters of politicians set to make their political debut next month.
The younger son of the Congress heavyweight, Yathindra was forced into politics by the untimely death of his brother Rakesh in July 2016.
These are large shoes to fill, and Yathindra has taken the task seriously.
“I have been touring Varuna constituency for the last one-and-a-half years and have visited every village at least twice or thrice," Yathindra said on the campaign trail.
Accompanied by two security guards and a personal secretary, he makes several stops, including three funerals and at least as many temple visits.
“These are all our workers and volunteers and if you don’t attend these personal tragedies, they may feel betrayed," he says.
Every time Yathindra enters the car, he slips into his own quiet world. “If my brother were alive, I wouldn’t have entered politics at all," he says of his older brother, who was Siddaramaiah’s political heir.
In mid-2016, Yathindra found himself in the middle of a “scandal" over allegations he was favoured in a tender given to set up labs at government hospitals where he was a director. A year later, the Anti-Corruption Bureau, an agency under the chief minister’s office, cleared his name.
Yathindra brushes aside media reports that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could field party chief B.S. Yeddyurappa’s second son against Yathindra. “We will win comfortably," Yathindra says.
He is brisk in his speech, unlike his father who has rustic appeal.
“Mundina aargoya mantirgalige jai (All hail the future health minister)," an enthusiastic supporter shouts to a mix of laughter and cheer. “I am definitely not as good as my father, but am trying," he says of his public speaking.
“It’s first time anyone has come here campaigning. They keep coming and asking for votes but none of them do anything for us," Kumar, a 38-year-old man, said.
A small scuffle breaks out between local Congress leaders and the villagers. “They (leaders) are not allowing us to tell him our problems. These people fear losing face," Shashikanta, a 56-year-old landless daily wage labourer says. Yathindra returns and assures voters he will look into all their concerns.
The two brother were always in the public eye. While Rakesh enjoyed the attention, Yathindra kept away from it—like the rest of his family, including his mother and two of Siddaramaiah’s brothers, who live very simple lives as farmers in Siddaramanahundi.
Though all of his political views were shaped by his father, Yathindra says his mother had a bigger influence on him. He shares how his “religious" mother insisted the two brothers take part in all rituals.
Yathindra says that he is more spiritual than religious and that he is influenced by Buddhist philosophy. “I think I have learned much by reading—rather than learning from some person," he says.
But though his mother has been asking him to get married, Yathindra says he hasn’t thought about it yet.