Bangalore: K Siddaramaiah, who joined Congress just seven years back, will take oath as the chief minister of Karnataka on Monday - the first "outsider" to do. It is a dream come true for this shepherd from the backward Kuruba caste who spent his childhood grazing his father's cattle at a remote village near Mysore.
"In a democracy, not every politician can dream about the chief minister's post. But I was hoping this opportunity may come," said Siddaramaiah. But Siddu, as he is called, has not forgotten his roots. "If I become the chief minister, it's like all of you become chief minister," he said.
Legend has it that Siddaramaiah first learnt the alphabet by writing on the sand. When villagers realised he had potential, they sent him to school from age 10. He went on to become his village's first graduate and lawyer.
Siddaramaiah entered politics in the late 1970s, funded by friends. While at the JDS, he was deputy chief minister twice but missed the chance to be the chief minister each time with his mentor Deve Gowda edging him out of the party to pave the way for his son, Kumaraswamy. Siddaramaiah perhaps reluctantly joined the Congress in 2006 - as there weren't too many options - but won over his MLAs and the high command with his reputation for honesty and his passionate battles against corruption as the opposition leader.
Siddaramaiah has presented seven budgets as finance minister before but he has his task cut out. "My first priority is to improve administration, which has totally collapsed. Law and order has to be improved and people should aspire for a clean and corruption free government," he said.
It has been a long journey since Siddaramaiah began his political career in 1978. Now, 35 years on, Karnataka's first shepherd chief minister is all set to lead his flock.