Southern statesmen: Siddaramaiah and MK Stalin look to go beyond their states, Lok Sabha polls in mind

While Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin has a multi-lingual podcast, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah is set to venture into multi-platform outreach initiatives.

ByAnusha Ravi Sood

Published Jan 12, 2024 | 11:00 AMUpdatedJan 12, 2024 | 11:00 AM

File photos of Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah and Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin.

In August last year, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin announced a multi-lingual podcast series named Speaking for India.

Deeming it a “voice from the South”, Stalin made the intent of his initiative very clear — a platform to “expose” how the Narendra Modi-led Union government was destroying the country and how the Dravidian major wanted the country to be built.

So far, there have been only three episodes in five languages — Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam — of the podcast. The last episode of the podcast was aired on 31 October, 2023.

Southern statesman

Within two months of the launch of Stalin’s podcast, a handle on X — Southern Statesman — with a logo designed with a photo of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, went live.

The X, formerly Twitter, handle was one among the several social media accounts across platforms — meme pages, campaign accounts, mass messaging groups — that were launched right after the results of the Karnataka Assembly elections and Siddaramaiah’s elevation to the chief minister’s post for the second time.

Also Read: What Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin’s ‘more than a podcast’ is about

While MK Stalin’s podcast is his personal but official initiative, several multi-platform campaigns highlighting the life and work of Siddaramaiah have been set up by people close to him, but not without his consent and approval.

The intent of both initiatives, however, are the same — to project the two Southern chief ministers as thought-leaders beyond the geographical boundaries of their respective states, as harbingers of progress and development under their respective regimes.

“The purpose of the X handle, ‘Southern Statesman’ is to showcase statements, policy decisions, governance models, ideological stance of Siddaramaiah to the rest of the country ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” a close aide of Siddaramaiah, who was part of his official team during his first tenure as chief minister, told South First.

These pages focus on amplifying Siddaramaiah’s statements on issues, especially federalism, models of governance, and ideological commitments.

“The idea is to highlight Siddaramaiah’s Karnataka model of governance as an example for others to emulate across the country while highlighting Modi government’s failures — a comparison of their model versus our model,” the close aide of the chief minister said, making it clear that the Congress intends to stress on the “success of the Karnataka model of governance” and its guarantees in its 2024 Lok Sabha poll rallies.

“We plan on expanding operations to include short video snippets, data charts, podcasts featuring Siddaramaiah talking about his life, politics and plans for people,” a senior advisor leading the team of professionals running these pages told South First.

The point of these pages seems to be to counter what the Congress deems as the “WhatsApp university” (misleading content, misinformation, and fake news) network of the BJP in the run-up to 2024 Lok Sabha polls, while projecting Siddaramaiah as a leader for others to emulate.

Also Read: BJP stokes fire of religious sentiments and basks in its warmth, says MK Stalin in maiden podcast

Stalin’s strength

The idea is similar to what Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin hopes to achieve through his podcast series. The role that DMK envisions for Stalin, however, is bigger than what Siddaramaiah’s team envisions for him.

“In the INDIA bloc (Opposition’s alliance), Stalin is the only leader capable of bringing other strong regional players together. He is also the Congress’ strongest ally. His personal relationship with [Delhi Chief Minister] Arvind Kejriwal or [West Bengal Chief Minister] Mamata Banerjee, [the CPI(M)’s] Sitaram Yechury or [Shiv Sena-UBT’s] Uddhav Thackeray, and his non-threatening presence makes talks easier,” an office-bearer of the DMK pointed out.

Even before the podcast series, Stalin — through his party, the DMK — led the All India Federation for Social Justice (AIFSoJ) initiative to bring like-minded parties, groups, and activists together for a common cause.

Incidentally, social justice has become the Congress’, and by extension its alliance bloc INDIA’s, poll pitch for Lok Sabha 2024.

Congress senior leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi’s second leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra aka Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, too, is centred around the theme of social and economic justice. The first leg of the Bharat Jodo Yatra — flagged off incidentally by MK Stalin from Kanniyakumari in Seotember 2022 — was centred around communal harmony.

Both chief ministers — Stalin and Siddaramaiah — through their initiatives, are looking to set the tone for other regional satraps to follow, to come across as leaders unafraid to take on the BJP, led by Narendra Modi, aiming to raise their stature beyond their respective states.