The name of Doddalahalli Kempegowda Shivakumar is met with fear and awe in Karnataka in equal measure. The Congress’s master strategist, Vokkaliga strongman and former state Energy Minister will go down in history not only for engineering the loss of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the political thriller that followed the 2018 Karnataka verdict, but also for taking BJP National President Amit Shah head on and emerging victorious.
Tasked with keeping the flock together after the Assembly verdict revealed a fractured mandate, DK Shivakumar could even be seen smirking by the time two-day Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa said that he was stepping down. Shivakumar is credited with personally keeping the flock together, ferrying the MLAs to Hyderabad and back, and ensuring that the BJP didn't get through to the Congress-JD(S) combine.
However, this isn’t the first time he was tasked with the job. In 2002, when the then-Congress leader and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was staring at a no-confidence motion, Shivakumar, a trusted aide of SM Krishna and the then-Karnataka Urban Development Minister, hosted the Congress MLAs at the now-infamous Eagleton Resort, and escorted them to Mumbai on the day of the trust vote, ensuring that they cleared it.
Less than a year ago, DK Shivakumar successfully prevented the horse-trading of 44 Gujarat MLAs ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls. This, just a week after there were Income Tax raids on 64 locations connected to him in a tax evasion case.
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From his earliest days in Karnataka politics, Shivakumar has been an astute leader who has always played his cards well. When he filed his affidavit for the 2018 Assembly elections, he and his wife declared assets worth Rs 730 crore.
Born into an agricultural family, Shivakumar has been a member of the Congress since the beginning of his political career, after playing a leading role in the Youth Congress since his RC College days. He held the position of General Secretary of Karnataka State Youth Congress between 1983 and 1985. His first electoral success came when he was elected to the Zilla Panchayat in 1987.
At the age of 25, Shivakumar went up against seasoned politician HD Deve Gowda in Sathnur, where he lost by a slender margin. He contested again in the 1989 elections as an independent candidate and won. He became the youngest minister in the state just two years later, at the age of 30, where he served as a Minister of State under Chief Minister S Bangarappa from 1991 to 1992.
A seven-time MLA, Shivakumar was the campaign committee chairman – a post held by former Chief Ministers Siddaramaiah and SM Krishna earlier.
However, Shivakumar’s record is nowhere close to clean. He has been accused of illegal granite mining, encroachment of government land, tax evasion, Forest Act violations and corruption.
This record is said to be the reason former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah maintained his distance from Shivakumar when he came to power in 2013. The legislator from Kanakapura was then offered the Energy portfolio in 2014.
Even though Shivakumar has fought tooth and nail to install HD Kumaraswamy in the Chief Minister’s chair, there is no lost love between Shivakumar and the Gowdas. Both Vokkaligas, the battle has often been in Ramanagara district, the Vokkaliga heartland in Old Mysore. Shivakumar has gone head-to-head with former Prime Minister and veteran leader HD Deve Gowda in the past.
In the 2002 Lok Sabha bye-polls, Shivakumar lost to Deve Gowda. He then rose to fame during the 2004 Lok Sabha election, when he supported the candidature of newbie Tejaswini Sriramesh, a television journalist-turned-politician against Deve Gowda in Kanakapura. She went on to win by a landslide, and earned the reputation of being a giant killer. But it was Shivakumar, who was then the Urban Development Minister and Sathanur MLA – which was a part of the Kanakapura constituency – who earned the praise and trust of the Congress top brass by ‘discovering’ Tejaswini.
He is also credited for the seven JD(S) MLAs rebelling against their party supremo and cross-voting in the 2016 Rajya Sabha polls.
The 2018 elections
A man with strategic prowess, D K Shivakumar has proven his mettle time and again, and has made clear that he intends to sit in the Chief Minister’s chair someday. With Shivakumar eyeing the post of Deputy Chief Minister for now, one will only have to wait and watch for what the Congress’ Chanakya does next.