In a show of strength in support of former Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar who is currently in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate, members of the Vokkaliga community backed by Congress held a massive protest against the BJP in Bengaluru on Wednesday. The protests saw heavyweight Congress leaders like Dinesh Gundu Rao, Krishna Byre Gowda and Ramalinga Reddy taking part.
Vokkaligas are a dominant community in Karnataka most prevalent in the southern part of the state especially the Old Mysore region from where Shivakumar hails. DK Shivakumar hails from this community. While the Congress and JD(S) is thought to enjoy their patronage, the BJP is yet to make strong connections with the community. Instead, BJP is perceived to be favoured by the other dominant caste in Karnataka, the Lingayats.
Ahead of Wednesday’s protests, DK Shivakumar in a tweet had thanked his supporters for the protest and asserted that he will come out clean.
Carrying photos of DK Shivakumar, hundreds of supporters shouted slogans against the BJP crying “vendetta politics”. Crying chants in favour of their leader, they called for “justice”.
K Mallaiah, ex-vice president of Vokkaliga Sangha said, “This is a clear case of misuse of power and political vendetta. He was seen as a threat to the BJP that is why he was being targetted by the probe agencies. He was the target since he helped the election of Ahmed Patel to the Rajya Sabha.”
Various smaller rallies of protestors from different parts of the city and nearby districts joined the march led by Congress top leadership from National College Grounds to Freedom Park, triggering massive traffic jams in many parts of the city. Key areas leading to the central business district of the IT capital like National College, PMK Road, Vani Vilas, JC Road, Town Hall, Mysore Bank Circle, Kalidasa Road, Freedom Park, and surrounding areas were severely affected.
Addressing reporters, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president Dinesh Gundu Rao who took part in the protests, said, “Members of the Vokkaliga community, their leaders and other Kannada organisations have come together today to protest against the central government. They are expressing their anger. Today’s protest is not called by any political party.”
He claimed that even BJP supporters were present today to protest against the alleged misuse of central probe agencies for political purposes.
He even implied that SM Krishna, a former Congress CM and Union Minister from the Vokkaliga community, had to join the BJP due to the Centre’s misuse of the Income Tax Department against his son-in-law and CCD founder VG Siddhartha. Incidentally, Shivakumar is seen as SM Krishna's prodigy.
“Last three years, the government has been raiding people, threatening people. What was the reason behind SM Krishna joining BJP? Now we know how VG Siddharth was being harassed by I-T officials. It is there in his (suicide) note. Operation Kamala was going in broad daylight to topple the Kumaraswamy government. Hundreds of crores were being offered. We have written to the I-T Department and asked ‘please take action’. But nobody was touched. Just because of some Karnataka MLAs staying in some resorts, the I-T Department raided us. But when BJP MLAs are kept in hotels in Haryana or when our MLAs are kept in Mumbai, why does the I-T department not take action then?” the KPCC president asked.
“Agencies are being used to raid and humiliate opposition party leaders. Political vendetta and things like this won’t work. Today country is being run in an undemocratic way and democracy is in danger,” he added.
He said, "I wholehartedly thank leaders, supporters, well-wishers and friends who have organised a massive protest in my support tomorrow in Bengaluru. I humbly request that the protest be peaceful and doesn't cause any inconvenience to citizens. Please ensure the public property isn't harmed."
He added, “I would like to reiterate that I have done nothing wrong and am a target of vendetta politics. With the support and blessings that I am receiving from all of you and my belief in God and our judiciary, I have full faith that I will emerge victorious both legally and politically."