Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President DK Shivakumar said on Friday that he would always be looked upon as a Congressman, and not a caste leader.
Speaking to reporters here, Shivakumar said that he is a Vokkaliga because he was born to Vokkaliga parents.
"No doubt I am proud of my caste Vokkaliga. But that doesn't mean that I would indulge in caste or religion-based politics. Being a Congress member and KPCC President, I have only one caste and that is Congress. Why should I speak about other castes," he shot back at his rivals and JD(S) leader HD Kumarswamy, who is also a Vokkaliga.
He said that there is no politics involved in attracting people into the party fold and all these things generally happen during every election.
"In every election, our rivals BJP and JD(S) do the same by visiting our party leaders and we also do it, which is just fair and square. Why should anyone be worried about it," he asked.
Categorically ruling out any race between him and Kumaraswamy for the Vokkaliga leadership, a dominant community in the south Karnataka region to which both leaders belong, Shivakumar said that he has never indulged in caste politics and for him Congress is his only caste.
On Thursday, Kumaraswamy had alleged that the Congress, which lacks a worker base in Rajarajeshwari Nagar (RR Nagar) Assembly constituency, was trying to lure his party workers ahead of the by-elections.
RR Nagar, along with the Sira Assembly segment in Tumakuru, will go to bypolls on November 3.
With both seats having considerable presence of the Vokkaliga community, winning them is crucial for both the leaders to consolidate their position in the community.
With the community seen as a strong vote base of JD(S), Kumaraswamy is looking at keeping it intact. Shivakumar, who is the top leader in the Congress from the community, is looking at consolidating his position within the party by winning the bypolls.
Winning RR Nagar is even more crucial for him as it comes under the Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency, represented by his brother DK Suresh.
In this constituency, Congress has pitted political greenhorn Kusuma H against battle hardened N Munirathna of the BJP.
In Sira, Congress has fielded party veteran and former minister T.B. Jayachandra against Ammajamma of the JD(S), the widow of late party MLA Sathyanarayana, and Rajesh Gowda of the BJP.
The Sira by-elections were necessitated following the death of JD(S) legislator B. Sathyanarayana in August, while the RR Nagar seat fell vacant after the disqualification of Congress MLA N. Munirathna under the anti-defection law last year.