It’s a political turf war in Bengaluru Rural this time around where former friends are fighting against each other. Considered a fortress of the Congress once upon a time, the segment has always remained a bone of contention between the Congress and JD(S) since the mid-1990s. The area was once again regained by the Congress when Congress strategist and incumbent Water Resource Minister DK Shivakumar broke the JD(S)’ might in the area in 2004.
Ever since, the Bengaluru Rural segment has witnessed intense battles between the Congress and JD(S). With the two arch rivals teaming up for the 2019 elections, the battle is now between the BJP and the Congress-JD(S) alliance.
Sources in the BJP say that strongman from Channapattana, CP Yogeshwar, a former ally of DK Shivakumar, is likely to field his daughter Nisha Yogeshwar as the party’s candidate from the Bengaluru Rural segment.
Nisha will be up against DK Suresh, incumbent Bengaluru Rural MP and brother of DK Shivakumar.
For over 20 years, the DK brothers Shivakumar and Suresh have ruled the roost in Bengaluru Rural. Shivakumar is extensively involved in state politics with the aspiration of becoming the Chief Minister someday, and DK Suresh has taken on the task of winning the Lok Sabha polls for the Congress party.
In order to understand how and why the two friends – Shivakumar and Yogeshwar – turned foes, one needs to look back into the politics of Kanakapura and Ramanagara.
The battle that was
Before the delimitation in 2008, the Bengaluru Rural constituency was known as the Kanakapura segment. Since the Lok Sabha elections in 1989, the Kanakapura segment was considered a stronghold of the Congress party. A veteran Congress leader from the Mandya region, the late MV Chandrashekar Murthy had set up his turf in Kanakapura, when he won from the segment in 1989.
In the subsequent 1991 election too, Chandrashekar Murthy – the Vokkaliga face for the Congress in the region – won the elections. To the party’s dismay, Chandrashekar Murthy was defeated by JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy in the 1996 Parliamentary election. Considered an impenetrable fortress of the Congress, the defeat came as a shock to many in the Congress. Deve Gowda – considered the arch rival of the Congress – had managed to defeat the party in its own area of strength.
Thus, began the turf war between the Congress and JD(S) in Kanakapura with both parties ready to go to any extent to win the subsequent elections. This proved fatal to both parties in 1998 when the turf war resulted in a shift in votes to the BJP. Unhappy with Chandrashekar Murthy’s performance, the Congress had offered the 1998 Kanakapura ticket to Premchandra Sagar, a local leader. With Murthy plotting against his own party, the BJP ultimately emerged as the winner. The party’s M Srinivas, with a negligible presence in the state in 1998, managed to wrest the seat from Premchand.
In November 2001, Chandrashekar Murthy passed away and the Kanakapura segment was now up for grabs. “This is where DK Shivakumar and CP Yogeshwar come in. The area has a strong Vokkaliga population and at the time, the party’s Vokkaliga face was SM Krishna. SM Krishna, who was the CM at the time deployed his right-hand man (in 2001) DK Shivakumar to wrest the seat and never allow the JD(S) to gain ground,” a Congress leader said.
In the 2004 Parliamentary election, DK Shivakumar gained the help of the then-MLA of Channapattana – CP Yogeshwar (who was with Samajwadi Party then) along with the BJP and decided to defeat Deve Gowda, who was contesting from the Kanakapura segment.
“DK Shivakumar played the Deve Gowda family well. He used the one ploy, which he knew would bring down their morale. He played the astrology card. Within days of Deve Gowda announcing his candidature, DK Shivakumar began spreading the word in Kanakapura that Deve Gowda’s astrologer had told DK Shivakumar that the JD(S) would lose if a woman were to contest against Gowda,” the Congress leader said.
DK Shivakumar then installed a rookie to politics, Tejaswini Gowda, as the Congress’ candidate from Kanakapura. “This may sound a little unbelievable. But the electorate in the area is extremely superstitious. In addition, every member of Deve Gowda’s family is also very superstitious and they never do anything important unless approved by the family astrologer. This was a major blow to their morale. Besides, DK Shivakumar had also done the leg work and managed to bring together Yogeshwar and the BJP to ensure Tejaswini’s victory. Essentially, it was a proxy war between Shivakumar and Deve Gowda,” the Congress leader added.
In an intense battle, Tejaswini Gowda emerged as the giant slayer and came to be known as the only candidate Deve Gowda has ever lost an election to. Thus, began a new friendship – one between DK Shivakumar and CP Yogeshwar, who have managed to win the subsequent elections from Bengaluru Rural by working together. However, as an aspirant for the Congress ticket in Channapattana during the 2018 Assembly elections, CP Yogeshwar was snubbed by DK Shivakumar.
“They were very close at one point. But both Shivakumar and Yogeshwar are of the same make. They are not ones who want to be told what to do. This marked the break of a friendship. Yogeshwar wanted to grow up the party’s ranks and Shivakumar would not let him,” the Congress leader added.
In the 2018 Assembly elections, CP Yogeshwar contested from Channapattana as a BJP candidate and lost to HD Kumaraswamy, who was supported by DK Shivakumar. Shivakumar’s sudden shift in allegiance, insiders say, was because he felt a deep sense of betrayal by Yogeshwar.
With friends turning foes, the two leaders are now gearing up to fight for the Bengaluru Rural segment. Yogeshwar has recommended that the BJP high command pick his daughter Nisha Yogeshwar as the party’s candidate. The Congress is fielding DK Shivakumar’s brother, DK Suresh.
“It is not only about fighting his enemy but also retaining his fortress. A defeat for the Congress in Bengaluru Rural would mean a direct hit to DK Shivakumar. The BJP only wants to break into this bastion, especially since DK Shivakumar has delivered several losses for the BJP, especially during the 2018 bye-polls in Ballari,” a BJP source added.