D.K. Shivakumar | ‘Rock of Kanakapura’ all set to begin new innings

Mr. Shivakumar, known as the Congress party’s trouble shooter in has played a vital role in its magnificent victory across all regions .

May 18, 2023 03:40 pm | Updated May 19, 2023 12:44 pm IST - Bengaluru

KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar

KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar

After four-days of hectic parleys in the national capital, the eight-time MLA and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president D.K. Shivakumar, has reluctantly accepted the post of the Deputy Chief Minister, at the instance of former AICC president Sonia Gandhi. He will also continue as the president of the KPCC until the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Mr Shivakumar — who celebrated his 62nd birthday on Monday — led the party from the front in Karnataka since he assumed office in July 2020 and is seen as a key person in the magnificent victory of the party with 135 seats. Aided by a team of poll experts, he launched a sustained campaign against the Basavaraj Bommai-led “40% Sarakara‘‘ of the BJP while highlighting the five pre-poll guarantees of the Congress.

It is believed that the Vokkaliga community, to which Mr. Shivakumar belongs, rallied around him, thereby resulting in the poor show of the JD(S) in the Old Mysuru region as well as the election of a huge chunk of MLAs from the community.

The image of a ‘rock’

Mr. Shivakumar is often referred to as “Kanakapura Bande” (rock of Kanakapura) in sections of the media for his adamant, never-say-die attitude and for not being cowed down by central probing agencies such as the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate. Back in 2019, after he secured bail and walked out of Delhi’s Tihar Jail after spending 50 days there, Mr. Shivakumar was brought in an open car in a procession from the airport, in an attempt to cast his arrest as an “insult” to the Vokkaliga community.

A demonstration being staged by members of the Vokkaliga community, in the presence of Sri Someshwaranatha Swamiji of Sri Adichunchangiri Shaka Mutt, demanding the Chief Minister’s post to KPCC President D K Shivakumar, in Mysuru on May 15, 2023.

A demonstration being staged by members of the Vokkaliga community, in the presence of Sri Someshwaranatha Swamiji of Sri Adichunchangiri Shaka Mutt, demanding the Chief Minister’s post to KPCC President D K Shivakumar, in Mysuru on May 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: M A Sriram

As the KPCC president, he demonstrated his organisational skills by mobilising huge crowds during the Freedom March on Independence Day, Bharat Jodo Yatra, padayatra to Mekedatu and the party’s rallies across Karnataka in the run-up to the campaign. He won with the highest margin of votes (over one lakh votes) in the Kanakapura Legislative Assembly constituency, located on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

One of the richest politicians of Karnataka, in his election affidavit in 2023, he declared assets over ₹1,350 crore, even as he is under the investigation of multiple agencies for his alleged money laundering, income tax evasion and disproportionate assets cases. Hailing from a modest background, Mr. Shivakumar built a formidable business empire ranging from educational institutions to real estate.

His rise and domination in Karnataka politics is the result of hard work, assiduous grassroots management coupled with financial muscle.

Party’s troubleshooter

Mr. Shivakumar, known as the Congress’s trouble shooter in Karnataka, has played a vital role in the party’s victory across all regions. He was crucial in keeping the party’s flock together after the 2018 Assembly elections, resulting in the Congress being able to stitch a post-poll alliance with the JD(S). This had denied the BJP, the single largest party with 104 seats, a chance to form the government then. The Congress linked his later arrest to this episode, billing it “vendetta” politics.

KPCC president D K Shivakumar  at the Congress Prajadhawani yatre in Mangaluru on January 22, 2023.

KPCC president D K Shivakumar at the Congress Prajadhawani yatre in Mangaluru on January 22, 2023. | Photo Credit: MANJUNATH HS

Mr. Shivakumar’s first foray into electoral politics was during the 1985 Assembly election against former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, a formidable leader of the undivided Janata Party in the erstwhile Sathanur constituency. Though Mr. Shivakumar lost that battle, he made his entry into the Assembly with a victory from the same constituency as a Congress nominee in the 1989 election. He became a Minister for Prisons at age 30 in the S. Bangarappa Cabinet in 1991-92. He has not lost a single election since 1989.

ALSO READ | A game of thrones in Karnataka Congress

Mr. Shivakumar rose to political prominence in the S.M. Krishna-led Congress government (1999-2004) by holding the Urban Development and Cooperation portfolio. Many political experts see this as a period of meteoric rise in his fortunes, in both politics and business.

In simultaneous elections held to Parliament and the Karnataka Assembly in 2004, Mr. Shivakumar fought hard for the victory of TV journalist and Congress candidate Tejaswini Gowda (now BJP MLC) who was contesting against Deve Gowda in the Kanakapura parliamentary constituency. While the Congress lost in the Assembly polls, Mr. Shivakumar managed to win the seat. In the Dharam Singh-led Congress-JD (S) government (2004-05), Deve Gowda is learnt to have “settled scores” by keeping the Krishna-Shivakumar out of power.

When the Congress returned to power in 2013, Mr. Shivakumar was inducted into the Cabinet by Mr. Siddaramaiah, albeit a little later because of the former’s “tainted image”. In 2014, the BJP swept the general elections but Mr. Shivakumar ensured the victory of his brother, D.K. Suresh. Now, Mr. Suresh is the lone Congress Lok Sabha member from Karnataka.

Proximity to central leaders

His proximity to the Congress central leadership and ability for political micro-management have made him the go-to man for sticky situations and emergencies, like safeguarding MLAs from Gujarat at a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru in 2017 and ensuring the victory of Ahmed Patel in Rajya Sabha polls. The resort they were staying at was raided by IT sleuths. In June 2002, Mr. Shivakumar performed a similar task when the then Maharashtra Congress Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh faced a no-trust motion.

In the game of one-upmanship with Mr. Siddaramaiah over the post of the Chief Minister, Mr. Shivakumar settled for the Deputy Chief Minister’s post. It remains to be seen how the two leaders deliver administration to the people of Karnataka in the days to come.

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