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As BJP Struggles with Pro-Lingayat Image, Vokkaliga Groups Rally in Support of DK Shivakumar

While the Congress and other Opposition parties have called DK Shivakumar's arrest an exhibition of vendetta politics, at least 10 different organisations of the Vokkaliga community are expected to hit the streets as part of the protest.

Stacy Pereira | CNN-News18

Updated:September 11, 2019, 1:45 PM IST
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As BJP Struggles with Pro-Lingayat Image, Vokkaliga Groups Rally in Support of DK Shivakumar
Thousands of members from various Vokkaliga sanghas participated in the protest on Wednesday. (Image/News18)
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Bengaluru: Leaders of the dominant Vokkaliga community staged a major demonstration in Bengaluru on Wednesday in a show of support for Congress strongman and former minister DK Shivakumar, who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate last week.

While the Congress and many other Opposition parties, including the Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS), have called the arrest an exhibition of the BJP's vendetta politics, at least 10 different organisations of the Vokkaliga community participated in the mammoth protests.

Shivakumar is by far one of the most powerful leaders of the Congress in Karnataka and has earned a reputation for often being the party's troubleshooter. He is also the party’s most popular Vokkaliga leader in Karnataka.

As the BJP has always been known for its popularity among the other major community in Bengaluru — the Lingayats — Shivakumar’s arrest is being seen as an anti-Vokkaliga move. Though the BJP also has leaders from the Vokkaliga community and has even projected two of them as deputy chief ministers in the past, the party has not been able to shun its pro-Lingayat image and Shivakumar’s arrest has further endorsed this perception.

Ahead of the demonstrations, reports said that over 10,000 members of various Vokkaliga sanghas were planning to participate in the protest and march from the National College grounds in Basavanagudi to Freedom Park. Karnataka Rakshana Vedike’s Narayana Gowda along with leaders from the Vishwa Vokkaliga Maha Vedike, Nada Prabhu Vokkaliga Kendra and Rajye Vokkaliga Kempegowda Yuvashakti Vedike were also supposed to have joined in to express their support to Shivakumar.

His supporters and members from the Vokkaliga community, including temple priests from neighbouring districts of Ramanagara, Channapatna, Chikkabalapura, were also expected to have participated in the rally.

After Shivakumar's arrest on September 3, protests had erupted across the state leading to rioting in some places. Schools were shut down in his home-district of Ramanagara.

The BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government has been tight-lipped about the Congress leader’s arrest, with the chief minister stating that 'he would be happy' if Shivakumar came clear of the charges, while maintaining that “law would take its course”.

The BJP has been trying hard to change its pro-Lingayat image and seeks to reach out to every community in the state as a potential vote-bank. The appointment of a Vokkaliga Deputy CM (Ashwath Narayan) was seen as a step in this direction.

R Ashoka, the BJP’s main Vokkaliga face in Bengaluru, criticised the Congress for giving the arrest a casteist colour, stating that neither the BJP nor the Central government had anything to do with Shivakumar’s fate. “Investigating agencies are doing their work under the Constitution. He has been arrested for illegal money transactions... that the Congress is giving this a caste-tilt is shameful," he wrote on Twitter.

The ED has booked Shivakumar under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in a case that dates back to 2017 when Income Tax officials had raided his properties and found unaccounted wealth. As part of the investigation, the enforcement agency summoned Shivakumar’s daughter Aishwarya on September 12 — this targeting of his family members has further left his Vokkaliga supporters enraged.

Meanwhile, Shivakumar, who is in ED custody till September 13, put out a tweet ahead of the demonstrations, reiterating that he was a target of vendetta politics. He also urged his supporters to not indulge in violence or inconvenience the public in general.

Shivakumar also thanked party leaders and supporters for standing behind him and urged them to hold a peaceful protest in Bengaluru on Wednesday and not cause any inconvenience to common people.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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