Is There a Split in Congress as Karnataka Top Two Pitch for CM's Chair?

DK Shivakumar seeks Vokkaliga support hinting at CM's post ahead of Siddaramaiah's 75th birthday celebrations.


Former Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah has said that the upcoming assembly elections in 2023 will be his last term in electoral politics.

Asserting that his mega birthday celebrations on 3 August will send a political message, the 75-year old politician said, “Are we sanyasis? Is Rahul Gandhi, DK Shivakumar or I a sanyasi? There will definitely be a political message. We are putting forward our achievements as politicians in the last five years, and nothing can be done without politics.”

Supporters of Siddaramaiah have planned a mega event in Davanagere in August, 2022 to celebrate the 75th birthday of the leader. Though, the public meet is not being organised by the party platform, it is important to note that it is being driven by party workers and few leaders backing Siddaramaiah. However, the event is being seen not just as ’show of strength,' but also as an attempt to suppress the growing relevance of DK Shivakumar.


Siddaramaiah’s 75 Birthday Celebration: Show of Strength or a Pitch for CM’s Chair?

Siddaramaiah-75 Amruta Mahaotsva as it is called, is being organised by a committee consisting of 62 people, mostly Congress leaders who are vice-presidents, general secretaries and organising secretaries. It is being headed by former Tourism Minister RV Deshpande, with a separate welcoming committee of 27 members in it.

Speaking to The Quint, requesting anonymity, a member of the organising committee said, “The main focus of the event is Siddaramaiah. He has been a former chief minister and has presented the budget seven times. His contributions in public life are immense."

"Our agenda is to send out a message to detractors within the party and also to a few in high command who are teetering between his capacity to become the next chief minister and other potential leaders in the state,” said a source from the Siddaramaiah camp to The Quint.

The public event in Davanagere will also seek to consolidate the AHINDA vote bank. AHINDA is a Kannada acronym for Alpasankyataru (Minority Muslims), Hindaolidavaru (Other Backward Classes) and Dalit (Scheduled Castes). But, several senior leaders within the party are terming the celebration to be inappropriate.

While categorically refusing to comment on the Siddaramaiah-75 Amrut Mahaotsva, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha and Dalit leader Mallikarjun Kharge who turns 80 today, (21 July) said, “Entire Congress party is in a difficult time. The ED has summoned our leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to appear before them. This is not the right time to have any celebrations, particularly a birthday."

Kharge who has been in public life for over 50 years and G Parameshwara, the longest serving KPCC (Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee) president have also been trying to assert his claim over the chief ministerial post. However, Karnataka has never had a Dalit chief minister till now.

Enter DK Shivakumar: Troubleshooter Hints At CM Post

"Time has come for the Vokkaliga community to elect their community leader after a gap of 18 years." These were the words with which DK Shivakumar, KPCC president opened his speech at a community event in Mysuru on 19 July.

The last Vokkaliga community leader to be the chief minister of Karnataka was SM Krishna, under whom DK Shivakumar not just consolidated his vote base in Bengaluru Rural, but also held an important portfolio of Urban Development ministry.

Often referred to as ‘DK Shi’ or as Kanakuprada Bande (Kanakapura’s Rock), the leader has also been a seven time MLA having represented Santhoor (1989, 1994, 1999, 2004) and Kanakapura (2008,2013, 2018).

In an attempt to put forward his personal ambition, DK Shivakumar has tried to change his brand of politics. Seldom seen as a mass leader, the troubleshooter from Kanakapura and his team have hired a Chandigarh based political management agency to help re-brand his image.

“I ask you one thing. You have given an opportunity to everybody. Deve Gowda was given a chance. Kumaranna (HD Kumaraswamy) was given a chance. Now, I request you to give me the chance, and rally behind me in this election."
DK Shivakumar, KPCC President

The Vokkaliga community, is key vote bank of the JD(S) in Old Mysuru region. However, with ageing Deve Gowda and with the diminishing clout of HD Kumaraswamy, Congress leader DK Shivakumar is likely to capitalise this vacuum in the community, which accounts for 15 percent of the state's population.

A source from DK Shivakumar's team told The Quint, "Despite the high command saying we will contest the elections under collective leadership, there are repeated efforts by Siddaramaiah's supporters to project him as the chief minister. Why then should DK Shivakumar not attempt the same? He is seeking support from the Vokkaliga community and there are high chances that he will be next chief minister."


Disunity To Cost Congress the Election?

By appealing to the masses and declaring his interest in the chief minister's race, DK Shivakumar has sought to checkmate the ever growing presence of Siddaramaiah.

The KPCC president's statements comes at a time when the party is divided into two prominent camps, with one asserting Siddaramaiah's achievements and preparing on a large scale to celebrate his 75th birthday.

When questioned on public platforms or during media interactions, both Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar have maintained that the party is entering the elections under collective leadership. However, each of their actions seems to be indicating otherwise.

Recently few workers backing the KPCC president DK Shivakumar wrote to the Siddaramaiah-75 Amrut Mahaotsva Committee, asking them to also hold a Shivakumarotsva, celebrating the achievements of grassroots worker who rose up to the rank of state PCC president.

The letter written by JC Raju, a congress party worker and media co-ordinator in KPCC read, "Just as there are celebrations for Siddaramaiah, I request the party to celebrate Shivakumarotsva-23, a public event to hail and commemorate DK Shivakumar's efforts as loyal party worker."

Speaking to The Quint, senior Congress leader VS Ugrappa said, "Ultimately voters are the masters. They will decide based on ideology, programmes, polices, and to some extent leadership. As of now, there are multiple leaders in the party, with one leading the AHINDA community, the other being the party president. Both have every right to stake claims. But, the final decision will be take under collective leadership and high command."

Meanwhile, both the BJP and the JD(S) expressed that there was no room for Vokkaligas in the Congress party. While Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai remarked that Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar are poles apart, HD Kumaraswamy said, "Siddaramaiah is not celebrating his birthday for the sake of the party. Nor will the event promote DK to be the leader. Isn't it clear that Vokkaligas have no relevance in the Congress?"

When The Quint reached out to a senior member of the Rajya Sabha from the Congress party, the leader remarked that the growing dissidence among the top leaders in Karnataka could cost the party an election.

Requesting anonymity, he said, "While the Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and several other leaders are preparing for Siddaramotsava, DK Shivakumar is busy holding meetings and addressing public gathering to project himself as the leader. This could turn into a debacle for the Congress. I feel the party is not preparing itself for the bigger opponent, which is the BJP."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More