DK Shivakumars growing appeal in Vokkaliga belt unnerves JD(S)
Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar in a file photo.

DK Shivakumar's growing appeal in Vokkaliga belt unnerves JD(S)

It may be a key reason for Deve Gowda's party to ally with BJP for 2024 election

Karnataka Congress President and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar’s increasing popularity in Vokkaliga areas has rattled the Janata Dal (Secular), forcing it to embrace the BJP, a party it dubbed communal during the Assembly elections only four months ago.

The appeal of Shivakumar, who tried to become the chief minister in May but failed, was once said to be limited to his home district Ramanagara, attached to Bengaluru city. But, in recent times, he is turning out to be Vokkaliga leader to reckon with, both for his party and in the Old Mysuru region. His expanding mass base in the Vokkaliga bastion has driven the JD(S), a party which thrives on Vikkaliga support, to join hands with the BJP. The aim is to retain the existing and regain the lost vote base.

As the JD(S) has already lost a good amount of support in the Old Mysuru region, it wants to make a comeback with the strong backing of the BJP – never mind what it talked about that party in the run up to the Assembly elections.

Mass leader

DKS, as Shivakumar is widely known, was never considered a mass leader. But he proved everyone wrong in the May Karnataka Assembly elections. And, he has emerged as a major force in the Old Mysuru region, which consists of 11 districts including Bengaluru.

DKS’ charisma helped his party to gain 136 seats, along with the vital contribution played by incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. This is seriously worrying the JD(S) supremo and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and his son and former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, forcing them to think of an alliance with the BJP as the only way to challenge the Congress in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

A JD(S) leader The Federal spoke to said that if the party doesn't suppress the growth of DKS in the Old Mysuru region, he will end up as a big threat to the very existence of the JD(S). DKS played a key role in picking 53 Vokkaliga leaders as Congress candidates in the Assembly elections. Of this, 42 were elected. Many of those who lost did so by a narrow margin.

Careful strategy

DKS organised various campaigns in areas of the Vokkaliga community to woo voters to the Congress and succeeded. In addition, he held a 160-km walk from Mekedatu to Bengaluru in 2022 demanding the Mekedatu water project.

He also organised a freedom walk in Bengaluru and contributed immensely to the success of Rahul Gandhi’s 550-km Bharat Jodo Yatra in Karnataka.

Congress sources say DKS is in a position to attract many more Vokkaliga leaders from the JD(S) and BJP to the Congress. All this has unnerved the JD(S). Political pundits said DKS should be credited with making the JD(S) lose 17 seats in the Old Mysuru region and helping the Congress to win 14 more seats.

At the same time, Shivakumar is in touch with other community leaders belonging to OBCs, minorities and SC/STs.

Weakened JD(S)

The JD(S) is accused of being a family-based party where other Vokkaliga leaders were never allowed to grow. It is no wonder it is said that around 10 Vokkaliga MLAs from the JD(S) want to join the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha battle, with Shivakumar as their new leader. Political analyst C Rudrappa said Vokkaligas choose their leaders shrewdly. Most Vokkaligas know that Shivakumar has a good chance of becoming the chief minister one day as also has leadership qualities.

This may no more be true for Deve Gowda and his family members including son Kumaraswamy. “They (Vokkaligas) may be willing to give a chance to Shivakumar,” Rudrappa said. The Vokkaligas always want their leaders to be in power. They may be happy if the Kumaraswamy goes to the centre and becomes a cabinet minister. “But for now, it is a fact that DKS’ mass base has certainly grown,” a former Minister and JD(S) leader who is willing to join the Shivakumar camp, told The Federal. On its part, the BJP feels it might gain by joining hands with the JD(S) because it will be able to mop up whatever Vokkaliga base the latter still commands.

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