Vokkaliga show of might against DKS arrest
The might of the Vokkaliga community was on display here on Wednesday, with 15,000 people marching 6km in protest against the Enforcement Directorate’s arrest of Congress strongman and caste member D.K. Shivakumar.
The 11.30am-2pm march, followed by a public meeting that ended around 3.30pm, left Bangalore’s traffic in knots till late in the evening.
Among the marchers were community bodies including the powerful Vokkaliga Sangha, saints from the caste, Vokkaliga-dominated pro-Kannada organisations as well as Congress and Janata Dal Secular supporters.
Shivakumar, the Congress’s principal trouble-shooter, was arrested on September 3 in a money-laundering case. The agency has summoned his 22-year-old daughter Aishwarya to Delhi on Thursday, the day her father’s remand ends.
The protesters first assembled at the National College Ground in Basavanagudi, a BJP pocket borough, and marched to Freedom Park, a stone’s throw from the state secretariat.
They chanted slogans against the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, accusing them of misusing the central agencies out of “vindictiveness”.
They kicked and stamped on a banner carrying the pictures of Modi and Shah, and poured milk on pictures of Shivakumar. They later submitted a memorandum to governor Vajubhai Vala alleging the central agencies were being misused to target Opposition leaders.
Several Congress politicians including state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao spoke at the rally and accused the BJP of dirty politics.
Rao later told reporters the event was “an expression of Vokkaliga anger”. He said: “This is not our event, but an expression of their anger. They are protesting against the targeting of their leader.”
Former Congress minister Krishna Byre Gowda slammed the BJP for using the “CBI, income-tax department and the ED like hyenas”.
Chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy was absent. “I did not get an invitation. Since I had already scheduled my (constituency) tour, I could not participate,” he told reporters in his constituency, Channapatna, 60km from here.
Kumaraswamy, however, said JDS workers had participated in the march in large numbers. “Had I been invited, I would have attended the event,” he said.
One of the state’s most politically powerful communities, the Vokkaligas make up about 11 per cent of Karnataka’s population of 6 crore and are largely concentrated around the old Mysore region.
Narayana Gowda, president of the pro-Kannada and Vokkaliga-dominated Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, said: “This is not about the KRV but about me being a Vokkaliga.”
The BJP enjoys little support from the community although it has made inroads into the Vokkaliga heartland in the last two Assembly polls and recently appointed a Vokkaliga, C.N. Ashwath Narayan, as one of the three deputy chief ministers.
BJP leaders had been cautious while commenting on Shivakumar’s arrest as they did not want to anger the Vokkaligas.
On Wednesday, the ruling party appeared rattled after the march. “It’s wrong to give a caste colour to an action taken entirely by the ED,” state rural development minister K.S. Eshwarappa said.
Jagadish Shettar, minister for large and medium industries, too questioned the use of the caste platform.
“The ED and the income-tax department are independent bodies. He (Shivakumar) shouldn’t have used his caste as a platform,” Shettar said.