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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

DK Shivakumar: The journey of a Congress firefighter

Shivakumar, or DK or DKShi as he is known locally, has come a long way since he was promoted from the Youth Congress to the main Congress organisation four decades ago following a split in the party’s Karnataka chapter.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2019 05:29 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
D K Shivakumar
D K Shivakumar(HT image)

Karnataka Congress leader DK Shivakumar’s arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a case of alleged money laundering has placed the focus again on his meteoric rise in state politics and the equally impressive increase in his wealth.

Shivakumar’s assets grew from around Rs.7 crore in 2004, from when election affidavits listing the assets of election contestants are available, to Rs 618 crore in 2018. The assets of his brother, DK Suresh, the MP from Bengaluru Rural, saw his assets surge to Rs.338 crore in 2019 from Rs.85 crore declared in 2014.

Shivakumar, or DK or DKShi as he is known locally, has come a long way since he was promoted from the Youth Congress to the main Congress organisation four decades ago following a split in the party’s Karnataka chapter. He won his first election to the assembly in 1989 and has since been a permanent fixture in the grand old party, earning admirers and detractors in equal measure.

Shivakumar, now 57, benefited from a schism in the Congress after former chief minister, Devaraj Urs, broke away from the party in 1979 over disagreements with the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi. A majority of the cadre in the Young Congress in Karnataka joined Urs. A young Shivakumar was promoted as the party sought to build the local unit from scratch.

Shivakumar’s political career blossomed as he seized the chances that came his way. In 1985, the thenunknown 23-year-old took on veteran HD Deve Gowda in the Sathanur assembly constituency. Although he lost to Gowda by around 15,000 votes, it brought him close to party leaders, a senior Congress leader recalled.

Contests with the Deve Gowda family would go on to define his career over the next decade as the Congress attempted to project the younger leader from the Vokkaliga community, in addition to former chief minister, SM Krishna, as alternatives to the veteran.

In 1999, Shivakumar defeated Deve Gowda’s son, HD Kumaraswamy, in the race for the Sathanur assembly seat before pulling off his biggest victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha election when he helped Congress’s Tejaswini defeat Deve Gowda in the Kanakapura constituency.

That victory cemented his credentials as a force in the Bengaluru Rural region, from where he is from, and set him up for a decade-long conflict with Kumaraswamy, who would also contest assembly polls from the region. From then admirers would call him “Kanakapurada Bande” (Rock of Kanakapura), a reference both to his constituency and his alleged involvement in illegal quarrying of granite in that region.

These victories did not go unnoticed and SM Krishna inducted Shivakumar in his Cabinet, making him minister for urban development.

One close associate of Shivakumar said that between 2006 and 2013, the Vokkaliga leader faced his toughest time, out of power and unable to challenge the ascendance of the Janata Dan (Secular) under the Deve Gowda family, which was in power for four years.

At this time, an investigation into illegal quarrying named two companies associated with him and one associated with his brother and MP, DK Suresh. The taint would come back to haunt him after the 2013 assembly elections, when chief minister Siddaramaiah, who was then elected chief minister, refused to include him in the state Cabinet, only doing so six months later after he was pressured by the party.

The crucial turning point for Shivakumar came in 2017 , when the party decided to bypass chief minister Siddaramaiah and Congress’s state unit president, G Parameshwara, and asked Shivakumar to play host to MLAs from Gujarat. This was done to safeguard them from poaching attempts by rivals ahead of a Rajya Sabha by-election in which Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s close aide Ahmed Patel’s seat was on the line. Shivakumar came through for the party.

In the 2018 assembly elections, Shivakumar decided to bury the hatchet with Kumaraswamy as they faced a common enemy in CP Yogeshwar, a serial party hopper on whom the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bet on to make inroads into the Old Mysuru region.

This bonhomie continued when the Congress and JD(S) came to power in a coalition in May 2018. The coalition collapsed in July 2019 after a rebellion by members of both parties. Shivakumar’s skills as a troubleshooter for the Congress didn’t benefit the party this time.

First Published: Sep 04, 2019 23:35 IST

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