The incarceration since September 3 of senior Congress leader D K Shivakumar in a money-laundering case by the ED assumed caste contours on Wednesday with the dominant Vokkaliga community, to which the former minister belongs, taking out a large rally and protesting against alleged injustice to community members.
More than 20,000 people from the Vokkaliga community, including prominent leaders from the Congress and JDS, participated in the rally held under heavy security in Bengaluru to protest alleged selective targetting of community members like Shivakumar, Cafe Coffee Day founder V G Siddhartha and former JDS chief minister H D Kumaraswamy by the ruling BJP using investigative agencies.
The rally, under the banner of World Vokkaliga Maha Vedike, brought traffic in a major part of Bengaluru to a halt even as community leaders warned of adverse reaction if community members are targetted unjustly.
“Nearly 25,000 participated in the protest rally conducted by Vokkaliga groups, there were no untoward incidents,’’ the Bengaluru police commissionerate said.
After the protest, L R Shivarame Gowda, a former JDS MP; M V Rajeev Gowda, a Congress MP, Narayana Gowda of the pro-Kannada group Karnataka Rakshana Vedike; JDS MLC Narayanaswamy and Congress member H S Manjunath met Governor Vajubhai Vala and presented a memorandum opposing the targetting of community members by agencies.
“In the present political situation in the state and the country, people’s representatives, political leaders and entrepreneurs from the Vokkaliga community are being targetted by the government using its agencies like the I-T department, ED and CBI for political vendetta and this goes against the democratic setup of the country,” president of World Vokkaliga Maha Vedike Y D Ravishankar said.
Earlier, prominent Congress leaders including state president Dinesh Gundu Rao participated in the Vokkaliga community solidarity meeting in Bengaluru. Rao also accused the BJP government at the Centre of using the I-T department and ED to selectively target political leaders.
The Vokkaligas in southern Karnataka are arch political rivals of the Lingayats of north Karnataka — another dominant community — who are primarily allied with the BJP, with community leader B S Yediyurappa being CM at present.
Though prominent JDS Vokkaliga leaders like former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and former CM H D Kumaraswamy were not present at the rally, there were indications of broad-based support from the JDS for the Vokkaliga rally.
“My party workers participated in the protest. I had a pre-scheduled engagement, otherwise I would have participated in the protests,” Kumaraswamy said in his Channapatna constituency.
“Investigating agencies of the Centre or state should not be a puppet of the government. Shivakumar is being arrested and his family is tormented out of political vengeance,” JDS spokesperson Ramesh Babu said while voicing support for the rally.
BJP ministers from the Vokkaliga community opposed the protests. “The ED arrested Shivakumar to probe a case of money-laundering. Congress giving the arrest a caste colour is high drama. BJP and Centre have no role in this. Investigating agencies are doing their job,’’ Vokkaliga community leader and BJP Revenue Minister R Ashoka said.
“The corrupt must be brought to the streets and no one should come to the streets in support of the corrupt,” BJP Tourism Minister and Vokkaliga community member C T Ravi said. “It looks like somebody wants to take undue advantage,” Union minister D V Sadananda Gowda said.