Bengaluru: The Congress in Karnataka is confident of grabbing power in the upcoming assembly elections. One of the major factors considered to be working for the party is the support of the dominant Vokkaligas in south Karnataka.
The party is hoping for a repeat of the results of 1999, when S.M. Krishna, who hails from the Vokkaliga community, ensured a clear mandate for the Congress. The Vokkaligas had chosen the Congress over the JD (S) then. Over twenty years down the line, like S.M. Krishna, D.K. Shivakumar has become the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).
Shivakumar has already appealed to the Vokkaliga community to which he belongs that they should support his candidature in the same way they rallied behind former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, S.M. Krishna and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy from the JD (S).
The Vokkaliga vote bank is largely based in south Karnataka. They are spread over Bengaluru, Bengaluru Rural, Kolar, Ramnagar, Mandya, Mysuru, Tumakuru, Hassan, Chikkamagaluru, Shivamogga and parts of Chitradurga.
About 40 MLAs will get elected to the state legislature from the community.
With Vokkaliga pontiff Niramalanandanatha Swamiji’s categorical statements slamming the attempt of the ruling BJP to highlight the disputed fact of Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda, both Vokkaligas, killing erstwhile Mysuru ruler Tipu Sultan, the Congress party is celebrating.
BJP national general secretary and MLA C.T. Ravi and minister for higher education C.N. Ashwath Narayan made a fierce attempt to attract the Vokkaliga vote bank by bringing in a new narrative.
The question is will the Vokkaligas stand behind Shivakumar? Sources close to him say that like S.M. Krishna was chosen over H. D. Deve Gowda in 1999, history will repeat itself.
“Kumaraswamy from the community has become CM twice. People know of Shivakumar’s struggle and the community has sympathy as he was sent to jail. Even JD (S) leaders want Shivakumar to have a chance. The defeat of Nikhil Kumaraswamy, son of Kumaraswamy, by a margin of 1.25 lakh votes is a clear sign that the JD (S) is not supreme,” said sources close to Shivakumar.
Bette Gowda, former president of the Vokkaliga Association, opines that the community feels that Shivakumar should be given a chance this time.
Surya Mukundaraj, secretary of the legal cell of the Congress who is preparing to contest elections, explained that after Kengal Hanumantaiah, Kadidal Manjappa and S.M. Krishna, a leader from the old Mysuru region like Shivakumar is getting an opportunity.
Vokkaliga leaders in the Congress are conducting a series of meetings in Mysuru, Mandya and Bengaluru. The Vokkaliga leaders have not been given a chance to become the Leader of the Opposition. Key portfolios like Home and others have also not been given to the Vokkaligas in a Congress regime.
The community voted for Kumaraswamy as he was projected to become the CM. There is a straight fight in Mysuru, Kolar, Tumakuru and other districts of south Karnataka between the Congress and the JD (S). Shivakumar’s candidature will help here, Surya explains.
He said that the community is aware that in future the leadership will emerge from among the Vokkaligas.
Talking about his chances against Opposition leader Siddaramaiah for the post of CM, sources close to Shivakumar stated that Shivakumar is like the BJP’s B.S. Yediyurappa when it comes to the party organization. Four years ago, the Congress office looked like an empty house. It is Shivakumar who ensured that the Congress came very close to power through his organizational skills.
The Vokkaligas are the second largest community in the state. They wield considerable influence in the formation of governments in the state. With the Lingayat vote bank headed for a split following a row over giving reservation to the Panchamasali sub-sect and the BJP heading to the elections under a collective leadership, the Congress is hoping that the Vokkaligas tilt to its side, taking the party closer to victory in the assembly elections.
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