The arrest of Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar on a suspected money-laundering case by the Enforcement Directorate has once again exposed the ugly face of caste-based politics in Karnataka.
Days after the Congress party workers took to streets to protest against the arrest alleging that it was part of "political vendetta" of the BJP government, Vokkaligara Sangha, one of the oldest associations of the community to which Shivakumar belongs, is planning a massive rally in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
The rally hopes to project the arrest as BJP's bid to crush Vokkaliga leadership in the state. The community, which is yet to come to terms with H.D. Kumaraswamy stepping down as chief minister after losing the trust vote, is outraged by the arrest of Shivakumar.
Interestingly, both JD(S) and the Congress have extended support to the rally, to be held from National College to Freedom Park.
Veteran Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy announced that his party would support the rally. He alleged that the BJP was trying to divert the attention of people from the economic slowdown by arresting Congress leaders. "The Centre is misusing ED and IT. Even after Sunil Sharma accepted that the unaccounted cash recovered from his flat belonged to him, the ED is trying to frame Shivakumar," said Reddy.
JD(S) spokesperson Ramesh Babu tweeted: "The investigating agencies either central or state should not be the puppet of the government. Arresting of DKS and tormenting his family is being made out of political vengeance. We are supporting tomorrow's protest in Bangalore in favour of DKS condemning politically motivated ED (sic)."
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Meanwhile, pontiff of Adichunchanagiri Math Nirmalanandanatha Swamiji visited Shivakumar's residence in Bengaluru to console his family members.
While most people would agree that law should treat everyone equally, the protests and the statements by prominent citizens opposing the arrest have politicised the matter.
Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa surprised everyone when he said he would pray to god that Shivakumar overcomes this crisis and that law would take its course. "If he comes out (of the charges) I will be more happy than any one," the CM had said.
The protest has baffled the BJP. The saffron party, which had made inroads into the Old Mysuru region—the Vokkaliga heartland—in the last two elections, even appointed a Vokkaliga (C.N. Ashwath Narayan) as one of the three deputy chief ministers to woo the community, which largely identifies with the JD(S) and the Deve Gowda family. Now, the protest assuming a casteist hue will be a setback for the BJP.
Revenue Minister R. Ashok (also a Vokkaliga leader) alleged that the Congress was shamelessly playing caste politics. "BJP or the Centre has nothing to do with the arrest. Shivakumar was arrested by the ED in connection with illegal money transactions. The ED is only following the procedures as per the constitution."
Appaji Gowda, former president of Vokkaligara Sangha, slammed the protesters for allegedly playing caste politics. "No organisation should follow any one individual," reminded Gowda.