Senior Karnataka Congress leader, a dashing and fearless politician, Doddalahalli Kempegowda Shivakumar, or DK as he is popularly known, was, for a change, met more than his match this time around when all his efforts to lure back his own party MLAs from ‘the other side’ failed to bear fruit.
The man for all seasons for the Congress, the 58-year-old leader from Ramanagara district had till then beat the deadly Modi-Shah combine twice – once when he tended to all the Congress flock during the Rajya Sabha elections in 2017 and last year in May when he stood like a rock to prevent the BJP from poaching any of the Congress – JD (S) MLAs that led to the fall of the Yeddyurappa government.
In fact, during the Rajya Sabha elections of 2017, the then BJP president Amit Shah had personally camped in Gujarat to engineer the defeat of Ahmed Patel, Senior Congress leader, and political secretary to former AICC president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. But DK had shepherded all the Congress MLAs and MPs from Gujarat and held them in ‘safe custody and delivered them’ just before the voting to frustrate the BJP moves. DK had housed all the 42 MLAs of the party at Eagleton Golf Resort at Bidadi in Karnataka.
Even as the MLAs were at the resort, DK was raided by central government agencies. But he has been fearless, swearing by the law and facing all the cases legally.
Cut to current scenario: The one picture of DK, standing all through the day in rain outside Mumbai hotel where the rebel Congress and JD (D) MLAs were lodged for the past three weeks, was the proof that he was the only man seen as fighting off the BJP’s ‘Operation Kamala’.
The BJP move eventually succeeded, thanks to officialdom of the BJP ruled Maharashtra that prevented DK from even meeting his own party MLAs, who had rebelled against the leadership for some reason. Such was the fear in the BJP of this man that DK was taken into custody and packed off from the state, lest he weaved his magic on party MLAs again.
DK was also engaged in safeguarding party MLAs from Maharashtra earlier in 2002, when his organisational skills and logistics prowess were recognised. Then, Congress feared the poaching of its members by the BJP-Shiv Sena combine. DK took charge and put them up at Golden Palms Resort and Spa in Karnataka and ensured that the Congress-NCP government won the trust vote.
He is most easily the go-to man for the Congress leadership during crisis, anywhere in the country. And especially so when it came to protecting party men and women from predatory moves of the opposing party – mostly the BJP.
In the three weeks of firefighting in July, till the fall of Kumaraswamy government, DK was not fighting just the BJP alone. It seemed as if he was up against his own party colleagues, some of whom he alleged had backstabbed him. Hurt he maybe, but the strong man declared that there was still a lot of fight left in him.
Quoting Voltaire during the trust vote on Tuesday, DK said, “Oh God, give me strength and defend me from my friends, I can take care of my enemies.” He also asserted that rebels were penning their own political obituaries.
This more or less sums up the brave and courageous politician who is not afraid of taking on the strongest in the land, for the sake of his party. Continuous raids and plethora of income tax cases against him did not ruffle him as he went about his job of guarding party MLAs during the last year’s post-poll government formation days – in felling the BJP government as also in ensuring victory for the Kumaraswamy government in the floor test in assembly.
Since May last year, DK was firefighting different ‘raids’ on party MLAs under BJP’s alleged Operation Kamala.
On Tuesday inside the assembly during trust vote Shivakumar declared, “the BJP is setting a bad precedent by forming Governments through Operation Kamala. This has strengthened our resolve to fight to uphold democracy.”
For sure, the fighting spirit in the man lives on and has become an inspiration of sorts for the dejected Congress workers across the country. His Twitter account was full of appeals to him to take up a more responsible position in the Congress party and strengthen the hands of the party leadership to revive it across the country.
Admiring followers see in him a Congress leader who can shoulder the responsibility of leading the party in South India.
His followers are quick to point out that it was a cool, calm and composed DK who staved off predatory forces from the BJP and ensured that not a single MLA from the party fold crossed the line since the coalition government was formed.
But even the great DK was unable this time to save the coalition government, with its inherent contradictions as also infighting within the Congress, that seemed to spike after the Congress rout in the Lok Sabha general elections earlier in May this year.
Even today, an unperturbed DK presents a picture of confidence.
Easily among the richest politicians in Karnataka, DK entered student politics and joined the Youth Congress. He reported assets are worth Rs 840 crore when he filed nomination papers for the 2018 assembly elections.
Steadfastly loyal to the party, DK always shunned expressing his own desires on the political front and described himself as the trusted soldier of the party leadership. He always maintained that he had no ambitions and was glad to serve the party in whatever capacity it asked him to.
He entered electoral politics in 1985 and took on Janata Dal supremo HD Deve Gowda and lost to him narrowly. But he won the Santhanur seat and retained Holenarsipura. DK was widely credited with the leg work and organisational skills when senior leader SM Krishna became the Chief Minister in 1999.
No stranger to power and powerplay, DK won the Kanakapura constituency in 2013 and later retained it in 2018 and became the water resources minister in the HD Kumaraswamy government.