BENGALURU: At a time when the Congress-JDS coalition has been marred by catastrophe and leaders of both parties are drowning in the floods of rebellion, one man seems to have found his silver lining. In the melee of the coalition’s destruction, D K Shivakumar has seized the opportunity to position himself, at least in the public eye, as both a loyalist of the Congress party as well as a formidable leader of the Vokkaliga community. For a man who has been attempting to emerge as the natural political choice for the community, after H D Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy, Shivakumar has played his cards well in being seen as working towards protecting the coalition where Kumaraswamy — a Vokkaliga mass leader — is CM.
The first step towards his carefully planned positioning came in May 2018, when Shivakumar declared that he would put all differences with Kumaraswamy aside and work with JDS. In the past 13 months, the water resources minister has grown to be a confidant of Kumaraswamy and Deve Gowda. Proof of this was his visit to Gowda’s residence on Sunday, when the resignation spree started shaking the coalition. No other coalition leader reached out to Deve Gowda, but Shivakumar took the initiative. “The Vokkaliga community will view the fall of this government as the deliberate pulling down of HD Kumaraswamy and JDS from power. By being seen prominently as the one going all out to save it, Shivakumar is cleverly playing to a specific audience who will look at him as someone loyal to the community,” pointed a close aide of Shivakumar.
The minister’s visit to Mumbai on Wednesday, many in the party believe, was mere optics. “All of this had been brewing for months now. Anyone who was genuinely interested could have sorted it out months ago, without heroism,” said a Congress MLA, pointing out how Shivakumar’s involvement in the Belagavi PLD Bank elections sparked irritation with Ramesh Jarkiholi — the longest standing rebel MLA among the 18 who have submitted resignations. Despite the criticism he faces within the party and outside, Shivakumar seems to be the only leader from the coalition who played his cards well, and positioned himself as a true-blue Congressman and reliable Vokkaliga leader beyond party lines — both identities important for the aspirations he nurses.