Vokkaliga seer asks Siddaramaiah to step down as Karnataka CM, make way for DK Shivakumar

Vokkaliga seer asks Siddaramaiah to step down as Karnataka CM, make way for DK Shivakumar

Bengaluru: A prominent Vokkaliga seer has asked Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to step down in favour of his deputy D.K. Shivakumar, fuelling the growing divide within the Congress party in the state.

Kumara Chandrashekaranatha Swami, who heads the Vishwa Vokkaligara Mahasamsthana Mutt, made a public appeal to Siddaramaiah when the two shared the stage at an event commemorating the 515th birth anniversary of Bengaluru founder, Kempe Gowda.

“Everyone has become chief minister and tasted power. Our D.K. Shivakumar alone has not yet become chief minister. Siddaramaiah has already enjoyed this position and in the future should give up power to D.K. Shivakumar,” the seer said during his speech.

Other prominent seers from the community, including the head of the Adichunchungiri Matha, and even Shivakumar were on stage.

The seer added that this can happen “only if Siddaramaiah makes up his mind, or else it won’t”.

The statements come at a time when voices within the Congress party are increasingly calling for more deputy CMs in Karnataka to better represent the state’s prominent communities.

The likes of Zameer Ahmed Khan, Satish Jarkiholi and K.N. Rajanna, among others, have backed the calls for at least three deputy CMs, as a way to undercut Shivakumar who is currently the sole deputy to Siddaramaiah.

Shivakumar had lobbied hard for the CM post in 2023 after claiming credit of delivering victories in 135 of 224 seats. According to an agreement reached after intense negotiations in May last year, it was decided Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar would each take turns to become the CM.

But the 2024 Lok Sabha elections — and his brother D.K. Suresh losing his Bengaluru Rural seat — has served as a setback for Shivakumar.

The Congress in Karnataka managed to win 9 of the state’s 29 Lok Sabha seats, losing out to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (Secular) alliance.

Also read: POCSO case: Bengaluru court issues non-bailable arrest warrant against Karnataka ex-CM Yediyurappa

‘High command will decide’

In Karnataka’s extremely caste-centric society, it is not uncommon for seers and spiritual heads to make political comments.

Lingayats and Vokkaligas are believed to be the two most dominant communities in the state accounting for around 17 percent and 14 percent of the population, respectively.

This perceived dominance has allowed the two communities and their political representatives to demand for more representation in the ministry as well as the top chair. In Karnataka’s history, there have been only six members outside these two communities who have become chief ministers out of the 23 CMs the state has seen so far.

The 2015 caste census commissioned by Siddaramaiah is also believed to challenge this dominant status and both communities have pressured the state government over releasing its findings.

Shivakumar has also agreement, lending support to those who fear losing their dominant status. He has also tried to be seen as the ‘leader of the Vokkaligas’ to replace the ailing H.D. Deve Gowda and his former chief minister son, H.D. Kumaraswamy.

But this plan faced a setback in the Lok Sabha elections.

Analysts point to the loss of seats in the Old Mysuru region, or the Vokkaliga belt, where the party lost all seats barring Hassan. In January, Shivakumar had asked the community to strengthen his hands and vote for the nine Vokkaliga candidates that would help him become CM.

Other than Hassan, the Congress lost in all four seats in Bengaluru, Mandya, Kolar, Chikballapur and even in Chikmagaluru. Chamarajanagar and Kolar are reserved seats.

In Karnataka, it is believed that the Lingayats largely back the BJP, the Vokkaligas have consolidated behind JD(S) and the Congress, under Siddaramaiah, has relied on the support of AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits).

Though Siddaramaiah himself has rarely ever made any statement on anyone replacing him, it has always been those close to him who have openly defied Shivakumar.

“Congress party is a high command party. We are a democracy. We will do what the High command decides,” Siddaramaiah told reporters in Bengaluru Thursday.

Siddaramaiah has announced that 2023 was the last time he would contest and his loyalists have rallied behind the 76-year-old, arguing and publicly stating that he will complete the full five-year term, angering Shivakumar.

The biggest challenge is that Shivakumar, at least until now, does not have any MLA or the open backing of other leaders. Barring his brother and a handful of covert supporters, few leaders have come forward to back Shivakumar.

People aware of the developments say that Shivakumar has been waiting on the sidelines and is growing impatient since he has put in the work, shown results but rarely rewarded.

Shivakumar Thursday said he would abide by the decision of the high command regarding the CM issue.

Speaking to reporters in Delhi, he said, “Some people are over enthusiastic. It is natural for such words of appreciation in politics, but we should not take it seriously. Party decision will be final on that.” He was referring to the demand of Chandrashekaranatha Swamiji to make him the.

Also read: Siddaramaiah defends fuel price hike amid protests by BJP — ‘don’t we need money for development?’


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