Will CBI raids on D.K. Shivakumar impact bypolls in Karnataka?

The State’s political circles are waiting to see if the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raids on Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president D.K. Shivakumar and his brother D.K. Suresh, MP from Bengaluru Rural, will impact the outcome of the bypolls in Sira and Rajarajeshwari Nagar. In both constituencies, which have a sizeable Vokkaliga population, the CBI action and its timing could become a factor during polling, believe Congress leaders.

The Congress has been seeing an opportunity to win the Sira seat as the Janata Dal (S), which held the seat till the death of its legislator B. Satyanarayana, is grappling with too many aspirants, which can upset its chances. The Congress leaders in Tumakuru have also closed ranks, giving hopes of a victory for the party. The party is also working on a strategy to win the R.R. Nagar seat, where the BJP is dealing with two strong contenders for candidature.

“Though the politically motivated searches will not affect party’s election preparations, they might have an impact on the results. We are confident about both seats. That way we see today’s searches as a diversion from the protests over Hathras. This is also a message to leaders from an autocratic government,” said KPCC working president Eshwar Khandre.

Party sources said that Sira and R.R. Nagar have 60,000 and 72,000 Vokkaliga votes each, and the timing of the CBI searches could end up in a consolidation of Vokkaliga votes, besides the traditional Congress votes. It may be recalled that Vokkaligas had taken out a mega protest rally in the city following Mr. Shivakumar’s arrest in a money laundering case by the Enforcement Directorate in September 2019. That only worked for Mr. Shivakumar, as the Congress rallied behind him and he was appointed president of the KPCC in March 2020.

The recent CBI raids in the run-up to bypolls might again lead to Vokkaliga consolidation in his favour, the Congress hopes and some sections in the BJP fear. The saffron party being jittery over the raids assuming caste colour was evident in how the party fielded Vokkaliga leaders to distance itself from the CBI action. Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan and Ministers C.T. Ravi (who is also a BJP national general secretary) and K. Sudhakar aggressively distanced the party from the raids.

Party strategists close to the Chief Minister said that the raids would definitely impact on the caste equations in the two constituencies and that they were working on ways to counter a consolidation of Vokkaligas in favour of the Congress. “D.K. Shivakumar is not the only Vokkaliga leader in the State. But he is prone to claim victimhood every time there is action against him by various agencies. We are aware that we need to counter this narrative that he puts forth,” a BJP strategist said.

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