The state of Karnataka finally has a full-size cabinet a fortnight after the new Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) took oath along with Dr. G Parameshwara of the Congress. While most of cabinet berths were sorted out without great difficulty, one person’s aspirations and control over the party held the entire exercise of cabinet expansion to ransom. That person is none other than D K Shivakumar. Although there was enough opposition from within and without the party to induct him into the cabinet, his clout and his brazenness were too much to ignore. This article is an attempt to understand the man’s hold on the power circles of Bengaluru and how it has come to what it is today.
Unlike many dynastic politicians seen in India, DKShi (as he is popularly referred to in Karnataka) owes his origins to humble beginnings. His father owned two tent houses in the small sleepy town of Kanakapura situated about 65 kms south of Bengaluru. DKShi came to Bangalore (as it was called then) to pursue a college education. Starry eyed, he had big dreams for himself. Wanting to earn power, fame and wealth, he entered student politics while in college and even had close association of underworld don Kotwal Ramachandra. With a degree in hand, DKShi headed back to Kanakapura intent on achieving a name for himself.
With large-scale ambitions for himself, he went about with a meticulous plan to achieve them. After all, he was barely 23 and knew that with a full lifetime ahead of him he had time on his side. He picked a very tough battle to begin his political career by contesting against H D Devegowda at his prime as an Independent from Sathanur assembly constituency during the 1985 elections to the Karnataka Vidhana Sabha. Those were times at which even Congress wasn’t fielding any candidate against H D Devegowda. DKShi managed to get approximately 40% of all votes polled while Devegowda bagged the rest 60%. A political novice grabbing 40% was unheard of during those days. Though he couldn’t upset the applecart, he had laid the foundation for a strong career. His risk taking ability was there for everyone to see. A brief period later he entered the Bangalore Rural Zilla Panchayat and became a well-known name in the district (Kanakapura belonged to Bangalore Rural district then).
Growth of DKShi
By the 1989 elections, Congress had seen the usefulness of DKShi and had taken him into the party. He won from the Sathanur constituency with a massive margin of 15% votes polled and became a first-time MLA. 2 years later, he was even made a Minister of Prisons in the S Bangarappa cabinet.
While growing politically in Bangalore, he ensured that he built up a coterie of his supporters in Kanakapura to ensure that his writ ran large. Congress got a first dose of DKShi medicine when it denied him the ticket to contest from in the 1994 elections. He contested as an independent and won pushing the Congress candidate to third place behind even the Janata Dal candidate. Congress understood that it needed DKShi more than he needing the party and he eventually rejoined the party. This helplessness for the party allowed a free run for him to establish his own fiefdom. 5 years later, in the 1999 elections, he defeated the current Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy by a margin of 14000 votes. This cemented his position in Kanakapura taluk (Tehsil in North India) as the undisputed king. This even forced H D Kumaraswamy to switch to neighboring Ramanagara constituency thereafter. 3 years later he even became the Minister for Urban Development in the S M Krishna cabinet. This was the period when Bangalore was witnessing the IT boom and the city was growing rapidly. To capture this portfolio in the Krishna cabinet that was known for its pro-urban image, speaks highly of his ability to capture the powerful ministries.
In 2002, came another tussle with H D Devegowda for DKShi. In a byelection to Kanakapura Loksabha constituency, he contested against the former PM but lost again by a narrow margin of 3% voteshare. This fact would have remained a mere footnote but for the fact that D K Shivakumar got a political novice and a lady at that to defeat H D Devegowda in the 2004 general elections from the very same constituency pushing the former PM to a forgettable third place behind BJP candidate.
By now, DKShi had defeated the son H D Kumaraswamy and forced him to shift his base from Sathanur to Ramanagara and had made the former PM taste defeat at the hands of a lady.
Like in 2018, Congress lost the mandate in 2004 owing to an anti-rural image of S M Krishna. Similar to the coalition arrangement seen now, JD(S) and Congress cobbled up a coalition with Dharam Singh of the Congress as the Chief Minister and Siddaramaiah of the JD(S) as the Deputy Chief Minister. With JD(S) calling the shots then unlike the Congress doing so now, Devegowda prevailed upon the Congress and ensured that DKShi wouldn’t become a minister.
A multiplayer game of chess was being played in the political circles of Karnataka and DKShi realized that he had to fight it out to last longer than any other opponent to ensure that his growth wouldn’t be stopped abnormally. This time he waited long to become a minister again – full 9 years at that. 20-20 government of JD(S) and BJP was followed by a 5 year single party rule of BJP. While being away from the corridors of governance, he ensured that he rose in prominence within the Congress party. He was even made the head of the Campaign Committee in 2006.
While he was growing within the party, he never made any attempts to rebuild bridges with the Devegowda family. The revenge politics being played was never addressed head on either by DKShi or by the Devegowda family. In fact, Sonia Gandhi, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Natwar Singh once asked DKShi to patch up with the former PM but he even flatly refused saying he hadn’t caused any harm or disrepute to the Congress party by defeating Devegowda and hence he wouldn’t apologize or mellow down. The party high command left it at that.
Once in 2002, when Vilasrao Deshmukh had to face a no-confidence motion, DKShi was assigned the task of safeguarding 100-odd MLAs of Congress and NCP at the Golden Palms Spa and Resort. He managed to keep the flock together and the government survived.
He finally got another chance to become a minister again when Congress under Siddaramaiah captured power in 2013 and he became the all-powerful “Power Minister”.
Also in 2017, when there was a tight contest for a Rajya Sabha seat from Gujarat where Ahmed Patel was contesting, DKShi was again entrusted the responsibility to safeguard these Congress MLAs. DKShi managed again and he rose to national prominence. He had emerged as a real trouble-shooter for the Congress party.
Another opportunity showed up in 2018 when Congress extended support to JD(S) to cobble up yet another coalition government. Congress used the assistance of DKShi yet again to help the alliance remain united and win the vote of confidence. Looking at the earlier instance, it was widely reported and assumed that the Devegowda family would try their utmost to prevent DKShi from becoming a minister in the just-formed alliance government. But the fact that the JD(S) was at the mercy of the Congress (as widely and repeatedly acknowledged by Kumaraswamy) might have forced them to back off. For Congress too, DKShi was too big a persona to be left out of the cabinet.
So, as things stand today, DKShi has been a 7-time MLA and has been a minister multiple times. He has risen from the lowest rungs of student politics and is just a couple of steps away from the most powerful seat in the state. For now though, he is happy to be a minister yet again under Dr. G. Parameshwara. Make no mistake, DKShi is now more powerful than the Dy CM himself and has ensured a few relatives and many supporters win from various constituencies in the recently concluded 2018 Assembly Elections.
The Unchallenged King of “Republic of Kanakapura”
Enter his younger brother D K Suresh who headed his private coterie of gang members. While the elder brother was focused on Bangalore, Suresh started his own cable TV business (based off of his father’s tent house business) and even usurped a rival cable network business in the town. Done with achieving near monopoly over the cable network business, the DKS family set their sights on the red stone granite business. This led to large scale and mostly unregulated quarrying of red stone in the entire Kanakapura taluk. There were umpteen instances of them illegally occupying lands having red stone. Power and money gave them unhindered access to all the rock wealth in the region.
Suresh and his coterie ruthlessly dealt with all opposition to their growing businesses. One popular instance was in 2012 when Suresh lodged a complaint against a certain rival businessman saying he attempted to kill him and got the police to charge him under IPC Section 302 which is used to charge someone for murder and not attempt to murder! The District Sessions judge was flabbergasted to see a 302 charge sheet and asked the police for the postmortem report of D K Suresh knowing very well that he was alive. Although the police got a large dose of rebuke from the Court, the DKS family went about their business unabashed and unhindered.
During the resort politics of the Gujarat Congress MLAs in 2017, the Income Tax department conducted multiple raids on his and his brother’s various businesses. The enormity of cash and other valuables discovered in their houses and other places had shaken the collective conscience of the nation. However the aam aadmi of Karnataka knew very well the wealth of these two brothers and they were hardly surprised. After all, he was one of the wealthiest MLAs in the state at the point in time.
Future Path for DKShi
DKShi has been a firm believer in destiny and hard work. Ask him and he openly claims that his ability, usefulness and street smart wisdom and risk-taking courage will help him go far – even farther than where he has achieved till date. One can only shudder to think about the ruthlessness and hunger for power and wealth that will be witnessed. He has brazened out all questions raised by the Income Tax department and media claiming that he has not committed any misdeeds. If there is any truth to all the allegations against him and if he happens to be convicted by the law of the land, he doesn’t have to search far and wide for answers. After all, his firm belief in destiny would have condemned him.