Thousands of people belonging to the Vokkaliga community took out a protest rally in Bengaluru on Wednesday against the arrest of senior Congress leader D K Shivakumar and to express solidarity with him as the issue appeared to take a caste colour.
The protesters poured into the city from different parts of the state, particularly the Vokkaliga stronghold of Old Mysuru region, in response to "Raj Bhavan Chalo" call given by various outfits of the community.
Vokkaliga and Lingayat are the two dominant communities of Karnataka.
Shivakumar, an influential Congress leader of Karnataka and a former minister, was arrested on September 3 by the Enforcement Directorate in a case of alleged money laundering and has been in the custody of the agency since then.
Seen as show of strength by the Vokkaliga community, the protest march from National College grounds to Freedom Park and then to the Raj Bhavan was backed by the opposition Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular.
However, the former chief minister and JD-S leader H D Kumaraswamy did not turn up for the event stating that he was not invited.
Holding placards, banners and posters of Shivakumar, the rallyists raised anti-Bharatiya Janata Party slogans.
Thousands of policemen had been deployed all along the route to ensure law and order.
Anticipating a huge turnout, police had diverted traffic, which was however, thrown out of gear leading to snarls in parts of the city.
Many leaders including those from Congress and the JD-S addressed the gathering at the Freedom Park alleging that the BJP has resorted to vendetta politics.
Congress state president Dinesh Gundu Rao lashed out at the BJP, accusing it of resorting to vendetta politics.
"We all are with you Shivakumar in your struggle. We condemn the vendetta politics pursued by the Centre. BJP should not forget that power is not permanent," Rao said.
Nanjavadhuta Swamiji, a revered figure among the Vokkaligas, slammed the "tendency to fix" Vokkaliga leader Shivakumar.
"Already we have lost V G Siddhartha (Caf Coffee Day owner) from our community. We don't want Shivakumar to become another Siddhartha. Let the law take its course," said the Swamiji.
Karnataka Rakshna Vedike's Narayana Gowda -- who belongs to the community, warned the Centre not to "torment" Shivakumar unnecessarily.
"Take action as per the law but don't resort to vendetta politics. It is not good. Today it is Shivakumar but tomorrow even you may also face the same consequences," said Narayana Gowda.
He, however, clarified that he was present at the protest, not in his capacity as KRV President.
Former MP and JD-S leader L R Shivarame Gowda said he stood by Shivakumar forever.
"D K Shivakumar is not an economic offender. There are many more such offenders. The BJP is targeting those opponents who are strong," Shivarame Gowda alleged.
Kumaraswamy, who did not turn up for the event told reporters in Ramanagar that his party did support but he did not have any invitation from the organisers.
"I had no invitation. I have already said this programme (at Channapatna) was pre-scheduled. They have conducted it (protest) in a hurry, without bringing to my notice. If I was informed I would also have participated," he added.
Later, a delegation of Congress and the JD-S called on Governor Vajubhai Vala and submitted a memorandum.
The ED has summoned Shivakumar's daughter Aishwarya in connection with its probe against the former minister.
She has been asked to depose before the investigating officer of the case on September 12.
It is expected that her statement would be recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and questioned over aspects including Shivakumar's trip to Singapore in 2017 vis-a-vis money laundering allegations.
The ED had in September last year registered a money laundering case against Shivakumar, Haumanthaiah, an employee at Karnataka Bhavan in New Delhi, and others.
This criminal case was based on an Income Tax department chargesheet filed against Shivakumar and others before a court in Bengaluru for alleged tax evasion and hawala dealings.
Accusing the BJP government of indulging in "vendetta politics", Shivakumar had on Tuesday exuded confidence that he will emerge "victorious" both legally and politically.
He also thanked party leaders and supporters for standing behind him and urged them to hold a peaceful protest on Wednesday and not cause any inconvenience to common people.
"I would like to reiterate that I have done nothing wrong and am a target of vendetta politics. With the support and blessings that I am receiving from all of you, and my belief in God and our judiciary, I have full faith that I will emerge victorious both legally and politically (sic)," a tweet from Shivakumar's Twitter handle read.