New Delhi: A huge crowd of supporters and party workers gathered outside Bengaluru airport on Saturday evening cheering and dancing as senior Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, as he returned to the state after being granted bail in a money laundering case. The Vokkaliga strongman was greeted by two-feet-long garland made with 250 kg of apples.

Sporting a peppered beard with Congress’ tri-colour cloth around his neck, Shivakumar addressed his supporters at Sadahalli gate, en route to the party office, and said, “I thank all my supports, party leaders, cadres, friends and well-wishers for my early release from the prison. Though I never took bribe or cheated anyone, I was punished for no reason.”

Overwhelmed by the grand reception by his supporters, Shivakumar added, “They have made me stronger. There is no question of weakening, no question of surrendering. I will fight for justice.”

The 57-year-old Congress leader was welcomed with flowers, crackers, and garland, followed by a procession that brought Shivakumar from the airport to the KPCC office in Bengaluru. Hundreds of supporters walked along as he waved and acknowledged them from his open car.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister and Janata Dal-Secular leader H.D. Kumaraswamy and Congress leaders from Kanakapura, his home constituency, were present at the airport.

Shivakumar was arrested on September 3 and spent over four weeks in Delhi’s Tihar Jail over allegations by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case. He was released on Wednesday evening following the Delhi High Court’s order to grant him ‘conditional’ bail.

He was in custody in connection with a case under the Prevention Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002, filed on a complaint by the Income-Tax Department, which had seized Rs 8.6 crore cash from his flat in New Delhi in August 2017.

The arrest had triggered a widespread protest, especially among the Vokkaliga community in parts of old Mysuru region like Bengaluru Rural, Ramanagara, and Mandya, among others.