I-T raids against DK Shivakumar BJP’s way of going for Congress’s jugular
The Narendra Modi government has made it clear that it is willing to deploy its entire might to crush Opposition anywhere. No battle, no opponent is too small.
The latest on the receiving end of the government’s ire seem to be two important Congress leaders – Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and Karnataka’s Energy Minister DK Shivakumar.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Patel and Shivakumar are said to be two of the Congress’ main fund-raisers.
The I-T department launched a massive raid early morning on Wednesday against Shivakumar, his associates and family members. This has sent shockwaves through Congress party circles in Bengaluru as well as New Delhi.
Though the raids were against Shivakumar, they appeared to be a direct challenge to Patel. This is because Shivakumar was playing host to 42 Gujarat MLAs – spirited away from Ahmedabad to protect them from being lured by the BJP before the Rajya Sabha elections in which Patel is a contestant.
In fact,Shivakumar was staying at the Eagleton resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru along with the Gujarat MLAs when the raids began, and the IT officials came to the resort to pick him up.
Political observers say that the raids were aimed at scaring the Gujarat MLAs and sending the message that the BJP government will “track them down” wherever they are.
Sources say that 10 out of the 42 MLAs have probably been “managed” by the BJP already. If this is true, Patel will be defeated in the Rajya Sabha elections. It is clear that the BJP wants to go for the kill against Patel.
Defeating Sonia Gandhi’s main political strategist will be a huge victory for the BJP.
Congress MPs led by their leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, accusing the BJP of resorting to “terror politics”. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley clarified that the IT officials had gone to the resort looking for Shivakumar and “No Gujarat MLA had been touched or searched”.
Jaitley said it was absurd to link the raids to the Gujarat election as the IT department was conducting investigation into an “economic offence”.
The Rajya Sabha also plunged into turmoil as it was adjourned twice with the Congress party led by Gulam Nabi Azad voicing strong protest against “Modi’s dictatorship”.
In Bengaluru, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who was continuously monitoring the situation, issued a statement saying Shivakumar is being targeted as part of the Modi government’s systematic campaign to tarnish “the image of Congress leaders” in Karnataka before Assembly elections due next April.
Political observers believe that the timing of the raids lend credence to the Congress party’s allegation that they were all politically motivated.
Even KC Tyagi of the Janata Dal (United), which has recently become a BJP ally, said that the timing of the raids is suspicious.
Observers also point out that state BJP leaders BS Yeddyurappa and mining baron Janardhana Reddy, who are also under CBI investigation for various offences, have been let off the hook.
Who is DK Shivakumar?
There is no denying that Shivakumar, five-time MLA with several business interests, was under the IT scanner for over a year now. He was a contender to succeed R Parameshwara as Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president earlier this year, but was over-looked by the party for the fear of being ‘targetted’ by the BJP.
Shivakumar’s is said to have stakes in several businesses -- real estate, granite mining, transport and educational institutions. Based on his declaration during the 2013 Assembly elections, he is the second richest politician in the country.
Though there was initial confusion about the places raided, Jaitley put the number at 39 while addressing the Lok Sabha. The raids were conducted at Bengaluru, New Delhi, Kanakapura and Mysuru.
The early morning raid on a Safdarjung Enclave property allegedly yielded cash in crores of rupees. The estimate ranges from Rs 7 crore to Rs 11 crore. Though the raiding party remained tight-lipped, reporters hanging around the bungalow saw some ‘note counting machines’ being taken inside.
Shivakumar’s younger brother, DK Suresh, who is a Congress MP, was among those raided. Suresh said he and his brother were income tax payees and they had nothing to hide. “It is nothing but vendetta politics, but we will come out clean,” he said.
Suresh denied that the IT officials had seized a ‘diary’ maintained by Shivakumar, saying he had no such practice. But there were reports saying Shivakumar allegedly had a scuffle with an IT officer at the Eagleton resort and tried to tear the sheets of a diary recovered from him.
The Safdarjung Enclave residence belonged to late DP Sharma, a veteran Congressman who contested two Lok Sabha elections but lost. Contesting from the prestigious Bangalore South constituency in 1980, he secured 45.13% votes against Janata Party candidate T R Shamanna, who won in the ‘Janata’ wave.
DP Sharma launched ‘Sharma Transport’ in 1980s which had a strong presence all over Karnataka, running luxury buses. After his death his son, Suresh Sharma took charge and Shivakumar allegedly became a benami partner in the transport business.
Suresh Sharma operated from the privately-owned Safdarjung residence, which was frequented by Shivakumar. Suresh Sharma died last year, but Shivakumar continued to have access to the house.
Anjaneya, Shivakumar’s PA in Delhi (actually, an employee of the Karnataka Bhavan) and Nagaraj, a long-time driver of Kumar whenever he visited Delhi, were among those taken into custody by the IT officials.
The raids were also conducted on Shivakumar’s mother’s house in Kanakapura and mother-in-law’s house in Mysuru.
Contrary to practice, the IT department kept the state police in the dark about the raids and took help of the CRPF, which was strongly criticised by the chief minister and others.
A shocked Congress party organised small groups of protests in some parts of the city and the workers raised slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. Effigies of the two leaders were also burnt.
By late evening, the IT department reportedly ‘leaked’ some visuals of stacks of currency notes allegedly recovered from Shivakumar’s house and they were being played out on local TV channels.
A source in the chief minister’s office said that a counter-strategy was being worked out by the state government to target BJP leaders, using the Anti Corruption Bureau which directly works under CM’s supervision.
Indications are that with the approaching elections, Karnataka will see the ‘Raid Raj’ making more headlines.