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DK Shivakumar: Raided by Taxmen Last Week, An Unlikely Hero for Congress This Week

It was not just the public and fans, but religious seers from many mutts visited Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar at his home to express solidarity — a rare occurrence given that it is usually the netas who visit mutts to seek blessings.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:August 10, 2017, 8:46 AM IST
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Bengaluru: True politicians believe all publicity is good publicity. Even negative publicity is publicity.

And it was thus that the life of beleaguered Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar — DKShi to those who know him — came a full circle on Wednesday when he spoke at a Quit India movement commemoration ceremony which the Congress organised at Freedom Park.

Shivakumar, Power Minister in the Siddaramaiah government and campaign head for Assembly elections next year, seemed to have a new halo in the aftermath of Congress strongman Ahmed Patel's win in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections. The memory of him being grilled by Income Tax officials last week is fast fading away.

Taking command at the stage, flanked by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the state Congress president G Parameshwara, DKShi drew cheers and applause from the crowd as a film hero would.

He spoke with a new assurance, a ‘swagger’ in his voice and the knowledge that his worth in the party went up many notches after he helped prevent horse-trading by 'hosting' 44 MLAs from Gujarat ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls, keeping the brood together in a chaotic week. It paid off with Patel's dramatic victory early on Wednesday.

"Yes, definitely…. I knew it was a big risk," DKShi told News18. "But when my party and leader are in crisis, I don't want to say no. It is not a small game, every number was important, to keep them safe was important…. It was a big responsibility."

His core team of about 50 people, who looked after the Gujarat MLAs' daily needs, was also told to keep the CM, other ministers and the Congress president out of the planning and strategising, so they could be saved from embarrassing questions.

Shivakumar has been getting calls non-stop from “dozens of leaders” from within the Congress top brass and 'Patelbhai' himself, expressing gratitude for his “services”. He said the experience of what to expect from the BJP has left him stronger and he is now ready to take on BJP chief Amit Shah ahead of the 2018 battle.

Shah has set his sights on Karnataka and his first trip after becoming a Member of Parliament will be to the southern state. In fact, he will be participating in nearly 20 programmes during a three-day visit this weekend.

"It is their bounden duty. Let them do their campaigning. The Congress here is well-equipped to deal with them," Shivakumar said in an interview, adding that his party realises that a lot of homework is to be done. “Our CM is on it. Any responsibility given to me… I will do it."

It was a typical phata poster, nikla hero moment — a politician who has been embroiled in many controversies, brought down to his knees with raids on 64 places, including his home and those of his relatives and associates, and interrogations that spanned more than four days and nights.

And on Wednesday, he was basking in his renewed glory with his supporters, obliging selfie-seekers, and still maintaining that he is the victim of political vendetta.

Two days earlier, he was summoned again by the I-T department for more questioning. On Wednesday, his bank accounts were frozen. He was unmoved. "All that happens naturally," Shivakumar said.

Pulling off the resort stay wasn't easy. The Congress had booked nearly 70 rooms at the Eagleton Resort in Bidadi, just outside Bengaluru, a venue carefully chosen as it is close to his constituency and comes under his brother's Lok Sabha constituency.

One MP (Shivakumar's brother DK Suresh), two MLCs, six to seven office-bearers of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, a few former functionaries of the local zilla panchayat — a team of nearly 50 trusted Congressmen were enlisted for this. "It was confidential work, but everyone worked together," he said.

Interestingly, the 'supervision' was so good that CCTV footage at the time of the raids were sent within hours to Gujarat counterparts to see if there was any recognisable face in the raid party — the Congress at one point suspected that some of the 'officers' of the I-T department may have been sent by the BJP to negotiate with MLAs for cross-voting.

A journalist who entered the resort pretending to be a 'guest' was sent away. Other measures taken up to ensure the MLAs were not questioned unless there was clearance. The MLAs were put through workshops by researchers on administration and policies — not just to keep them busy, but also to counter criticism of the MLAs “enjoying” themselves, while their constituencies in Gujarat dealt with crippling floods.

It was not just the public and fans, but religious seers from many mutts visited Shivakumar at his home to express solidarity — a rare occurrence given that it is usually the netas who visit mutts to seek blessings.

In caste-ridden Karnataka where his dominant Vokkaliga community is very conscious of its stature, these visits have also upped his stature among community men.

So does DKShi feel he has emerged a hero? A seasoned politician, he knows this too won't last. "No, no. It is not like that. Maybe for a day, that’s all. I don’t know what will happen in the future," he said.

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