2017 'Nataka', Cong's Strong Wicket in 2 Seats: Deja Vu for Shivakumar as CBI Pays a Visit Before Bypolls
File photo of Karnataka Congress Chief Shivakumar.
Two huge prosecution cases launched by the income tax department and, parallelly, a money laundering investigation by the Enforcement Directorate.
It's an unlucky Monday for former minister, Congress strongman and its Karnataka unit president, DK Shivakumar, who had Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sleuths knocking on his doors in the tony Sadashivanagar area of Bengaluru. The residential neighbourhood woke up to the convoy of vehicles, posse of policemen and, of course, media frenzy on Monday morning with searches being carried out at Shivakumar's house.
After income tax evasion, benami properties, destruction of evidence and money laundering cases filed back to back by the federal investigating agencies against Shivakumar, aka DKS, the CBI has now registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act. This means the sleuths are poring over the disproportionate assets and wealth accumulated vis-a-vis to the known sources of income. However, according to the official sources in the CBI, a probe under the Prevention of Corruption Act gives a large bandwidth extended up to several sections of IPC and CrPC. The probe will also focus on the alleged misuse of public office and gratifications received when DKS held powerful positions during the Congress led government.
"Post the income tax searches and investigations, we had gathered evidences about the alleged gratification received from energy contracts and solar project tenders when DKS was the power minister. This information and related documents were passed over to the CBI which are being used now to base its probe. The money amassed from the alleged kickbacks was used towards purchase of wealth. So came out a lot of benami properties," a senior I-T official who was handling the tax evasion and benami property cases, explained to News18.
However, Monday's searches may not have come as a shocker to DKS who, on a few occasions in the recent past, had made some references in his statements to an imminent CBI operation. Polls and searches seem to have become a pattern for DKS. Cut to August 2, 2017, when DKS was herding the 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat who were secured from the BJP's poaching net during Rajya Sabha polls in that state. The MLAs were holed up at Eagleton Golf Resort, some 30 km off Bengaluru, and DKS was tasked with their security.
In simultaneous searches, the I-T officers swooped down on the resort as well as properties belonging to DKS's family and his friends. Nearly 300 officials had searched 67 locations including a flat in Delhi reportedly being used by DKS from where nearly Rs 10.8 crore cash was seized. The searches culminated in recovery of stacks of documents, footprints of financial transactions and identification of tax evasions.
The I-T department gave enough fodder for the Enforcement Directorate to jump in. The money laundering trail was explored and after multiple days of grilling in the national capital last year, DKS was arrested. Again, the arrest happened and DKS was released on bail in October end after 50 days in Tihar jail. This, just when the Karnataka bypolls were around the corner in December 2019. He returned to Bengaluru with a huge rally behind him -- a show of strength -- organised by the Vokkaliga groups and his followers.
After a brief lull, in a huge political move, DKS was appointed the KPCC president and he took charge in July. The timing of the CBI case and searches against DKS are anybody's guess. This time around, DKS was flexing his muscles for the upcoming bypolls to Rajarajeshwari Nagar and Sira assembly constituencies with preliminary ground reports indicating that the Congress was on a strong wicket in both the seats.
Congress party workers and DKS supporters had gathered in large numbers outside his residence at the time of the search and shouted anti-BJP slogans. The party leaders cried hoarse and termed the operation as motivated and agenda-driven.
"This raid is a continuation of BJP's vendetta politics against me," Shivakumar tweeted. "Congress was fighting on behalf of people ever since Corona & exposing the failures of BJP Govt. Such raids wont stop me from fighting against injustice. We will win against such tactics in the court of the people."