Veteran Indian National Congress leader and Sonia Gandhi’s right-hand man Ahmed Patel passed away on Wednesday at the age of 71. Patel had a very close relationship with Karnataka, because state Congress 'troubleshooter' DK Shivakumar was the man who held his nerve against all odds and helped Patel re-enter the Rajya Sabha. And so, Shivakumar’s days of peace too ended as the Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate started shadowing him.
Political pundits in Karnataka opine that DK Shivakumar’s role in keeping Gujarat Congress MLAs in a resort made the BJP top brass angry. “If one looks back at the series of events following the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections, it is evident that DK Shivakumar is being cornered. I don’t say he hasn’t done anything wrong. But the timing of the raids, arrest, etc, showcase that he is being targeted,” says a senior political journalist.
On August 3, 2017, the I-T Department raided Shivakumar’s residence, offices, relatives’ houses and other places connected to him. The Karnataka politician was in charge of securing 44 Gujarat Congress lawmakers. The elections for Rajya Sabha seats were to be conducted on August 8. Fearing poaching of its MLAs by the BJP, the Congress high command decided to shift them to Karnataka, the only state at the time that the Congress had a strong grip over.
Shivakumar, known as DKS in Karnataka politics, is an all-weather man for the Congress. He reached the top of state politics by fighting the Gowda family in its stronghold and his lengthy fight with the Gowdas is legendary.
Shivakumar, a Vokkaliga, won his first assembly election in 1989 from Sathanur in Kanakapura taluk by defeating the giant of Karnataka politics, HD Deve Gowda. When S Bangarappa became the chief minister in 1990, he recognised Shivakumar’s talent and made him a junior minister with the Prisons and Homeguards portfolio. Even though the portfolio was insignificant, Shivakumar caught the attention of the party top brass because of his leadership skills and courage. He was just 29 years old and that mattered a lot.
So when the BJP tried to defeat Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections in August 2017, the same Shivakumar sheltered Gujarat Congress MLAs. Despite being raided by the Income Tax Department and ED, he did not budge. Patel won and Shivakumar had the last laugh.
But that was certainly the last laugh for some time to come, as he was arrested by Enforcement Directorate officials in Delhi and kept in both ED and judicial custody for over a month following Patel’s victory. Since then, Shivakumar has been grilled by central agencies every now and then and is facing heat from the Central Bureau of Investigation. On Tuesday, CBI sleuths raided his house in connection with a disproportionate assets case and sources from the agency hinted at his arrest yet again.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and now home minister, then BJP president, Amit Shah, had looked at the Gujarat Rajya Sabha election as a prestige battle and wanted to send Patel off from the upper house. Patel was a key target of the BJP leadership because he was the right-hand man of Sonia Gandhi and also one of the brains behind the Congress operations. Like Mallikarjun Kharge, Patel was most powerful after Sonia and Rahul in the party. The BJP was almost successful in ousting him, but Shivakumar stood like a wall and guarded the legislators. And so, DKS has been on the radar of the BJP top brass.
Now after repeated raids on DKS, the Congress is accusing the BJP of indulging in vendetta politics by targeting opposition leaders across the country.
DK Shivakumar resisted all efforts from the central government to break him, and so the Congress high command made him the president of the party state unit. But it has not at all been a cakewalk for him as he is fighting both external and internal enemies, says a Congress leader close to DKS.
Now Patel is no more and the brains trust of the party has been dealt a severe blow; on the other hand, DKS is again facing the heat of investigation agencies.