Bengaluru: Senior Congress leader and former Karnataka minister, D.K.Shivakumar was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday in New Delhi after almost four days of rigorous interrogation over charges of money laundering.
“I congratulate my BJP friends for finally being successful in their mission of arresting me. The IT and ED cases against me are politically motivated and I am a victim of BJP's politics of vengeance and vendetta," Shivakumar wrote on Twitter soon after the news of his arrest hit TV screens.
The arrest of Shivakumar, known as the Congress “strongman", comes a day after he broke down in Delhi after ED denied him permission to be with his family on the occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi and offer his prayers to his late father.
The Vokkaliga leader’s arrest evoking sharp reactions from senior members of the Congress and its estranged coalition partner, Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S).
The opposition had used the situation to accuse the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of misusing central investigative agencies to target opponents and practicing vendetta politics. The Congress and other parties also stated that the arrests of Shivakumar and former finance minister, P. Chidambaram, in the INX Media case was an attempt not just to silence the opposition but also deflect attention from the economic slowdown and job losses under the Modi regime that has increased since the BJP came back to power with a bigger majority earlier this year.
“To put a lid on all this and to draw (the) attention of the country away from their own misdeeds, the BJP government is taking false action against Congress leaders," Randeep Singh Surjewala, the Congress national spokesperson said on Tuesday.
“After days of interrogation, without allowing even a day's break for the festival, ED now cites non-cooperation to arrest @DKShivakumar. The ruling govt is using investigation agencies to oppress those opposition leaders who they think are a threat to their interests," H.D.Kumaraswamy, former Karnataka chief minister and JD(S) leader wrote on Twitter.
The opposition has attacked the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and its alleged draconian economic policies when Cafe Coffee Day founder, V.G.Siddhartha, who was considered close to Shivakumar, threw himself into a river after he was allegedly hounded by I-T officials.
Soon after the arrest, supporters of Shivakumar damaged buses in Kanakpura, his home constituency.
IANS quoted ED officials stating that Shivakumar was elusive and non-cooperative during the investigation. Congress workers are going to protest across Karnataka on Wednesday.
Multiple agencies have been probing Shivakumar’s assets for almost two years now.
In August 2017, the Income Tax (I-T) department raided several premises owned by the Congress leader, his family and associates and claimed to have unearthed crores of rupees in unaccounted income.
His home in Sadashivanagar, an upscale neighbourhood in Bengaluru, was raided when he was shielding around 40 Congress legislators from Gujarat ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections in August 2017. Shivakumar had attracted all the attention on himself and his ability to shield legislators from Karnataka and other states from alleged poaching attempts by political rivals and lodging them in plush hotels, especially Eagleton Golf resort in the outskirts of Bengaluru.
Political circles were filled with speculation that the BJP was trying to get Shivakumar to switch sides along with his mentor and former external affairs minister, S.M.Krishna. Shivakumar has grown from a student leader to one of the biggest and most wealthy politicians within the Congress, wielding influence well beyond Karnataka. His ambition to grow beyond his constituency had seen him venture into the northern district of Belagavi where he faced stiff resistance from the powerful Jarkiholi brothers as well as putting him on a collision course with former chief minister Siddaramaiah.
Shivakumar has long honed the dream of becoming chief minister and president of the state Congress and has been lobbying with central leaders to undercut the importance given to Siddaramaiah, who is currently the legislature party leader.
“Opposition leaders are being targeted each & every day using central govt agencies. It is just an attempt to divert the attention from structural failures of @BJP4India govt & also to prevent the voices of dissent. @DKShivakumar is also a victim of their vindictive politics," Siddaramaiah wrote on Twitter.
Shivakumar is also one of the contenders for the role of leader of opposition in Karnataka after the Congress-JD(S) coalition crumbled over the weight of its own differences and an alleged rebellion engineered by the BJP that saw at least 17 legislators resign.
Congress workers in Bengaluru held a protest on Tuesday against the comments posted on Twitter by Karnataka deputy chief minister, Dr. C.N.Ashwathnarayan.
“Mr. @DKShivakumar, India is on the path of transformation and there is no place for corruption and loot of people's money in a 'New India'. The government is fighting tooth and nail to bring the corrupt and dishonest to justice," he posted on Twitter.
“Your allegations of political vendetta and gaining sympathy for your misdeeds is not going to work anymore. You will reap what you have sowed!," he wrote.