Bengaluru: Senior Congress leader and former Karnataka minister, D.K. Shivakumar is fighting a perception battle along with charges of money laundering by central investigative agencies, which could either catapult his political career or see his influence wane further, say party leaders and political analysts.
However, most party workers and analysts say that it remains to be seen how the Vokkaliga leader emerges from the case being painted as “political vendetta" but is actually that of money laundering for individual and possibly benefit of the party.
The developments present the Congress with difficult choices to either shield its own, focus on building the party and a formidable opposition or risk giving an unchecked run to the BJP in the state and Centre.
“He can either propel his career based on this or see it slide further," A.Narayana, political analysts and faculty at the Azim Premji University said.
Until the Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons on Tuesday, Shivakumar was one of the contenders for leader of opposition against Siddaramaiah and also an aspirant for the post of state party president. ED on Wednesday sought 14-day custody of arrested Congress leader D K Shivakumar from a Delhi court, asserting that he gave evasive replies and remained non-cooperative during the investigation into the alleged money laundering case, ANI reported.
“The arrest of DK Shivakumar is another example of the vendetta politics unleashed by the Govt, using agencies like the ED/CBI & a pliant media to selectively target individuals," Rahul Gandhi, the former Congress president wrote on Twitter, almost an entire day after Shivakumar was arrested.
The Congress has used Shivakumar and the arrest of former union finance minister P. Chidambaram to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah-led union government for targeting political opposition and trying to deflect attention away from the slowdown in economy and job losses.
There were several reports of unrest in Karnataka on Wednesday with party workers vandalizing buses and property to protest the arrest of Shivakumar, who has enamoured youngsters with his rise from a student leader to one of the biggest and wealthiest politicians within the Congress.
He had dared Modi and Shah to arrest him to help him cash on the popularity and has also attracted attention for his ability to jump to shield the party from any hint of trouble, earning him monikers like ‘strongman’ and ‘troubleshooter’. However, the protests appeared unorganized in Bengaluru with only a handful of them taking part to support Shivakumar, exposing the chinks in the faction hit party.
Though Siddaramaiah has voiced his support for Shivakumar, the two have not been on very good terms, according to party workers and leaders. Shivakumar had set aside his personal differences with former PM and JD(S) supremo H.D.Deve Gowda and his son H.D.Kumaraswamy for the sake of the coalition that had irked Siddaramaiah who has an axe to grind with the first family of the JD(S).
Shivakumar was also seen as the only person who attempted to save the Kumaraswamy government while Siddaramaiah is being blamed for its collapse.
Shivakumar, however, is also accused of being the problem, rather than a problem solver, as his misadventure to spread his influence in Belagavi district sparked the first confrontation with the powerful Jarkiholi brothers that eventually led to one of them (Ramesh Jarkiholi) spearheading the rebels to defect.
Shivakumar has always been at the forefront to shield legislators of the party from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat among other places by lodging them in Eagleton Golf Resort.
The Income Tax (I-T) department raided Shivakumar and his associates when he had lodged at least 40 Congress legislators from Gujarat ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections in August 2017.
But the same ‘dirty work’, which he carried out so selflessly for the party, could see him being denied bigger opportunities, analysts say.
“Undoubtedly, for the moment at least, it would be difficult for the Congress leadership to offer any position to Shivakumar," said Sandeep Shastri, political analyst and pro-vice chancellor of Bengaluru-based Jain University.