The rise and rise in fortunes of DK Shivakumar, the man being probed by ED
The arrest of Shivakumar, known as the Congress’ troubleshooter, on Tuesday by the Enforcement Directorate in a case of alleged money laundering has brought to focus this rise as it held within it the elements that would also lead him to his present juncture.Updated: Sep 04, 2019 19:46 IST
Promoted in the Youth Congress around 1979 after a split in the local party, DK Shivakumar would go on to win his first election to the Karnataka assembly in 1989 and become a fixture for the Congress party in the state, earning him admirers and detractors in equal measure.
The arrest of Shivakumar, known as the Congress’ troubleshooter, on Tuesday by the Enforcement Directorate in a case of alleged money laundering has brought to focus this rise as it held within it the elements that would also lead him to his present juncture.
DK or DKShi as he is referred to locally, amassed enormous wealth in the 30 years since his entry into the state assembly. His assets grew from around Rs 7 crore in 2004, since when his elections affidavits are available, to Rs 840 crore, including those of his wife and children, in 2018. And it wasn’t just him. His brother DK Suresh, the member of Parliament from the Bengaluru Rural seat, also saw his assets grow manifold from Rs 85 crore declared in 2014 to Rs 338 crore in 2019.
This rise began in 1979 when Shivakumar benefited from a schism in the Congress party after former chief minister Devaraj Urs broke away over disagreements with former prime minister Indira Gandhi. A majority of the cadre in the Young Congress joined Urs. It was at that time that a young Shivakumar was promoted in the ranks as the party sought to build from scratch, a Congress leader said.
From there, Shivakumar’s political career blossomed because of his daring, first witnessed in 1985, when a then-unknown 23-year-old took on the former prime minister HD Deve Gowda in the Sathanur constituency. Though he lost to the Gowda patriarch by around 15,000 votes, it endeared him to party leaders, another senior Congress leader confirmed.
This contestation with the Deve Gowda family would define his career over the next decade as the Congress attempted to project a younger leader from the Vokkaliga community in addition to former chief minister SM Krishna to take on the former prime minister.
In 1999, Shivakumar defeated Deve Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy before pulling off his biggest victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha election when he helped Congress’ Tejaswini defeat Deve Gowda in the Kanakapura constituency.
That victory cemented his credentials as a force in the Bengaluru Rural region, from where he hails, and set him up for a decade-long conflict with Kumaraswamy, who would also contest assembly polls from the same region. From then on, his admirers would call DK Shivakumar ‘Kanakapurada Bande’ or the Rock of Kanakapura - a reference to his constituency as well as his alleged involvement in illegal quarrying of granite found amply in that region.
These victories did not go unnoticed and SM Krishna inducted Shivakumar in his cabinet, making him minister for urban development. Shivakumar’s image as a tainted politician dates from this period.
A close associate of Shivakumar said that between 2006 and 2013, the Vokkaliga leader faced his toughest time. Out of power and unable to challenge the ascendancy of the JD(S), which was in power for four years, it appeared as though the Deve Gowda family had overcome his threat.
At this time, an investigation into illegal quarrying named two companies associated with him and one associated with his brother and lawmaker DK Suresh. That case further cemented his image of a tainted leader, which was only heightened in subsequent years.
The taint would come back to haunt DK Shivakumar after the 2013 assembly elections when despite his ties with Krishna Siddaramaiah, who was then elected the chief minister, refused to include him in the state cabinet, only doing so six months later under pressure from the party.
The crucial turning point for Shivakumar came in 2017, when the party decided to bypass chief minister Siddaramaiah and Congress’ state unit president G Parameshwara and asked Shivakumar to play host to MLAs from Gujarat. This was done to safeguard them ahead of a Rajya Sabha by-election, where Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s close aide Ahmed Patel’s seat was on the line.
To be sure, this wasn’t the first time he was entrusted with the job. However, it came at a juncture when it was believed that doing so would attract the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) ire.
Shivakumar came through for the party and ensured that Patel was elected, though it came at the cost of an income tax department raid on properties owned by him, his family members and his business associates.
In the 2018 assembly elections, Shivakumar decided to bury the hatchet with Kumaraswamy as they faced a common enemy in CP Yogeshwar, a serial party hopper on whom the BJP bet to make inroads into the Old Mysuru region.
This bonhomie continued when the Congress and JD(S) came to power in a coalition, against the wishes of many in the state unit. In fact, one senior leader had said that the arrangement benefited only four people—Kumaraswamy and his brother HD Revanna in the JD(S) and Shivakumar and former deputy chief minister G Parameshwara.
Shivakumar’s last throw of the dice to bring back rebel MLAs, who would eventually bring down the government, by sitting outside a five-star hotel in Mumbai was seen as further evidence of this.
As the heat was piling up, Shivakumar even stood up to address some of the allegations made against him in the assembly during the floor test of the coalition government. “I am from a very simple middle-class family, I am not going to claim that I came from poverty,” he said. “Yes, I have grown… I have broken stones [quarrying]...”
In the month since the BJP government was formed in Karnataka, many leaders in that party openly claimed that Shivakumar might soon be put behind bars, which came true on Tuesday.