The Income Tax raids on the premises of Karnataka minister D K Shivakumar has helped the Congress strongman earn some undeserved sympathy and the Modi government some well-deserved criticism. That Shivakumar, among the richest politicians in India, has come under the I-T scanner did not surprise anyone, but the timing of the massive operation, which involved searches at many locations in Delhi and Karnataka, did raise eyebrows.
While the Congress has enough grounds to complain about what it considers vindictive action by the Centre against a party leader, the BJP must be naive to expect everyone to blindly believe its argument that the searches have nothing to do with the August 8 Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat, where it seems determined to ensure the defeat of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s confidante Ahmed Patel.
For Shivakumar, the muscleman of the Congress in Karnataka, has taken on the onerous job of protecting Congress’ Gujarat MLAs from BJP’s poaching efforts and has put them up in a resort near Bengaluru. The room where Shivakumar was staying to keep an eye on the MLAs too was searched.
What made the Congress pack its MLAs off to Karnataka is a spate of resignations by its legislators, which the party took as a clear sign that BJP is at work to deny Patel a Rajya Sabha seat. While the Congress still has enough numbers to ensure Patel’s victory, it could no longer count on the loyalty of its legislators.
These are political games, but what’s at stake is democracy. The use of investigative agencies to target political opponents doesn’t evoke any surprise in India, as every party is adept at it. But the frequency and scale at which this is happening hints at a serious erosion of democratic principles. Shivakumar’s wealth needs to be looked into—his declared assets grew from `75 crore in 2008 to `251 crore in 2013—but unleashing the might of the government machinery for short-term political gains has grave implications.