I-T raids on Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar: Game of 'resort politics' vs 'raid politics' shames democracy

7 April: Income Tax officials raid Tami Nadu minister C Vijayabaskar and dredge up evidence regarding distribution of Rs 89 crore funds ahead of RK Nagar by-election in Chennai. It fits in neatly into the BJP's grand design to throw the "bad guys" out of AIADMK and get the good ones to unite and back the party.

6 June: CBI raids NDTV founder Prannoy Roy's offices and homes for allegedly causing a huge loss to ICICI Bank. This comes a few days after an anchor of the channel orders a BJP spokesperson to shut up and leave, live on TV. Sweet coincidence, if it was one.

2 August: I-T officials raid Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar and stumble on crores of rupees. Shivakumar is the chief impresario of a dubious operation by the Congress to hole up Gujarat MLAs in a Bengaluru resort, apparently to keep them away from BJP's predators. Coincidence again?

Auric Goldfinger, the villain in Ian Fleming's 1959 novel Goldfinger, famously told James Bond:

Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time is enemy action. Miami, Sandwich and now Geneva...

Goldfinger, a gold smuggler, has a good reason to say what he does. First, Bond catches Goldfinger cheating in a card game in Miami. Then, Goldfinger unexpectedly finds himself playing golf with Bond in Sandwich and losing. After this, Goldfinger's thugs find Bond snooping around the smuggler's den in Switzerland and capture him.

Don't blame the people if they see the NDA government's actions the way Goldfinger sees James Bond's. What the people of India — credit them with some common sense, please — may very well be thinking of is this:

Mr Modi, once is fine. Twice may be a coincidence. A third time, in four months, sir, is politics. Chennai, Delhi and now Bengaluru...

This is not to conclude that Vijayabaskar or Prannoy Roy or Shivakumar are innocent of any wrongdoing. Far from it.

Congress' DK Shivakumar. PTI

Congress' DK Shivakumar. PTI

Tamil Nadu was one of the progenitors of the notes-for-votes shame, and I-T raids on Vijayabaskar in April came as no surprise. In fact, it probably came as a welcome move for many. What was also equally clear was BJP's desperation to bulldoze the then ruling Sasikala faction and get Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy and his rival O Panneerselvam and their respective groups to unite and support the NDA.

As for Prannoy Roy, Ajay Kumar couldn't have put it better in this Firstpost article: "Let's be frank here. For all we know, there may be a legitimate case against NDTV and the Roys, but this government has done very little to establish their bonafides in going ahead with their investigation. Not just the timing of the CBI's raid, but the fact that there was nothing more than one complaint on which they acted upon before conducting the raid."

And as for Shivakumar, he is well-known in Karnataka as a trouble-shooter, political bouncer, election executioner and defection facilitator; an expert at operations that are more covert than overt, that pass off as being part of chaltha hai democracy. When the going gets tough, the Congress in Karnataka gets going... to Shivakumar.

What Shivakumar is best at is playing the nyanya (Russian for nursemaid), a word whispered in international espionage circles to refer to an agent who sticks to potential defectors to stop them from crossing over.

With a cherubic face that is a picture of nothing but sweet innocence, Shivakumar is media-friendly. He often helps reporters, not with solid facts but with hints that are as broad as the Ganges at Benares; the grateful reporters lap up these hints and interpret any which way they please.

But neither the latest instance of the Gujarat Congress despatching MLAs for safe-keeping in a Bengaluru resort nor the fact that Shivakumar was appointed to take care of them came as a surprise. Resort politics is something the likes of Shivakumar can map out and organise with the ease of playing kabaddi against a one-legged man.

But let's get one thing right. It's not always the innocent-as-babies kind of MLAs who are quarantined in resorts to stop predators from poaching them. Often, the prey is perched tantalisingly on the fence, winking at the predator and willing to be preyed on. The fact that a party finds it essential to hole up MLAs in a distant resort in five-star opulence amounts to an implicit admission — that they are vulnerable to allurements, and prone to changing colours with speeds that can shame a chameleon.

Keeping MLAs with flexible loyalties in safe custody serves a dual purpose: One, it stops rivals from making offers to the MLAs. And two, it allows the party that is hiding them to make its own offers with no fear of counter-offers.

Only a thorough and dispassionate investigation would find if the money allegedly recovered from Shivakumar was meant to be used by the Congress to make its own offers to its MLAs. But the raid on the minister at this juncture raises questions over its immediate motives.

A cop catching a thief may get a warm handshake or a garland of marigolds around his neck from grateful people. But if the cop is seen to be hounding the thief for designs other than justice, he will get only suspicious looks.

Ultimately, raid politics leave as much bad taste in people's mouths as resort politics do, and have tainted the hitherto corruption-free regime of Narendra Modi with avoidable accusations of vindictiveness.

Updated Date: Aug 03, 2017 07:27 AM

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