On Saturday May 13, Congress wrested power from the Bharatiya Janata party in the state of Karnataka by winning 135 of the 224 assembly seats. However, since then the party has met to try to decide who should be the chief minister of the southern state. Race favorites as veteran leader Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief DK Shivakumar.
On Tuesday, the two Karnataka leaders met with Congress Speaker Mallikarjun Kharge to explain why they would be the best choice for Karnataka’s top job. Former Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was also present at the meetings.
Currently, the odds are in favor of Siddaramaiah, 75, due to his past experience and the support he enjoys not only within the party, but across the state. However, DK Shivakumar, who postponed his trip to Delhi for a day, citing health concerns, said he had “handed over” the state of Karnataka to Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leaders and that he had kept his promise.
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Moreover, some in the high command also believe that Shivakumar worked hard for the win and should be rewarded with the CM position.
However, Congress has apprehensions about DK Shivakumar due to the money laundering, tax evasion and disproportionate assets cases filed against him.
Here’s a better understanding of the corruption cases against the 61-year-old leader and how it hurts his chances of being chief minister.
DK Shivakumar’s long list of cases
An eight-time MP, Shivakumar has been a loyal member of the Congress party since joining in the 1980s. He first contested the Sathanur Assembly constituency elections in 1989 when he was only 27 years old.
Over the years, Shivakumar rose through the political ranks and became a trusted lieutenant in the Gandhi family, as well as the title of “troubleshooter” for the party. He was at the heart of the action in Maharashtra in 2002 when the then Vilasrao Deshmukh government won a motion of no confidence.
However, his rise within the party was not without scandal and controversy. Over the years, it has caught the attention of central agencies like the Enforcement Branch, the Central Bureau of Investigation as well as the Income Tax (IT) Department.
To read also: DK Shivakumar or Siddaramaiah? Choosing CMs is not a new dilemma for Congress
It first came under the computer scanner in 2017 when large teams from the Income Tax Department raided more than 64 locations across Delhi and Karnataka linked to the leader, who was a government minister of State. At the time, the IT department found Rs 8.83 crore in unaccounted cash at premises linked to the Congress leader and said in a complaint that Shivakumar was unable to substantiate the source of the funds.
The raids had come at a time when Shivakumar was sheltering 44 Gujarat Congress MPs at a beach resort outside Bengaluru ahead of a crucial poll in Gujarat for the Rajya Sabha seats where Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s fortunes depended on the 44 deputies it housed. He had called the raids “part of the BJP’s ‘vendetta policy’.”
A year later, the Law Enforcement Directorate registered a money laundering case against Shivakumar, A Haumanthaiah, an employee of Karnataka Bhavan in New Delhi, and others. The case was based on an Income Tax Department indictment filed against Shivakumar and others in a court in Bengaluru for alleged tax evasion and hawala transactions. The IT department had accused Shivakumar and his associate SK Sharma of regularly transporting huge amounts of unaccounted cash through ‘hawala’ channels with the help of three other defendants.
Raids and investigations continued but on September 3, 2019, ED officials arrested the Kanakapura strongman on allegations that he engaged in laundering huge sums of money through hawala and using front companies. He was sent to Tihar Jail and was incarcerated in Prison Number 7 where his fellow Congressman Karti Chidambaram, son of P Chidambaram, had also been incarcerated in 2018. It was only after a months since he was released on bail and released from Tihar prison.
There is also the CBI v DK Shivakumar case filed in 2020 over allegations of disproportionate asset acquisition. Searches were carried out at several locations – nine in Karnataka, four in Delhi and one in Mumbai. DK Shivakumar has yet to be interviewed by the CBI in this case.
Sources within Congress say they are wary of the cloud of ‘corruption’ hanging over DK Shivakumar and that if he is chosen as chief minister, how would the administration operate when he is summoned for a examination. There is also the added worry of how the opposition, namely the BJP, would use its business as fodder to attack the party.
CM talks continue
Earlier, Congress said it would announce a name by Tuesday night on its decision for the top job in Karnataka. However, after a day of heated talks and discussions, no decision was made.
Also read: Not just Siddaramaiah, DK Shivakumar: Meet other Karnataka CM hopefuls
The two contenders for the job met Kharge in separate meetings on Tuesday, with News18 reporting that the head of the KPCC did not hold back during his meeting with the president of the Congress. Shivakumar is reported to have informed Kharge of Siddaramaiah’s mistakes since 2006, the year the former CM joined the Congress.
“Since Siddaramaiah came (joined the Congress), he has been in power either as party leader or as CM to such an extent that even you couldn’t be chief minister. If you become a CM, I have no objection,” Shivakumar told Kharge, according to a News18 report.
He pointed out that he worked for the party while Siddaramaiah did not contribute to the building of the organization and just enjoyed power. In the worst case, Shivakumar said a Dalit should be appointed chief minister, but not Siddaramaiah.
On the other hand, sources said that Siddaramaiah asked Kharge to follow the opinion of the majority of MPs. He said whoever has the support is naturally the popular choice.
At the end of the busy day, Congress spokesman Pawan Khera told reporters that a decision would be announced soon. “Appointing a chief minister is not an easy thing. We cannot impose it from Delhi… Everyone’s point of view must be taken into consideration. We need to dialogue with each stakeholder and then decide who will be the chief minister. The process is started. Observers have already been there. I met the deputies. The deputies gave their opinion. Now the opinions are gone, the whole file has gone to central management. So in a day or two you will know the answer.
Interestingly, the BJP took seven days for government formation in Uttar Pradesh after its tremendous victory in 2022, while it took a month in Maharashtra to set up a cabinet and nine days in Assam. .
With contributions from agencies
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