Three years ago, journalists from a prominent media outlet in Bangalore approached DK Shivakumar to conduct a sting operation. They posed as representatives of a power company and offered the Karnataka Energy Minister a bribe to get some work done. However DK being the wily politician he is got wind of this. As soon as they presented the money he got the doors shut and called the cops. Why these journalists thought a man worth Re. 250 Crore would accept a bribe worth five lakhs, is questionable. It can also be argued that though bribing itself is a crime, isn't exposing corruption in the larger public interest not the primary job of a journalist? Journalists have also levelled charges of violence against them after they were caught.
Sting operations have by and large helped in exposing acts of corruption across the country. It is also true that they have had a chequered past on issue of credibility. And in the murky waters of Politics and Journalism in Karnataka there have been one too many whispers about sting operations on Politicians by extortionist journalists and subsequent hush money paid to them. And DK would have known that.
However, this incident best sums up DK Shivakumar for several reasons. Firstly, he is perhaps the only politician in recent times who has avoided such a trap setup by the media, one that could have potentially finished his career. Secondly, he also successfully put the journalists behind bars for a while, making a martyr of himself, sending out a message that he was not to be messed around with and turning a tricky situation into an opportunity. Thirdly, DK was able to figure out that this was a setup only because he followed up with the company concerned and realised that these were not their employees in the first place. Something few politicians, leave alone ministers would be bothered to do. Fourthly, he had the patience and foresight to call cops to his house, wait for the bribe to be offered and got them arrested.
Though charges of using strong arm tactics have always followed him, the fact is that DK is extremely meticulous, down to the detail, qualities that make him one of Karnataka Congress's best poll managers with recent by poll successes to speak for. The victory would certainly have not been possible but for his management and resource deployment. No surprises then that he was picked to guard the flock of Gujarat MLAs meant to vote for Ahmed Patel in the RS polls.
DK's rise in Karnataka politics has been meteoric. He started off very early, taking on then State minister and now former Prime Minister HD Devegowda at the age of 23 in the Sathanur assembly constituency. Though he lost the battle he did give Gowda a tough fight. He was made a young minister of state for prisons at the age of 30. This was a reward for playing a crucial role in drumming up support for then CM Bangarappa after the exit of Veerendra Patil.
By the time Congress formed a Government in Karnataka in 1999 he was already a three term MLA from Sathanur and was inducted in the SM Krishna Cabinet. In 2002, he was given the Urban Development portfolio. This included overseeing projects in a booming metropolis like Silicon City Bangalore. The city was already seeing exponential growth and investments. It continues to be a much coveted portfolio in Karnataka for the spoils it can potentially offer.
He propped up TV anchor Tejaswini Ramesh in 2004 Lok Sabha polls against Deve Gowda, in the Kanakapura seat. By defeating the former PM he showed that he had arrived as a leader of the Vokkaliga community and could take on the old warhorse in his own constituency. But just weeks later, he was side lined when the Dharam Singh Government came into power with Devegowda's JDS as a coalition partner in the state. When Congress returned to power in 2013 his entry was stalled by CM Siddaramaiah on account of pending corruption cases though he eventually managed to get into the Cabinet, with pressure on the high command.
Today his first mentor Bangarappa is no more. His fellow Vokkaliga leader and mentor for close to two decades, SM Krishna has crossed over to the BJP. The Karnataka Congress' most prominent Vokkaliga face is left without a mentor in his own party. Other prominent faces such as Kharge and Moily have been given responsibilities in Delhi. Former CM Dharam Singh is no more. Ironically, the recent raids on him have meant that it is those who came to the Congress from the Janata Dal such as CM Siddaramiaah and RV Deshpande among others, who have an upper hand in the state unit rather than career Congressmen.
The enfant terrible of Karnataka Politics is now 55 years old. He is also a six term MLA from Sathanur. With strong appeal in the Old Mysore region and youth and Vokkaliga vote banks on his side, DK is still a potential future CM of the party. He is also one of the few who has access to money and muscle power like no other. His fate now rests upon how the IT cases against him go. Let us see how he handles this challenge. At least he hasn't lost his swagger. Yet.