The Congress government in Karnataka wouldn't have imagined that the personal enmity between two businessmen politicians -- which has snowballed into a political Mahabharath in Gujarat, will directly pose a threat to its very survival in the State.

The Congress is at its wits end, following the day long IT raids on Karnataka’s Energy minister D K Shivakumar on Wednesday. Though the first family of the party -- AICC president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi chose to remain silent on the matter, leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah have strongly backed Shivakumar. The junior Gandhi is however learnt to have told Siddaramaiah over phone to “fight back”.  
The development is a serious cause for concern for the Congress, as Shivakumar’s probable indictment, will cripple the party in the State, precipitating a crisis, ahead of both the Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat and the Assembly elections in Karnataka. The party is also worried that more number of ministers, including Water Resources Minister M B Patil, are under the IT scanner.  

Shivakumar is not only one of the richest ministers, he is also the party’s main troubleshooter and an effective organiser. Like on previous occasions, this time too it is Shivakumar who is keeping the flock of 40 odd Gujarat MLAs together at a resort here in Bengaluru, ensuring that they are not poached by the power hungry BJP. Though there were rumours that Shivakumar has been under the IT radar for a while, the Congress is crying foul, given the timing of the search operation. 

Stating that the raids were politically motivated, Siddaramaiah said that the Centre’s involvement was more than apparent. He said that the Centre was using the IT department as a tool for political vendetta. Stressing that the State government would not be intimidated by such scare tactics he said that the IT sleuths had violated rules by bringing in CRPF personnel instead of using the local police force. 

In the Lok Sabha, Kharge attacked the BJP for orchestrating the raids and trying to terrorise the opposition in Gujarat ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls on August 8. Rubbishing the allegations, Union Minister Arun Jaitley defended his government by stating that none of the Congress MLAs who are “hiding” away in Bengaluru were searched. The sleuths were forced to go to the resort, where the MLAs have been put up, as Shivakumar had closeted himself there, he said. 

As 39 properties belonging to Shivakumar and his associates were searched, it was important to record the Minister’s statements. When the Minister was picked up, he was in fact found tearing some documents, he said, adding, “Don’t link this with Gujarat politics. Link it only with financial corruption.” 

AICC national spokesperson and Gujarat MLA Shaktisinh Gohil however told reporters in Bengaluru that the IT officials had searched all the Congress MLAs at the resort. “I have proof that MLAs in the resort were raided -- I will upload the video of the search on twitter. Our resolve and our loyalty to the party is much stronger now,” he added.  

KPCC president G Parameshwara and the party’s working president Dinesh Gundu Rao alleged that the BJP was making desperate attempts to ensure Congress candidate Ahmed Patel’s defeat in the RS polls. Going a step further, Rao likened Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah, to Adolf Hitler. 

The Congress also alleged that the BJP wanted to completely wipe out the opposition, and said the recent developments in States like Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Goa Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur proved its intentions. 

It is a fact that the BJP is inching towards a ‘Congress mukth Bharath’, and that Karnataka has emerged as its biggest hurdle. But unlike its coup earlier this month in Bihar where the BJP used the CBI to target the Lalu Yadav family to capture the State, its reasons for backing the IT raids in Karnataka are for entirely different reasons.

It’s not that the BJP is not keen on usurping Karnataka from Congress’s clutches. But the reason for targeting one of the State’s powerful ministers has got to do more with the personal enmity between Shah and Patel, both of whom are contesting the RS polls.

The RS polls have come as pay back time for the BJP, especially Shah, who has been waiting for an opportunity to exact revenge against the one person who was responsible for sending him behind bars - Ahmed Patel.

Yes, defeating Patel would bring the Congress down to its keens. But Shah, who has been waiting to get back at Patel ever since his imprisonment in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, hopes to end Patel’s political career once and for all.