The Income Tax department on Wednesday sensationally raided the premises of an influential Congress minister in Karnataka government, DK Shivakumar.
Shivakumar, who was also responsible for the hospitality of 44 Congress MLAs in Bengaluru resort after they were transported out of Gujarat fearing blackmailing and intimidation by the BJP, was questioned for several hours.
As expected, the Congress party reacted angrily and accused the Centre’s Narendra Modi government of abusing agencies to harass rival leaders. Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, called it an ‘unprecedented witch-hunt.’
He said, “BJP is on an unprecedented witch-hunt just to win 1 Rajya Sabha seat. After using state machinery and every other agency, these I-T raids show their utter desperation and frustration.”
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who the IT department reports to, said in parliament that no raids were conducted at Resort adding that authorities went to look for just one MLA.
He said, “The points raised by honourable (Mallikarjun) Kharge ji are very serious but facts conveyed to him are perhaps not adequate. Let me make it clear. The information I’ve received from the department and I’ve personally verified them. No IT raids have taken place on any resort or any MLAs. No contact has been made with them.”
He went on to say that the purpose of IT officials visiting the resort was to confront Shivakumar, who he the union minister alleged was hiding at the resort.
He added, “This is true that a minister from Karnataka government and his associates have been searched by the Income Tax. That search is being conducted at 39 places. The person who was searched, he arrived at the resort when the search began at his residence. Because it was important to confront the person who is being searched, it was only possible to contact him at the place where he had taken refuge in.
“The Income Tax authorities went to resort only with the purpose of taking him (DK Shivakumar) to his home so that they could record his statement.”
However, the CCTV footage accessed by India Today appeared to contradict Jaitley’s claims. In the video several IT officials protected by paramilitary forces were seen entering the rooms at the resort occupied by Congress MLAs from Gujarat.
— India Today (@IndiaToday) August 2, 2017
Local correspondents that Janta Ka Reporter spoke to said that Jaitley was also wrong in claiming that Shivakumar was hiding in the resort.
One correspondent said on the condition of anonymity, “It’s a public knowledge that DK (Shivakumar) is a very very influential politician in Karnataka. The resort where the Gujarat MLAs are staying falls in his brother, DK Suresh’s parliamentary constituency, Bengaluru Rural. If he were to hide from the Income Tax officials, the resort was the last place he would have chosen. Let’s not forget, it’s Congress government in Karnataka.”
Shivakumar has checked in the resort soon after he returned from Delhi a day before.
“On the day the Income Tax officials escorted by the armed CRPF jawans, raided the resort, he was busy discussing the plan on where they should take the MLAs out for sight-seeing because the lawmakers were getting bored after staying inside the resort for five days,” said another source at the Bengaluru resort.
Another journalist pointed out that when Shivakumar appeared on the balcony of the resort amidst the questioning by the IT officials, he did not appear fazed at all.
Sources in Karnataka government also expressed fear that the raids were a ploy to send a message to Congress MLAs from Gujarat that if an influential minister could be targetted by the Modi government, they ‘must realise what could happen to them.’
There are conversations in political circle in Bengaluru that the Gujarat MLAs may be attacked on their way back home for the Rajya Sabha elections, scheduled for 8 August.
Congress party, which had alleged poaching of its MLAs by the BJP allegedly for Rs 15 crore each ahead of the 8 August Rajya Sabha elections, had taken their 44 legislators to Bengaluru. The party had alleged that the Centre’s Narendra Modi government was using its agencies to harass their elected representatives.
Modi, in the past, has talked about eliminating Congress from India. The prime minister and his party have come for considerable flak for abusing the central government agencies and allegedly using intimidation to target opposition parties.
Congress needs 46 MLAs’ votes in Gujarat to ensure its candidate, Ahmed Patel’s election to Rajya Sabha. It had 57 MLAs, but six of them have already joined the BJP. The party said the BJP had paid huge sum of money to steal its MLAs.
Patel, a veteran Congress leader from Gujarat had told NDTV that the BJP president, Amit Shah, had decided to ensure his defeat at any cost because the latter held him responsible for being jailed during the UPA regime.
Shah had spent months behind bars and was banned from entering Gujarat for his alleged role in fake encounter cases. He’s one of the BJP candidates in 8 August Rajya Sabha elections.