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Arun Jaitley rejects Congress charge: MLAs not targeted, searches not linked to Rajya Sabha polls

The Rajya Sabha witnessed four adjournments due to disruptions, the last at 2.45 pm for the day. In Lok Sabha, Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge charged the government with “political vendetta”.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru/new Delhi | Updated: August 3, 2017 8:27 am
it raids, karnataka it raids, income tax raid, bengaluru resort, bengaluru raid, karnataka raids, karnataka minister it raid, indian express news Tax officials at Shivakumar’s house in Delhi. Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal

A political storm raged Wednesday and the Election Commission sought a report from the Finance Ministry within two days after the Income Tax department searched 60 premises linked to Karnataka energy minister D K Shivakumar and recovered Rs 10 crore cash as part of its probe into an alleged tax evasion case. The Congress approached the Election Commission after accusing the BJP government at the Centre of targeting Shivakumar since he has been overseeing the stay of 42 Gujarat Congress MLAs at a resort near Bengaluru.

The Eagleton Golf Resort, where the Congress MLAs have been lodged to prevent their poaching by the BJP ahead of the August 8 elections to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, was among the premises searched by tax officials. Six MLAs have so far quit the Congress and three of them have joined the BJP. While the BJP has fielded party president Amit Shah, Union Minister Smriti Irani and Congress defector Balwantsinh Rajput for the Rajya Sabha seats, the Congress has again named Ahmed Patel, political secretary to its president Sonia Gandhi, for the third seat.

The raids angered the Congress which paralysed proceedings in Rajya Sabha and walked out of Lok Sabha. Ghulam Nabi Azad Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, sought to know why were the searches being carried out now “and not a month later or before”. Rejecting the Congress allegations, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the searches had no connection with Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat. He told members of the two Houses that according to information received from the Income Tax Department, “there has been no search (operation) at a resort… nor has any Gujarat MLA been searched by the department… there has been no contact (of the tax department) with them”.

“It is true a search has been conducted on a minister of the Karnataka government and his associates… The man whose house was being searched reached the resort. Since a person who was raided had to be confronted with the recoveries made from his premises, the tax department personnel went to the resort where he had been hiding. He was taken from there to his house. There is no tax department official at the resort,” Jaitley said, maintaining that the resort was not an area where the Karnataka minister could get “immunity from the law”.

When Congress members in Rajya Sabha accused the government of using central agencies like CBI, ED and IT to target their party and leaders, Jaitley said, “Whether it is use or abuse, it depends on recovery (made during the searches)”. The Rajya Sabha witnessed four adjournments due to disruptions, the last at 2.45 pm for the day. In Lok Sabha, Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge charged the government with “political vendetta”. As Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi watched, he said: “I appeal to the government not to terrorise and threaten the MLAs. You will also have to face this tomorrow… If there is any offence, then action should be taken, even if it involves me. You are resorting to this to defeat one person (Ahmed Patel) in the Rajya Sabha polls.”

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the searches were part of action against black money and corruption. He said the Karnataka government had decided to slap a penalty of Rs 942 crore on the resort. “Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ahmed Patel should explain this. They should come out clean on this matter,” Ananth Kumar said. As the House went ahead with other matters, Sonia Gandhi and Kharge led a Congress walkout. Later, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters: “There is no vendetta. No Gujarat MLA has been summoned, investigated. No Gujarat MLA staying there has been raided. The raided man is a Karnataka minister, it has nothing to do with Gujarat.”

Income tax raids, IT raids, Congress, Karnataka minister raid, D K Shivakumar, Karnataka news, Congress Gujarat MLAs, India news, indian express news Minister Shivakumar at his home in Bengaluru. (Source: PTI Photo)

Armed with 39 search warrants, the IT department carried out searches in Bengaluru, New Delhi and Chennai on premises linked to Shivakumar, his family and business associates. The minister’s homes in Bengaluru, Delhi, and in his constituency Kanakapura, and properties belonging to his brother and Congress MP D K Suresh, and S Ravi, a relative and a member of the Karnataka legislative council, were among those searched. Real estate, jewellery and power businesses which have had transactions with companies run by the wealthy minister — Shivakumar declared Rs 251 crore wealth in his election affidavit in 2013 while his brother declared Rs 81 crore — were also searched by IT officials early Wednesday.

IT sources said Rs 8 crore in cash was found at the minister’s Safdarjung Enclave home in Delhi and another Rs 2 crore was recovered from other premises. The searches were part of an ongoing investigation into the undisclosed wealth of the Congress leader, the IT department stated. Since the searches extended to a room of the Eagleton Golf Resort, where the minister was present with Gujarat Congress MLAs, the Congress said the IT raids were “politically motivated’’. Congress MLAs from Gujarat have been at the resort since July 31 as part of a strategy to keep the party flock together to ensure the support of 45 MLAs that is needed for Ahmed Patel to be elected again to Rajya Sabha.

Read | Wealth, influence, controversy: the importance of Shivakumar

“BJP is on an unprecedented witch-hunt just to win one Rajya Sabha seat,” Ahmed Patel said in a tweet following the IT searches on premises linked to Shivakumar. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah called the raids on his colleague a political conspiracy. “Using the IT department as a weapon of political vendetta is not only a blatant misuse of power but also goes against the principles of democracy and cooperative federalism,’’ Siddaramaiah said. The office of the Director General of IT (Investigations) for Karnataka and Goa region said the department was conducting searches only in the case of Shivakumar and not with respect to the Gujarat MLAs at the resort.

“The search is the continuation of an investigation which has been in progress for a considerable period of time… The timing of the search was decided well in advance. The events involving certain MLAs of another state being brought to Karnataka were unforeseen and unpredictable events,” the IT department said. “The minister being searched was staying at a resort near Bangalore where some MLAs from another state are put up. Hence the minister’s room alone is being searched,” the IT department said. “The search team has no concern with the MLAs and there has been no contact with MLAs and the search team,’” the department said.

But by evening, the Congress took the matter to the Election Commission. Congress leaders met Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti and Election Commissioner OP Rawat and told them that the resort where the Gujarat MLAs were staying was “raided by Income Tax officers along with central forces of the CRPF.” The Congress said the episode showed that the central government was using central forces for “political purposes.”

The Congress delegation asked the Election Commission to issue appropriate directions to ensure the safety and security of its MLAs to enable them to vote in the elections. The poll panel later sought the Finance Ministry’s response on the details of the case and why CRPF personnel were brought in for the raids. The government has time until Friday to respond.

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  1. S
    Aug 3, 2017 at 6:22 pm
    Shivakumar looks totally baffled. Now the results of the raid will give Sidramaiah a heart-attack. These Corrupt Congress goons should be exposed....
    1. U
      Unmai Thamizhan
      Aug 3, 2017 at 4:30 pm
      corrupt goons of congress: I am an ex Congressman(true congress Party member, not member of scamgress of sonio), I AM ASKING YOU A SIMPLE QUIESTION: WHAT IS WRONG IN TARGETTING THE MLAs OF GUJRAJ WHO ARE HIDING IN BANGALORE IN A BIG GROUP, NOT DOING THEIR DUTY IN THEIR STATE? IF YOU ARE NOT CORRUPT, THEN TELL US THE SOURCE OF THE RS.10 CRORES? WHO SENT THIS MONEY ? FOR WHAT? Why are you c icizing Govt action? It is the duty of Income Department. During your corrupt rule IT Dpt did not do anything and were collecting money and sleeping and only now they are all working, thanks to Modiji. Scamgress of Italian oldie should perish along with all of you, so our country will be better. We are waiting for the demise of the Congress Party of Sonio, Italiano
      1. M
        Aug 4, 2017 at 5:40 am
        Brother Unmai, Welcome to the growing Club of ex-Congress supporters. My family and I are very disappointed that the Congress we voted for in five National Elections, NEVER focused on the Country but on themselves and arming the Bureaucracy with ENORMOUS powers so that they could build the CORRUPTION RAJ. We are witnesses to the Corruption Raj, step by painful step, from the late 1950s. Congress took advantage of an Innocent India of the 1940s to early 1970s.
        1. J
          Aug 4, 2017 at 7:17 am
          Murthy> Ya you do sound like foolishness runs deep in your family, you repeatedly support the same party who is corrupt for decades then you jump zealously onto another which is no better and worse in many regards.
      2. T
        Aug 3, 2017 at 12:40 pm
        sonio kundi has sent crores to MLAs of Gajrat with a fear they may leave the Party if money is not paid to them. sonio and Raulo kondis are playing games with money looted by sonio bahuo italiano through Italian agent quotorochi. WE KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE GAMES SONIO KUNDI IS PLAYING.
        1. I
          Aug 3, 2017 at 11:59 am
          "The search is the continuation of an investigation which has been in progress for a considerable period of time" "Considerable period of time" in the jargon of these so-called Govt. Stooges must be the LAST 48-60 HOURS !
          1. P
            Poda De
            Aug 3, 2017 at 11:39 am
            What is this Nehru-Gandhi dynasty ? Gandhi was a Gujarati and Nehru was a Kashmiri and they were never blood-related ! Nehru's daughter Indira was married to a Persian by name Feroz G hy and Indira cleverly hoodwinked the world by twisting this G hy name into Gandhi so that her children can acquire Gandhi surname as if they are the inheritors of Mahatma Gandhi legacy ! Crookedness to the Core !
            1. Y
              Aug 3, 2017 at 5:59 pm
              you are absolutely right. Surname Gandhi was stolen by Indira., Everything was stolen by her. Every grain of food that Dynasty was eating was with stolen money. They give one house in Allahabad and swallowed crores and crores of poor Indians money. This is Nehru fraud dynasty. Only when Nehru dynasty perishes, it is vimochana for India. Thank God Rahul is single and hopefully will not have some offspring so Nehru dynasty will end with that idio italiano. Hope Priyanka's children will not come to politics and ruin the country. ENOUGH OF NEHRU DYNASTY.
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