The ruling Congress in Karnataka Thursday staged a protest here against the alleged misuse of central agencies by the BJP-led NDA government to target party leaders ahead of the state assembly polls. Several Congress leaders and workers, led by Karnataka PCC working president Dinesh Gundu Rao, held a protest march from the KPCC office to the Income Tax Department office.
Some protesters shouting pro-Congress and NSUI slogans managed to throw black ink on the nameplate of the GST and Customs headquarters, before they were detained, police said.
A top Income Tax department official here termed the charge as a claim made by a political party and said if anybody has a genuine grouse over a raid, they can move court.
The protest came a day after state Water Resources Minister M B Patil alleged that phones used by him and his family members were being tapped.
The minister had also expressed fears about Income Tax raids against him before the code of conduct for the state assembly polls came into force.
“The misuse of the IT/Enforcement Directorate against Congress leaders of Karnataka is not only damaging to the fabric of democracy but also impinges on the impending elections in the state. #BJPVendettaPolitics,” the KPCC said in a tweet.
The party said the protest march was against “misuse” of the Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation as “tools” of the BJP against Congress leaders.
A letter was also submitted to the chairperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxes.
In the letter, the Congress said Karnataka was all set for elections this year. “We believe that certain actions of your department’s officials exceed the constitutional mandate accorded to them and vitiate the spirit of our elections,” it claimed.
The party cited the raids on state Energy Minister D K Shivakumar last year, calling it “procedurally unsound.” It blamed the BJP for the raids “with an intention to malign the minister and grab power in the state.”
The “most unfortunate”, however, has been reports of a senior IT official threatening raids on those not willing to make concessions or yield to pressure of relinquishing their political affiliations in the BJP’s favour, it claimed.
“This not only undermines the credibility of the enforcement wing of the government but puts the entire integrity of the department under a shadow of doubt,” the party alleged.
Hitting out at the ruling party, BJP leader and former deputy chief minister R Ashoka said the Congress was “hallucinating”.
“Never in the history of the country has such a protest and splashing of ink on Income Tax offices taken place. The Congress’ conduct is demeaning,” he said.
Ashoka said several such IT raids on political leaders and businesses have taken place in the past.
At a press conference, when asked about the Congress protest against IT department being used as a “tool” against opponents, Director General IT (Investigation) B R Balakrishnan said, “It is a claim made by a political party what we can do? We don’t have anything to say.It is between the election commission and the persons who are alleging.”
Asked about the charge that the present government at the Centre was targeting the opposition ever since it came to power, he said, “We cannot prevent people from alleging. We are also open to public scrutiny.”
He said if anybody has genuine grouse they can file a writ petition that the search in that case was not correct.
“Now, political allegations I cannot answer.I am not here to answer political statements. We live in democracy. Why should I be scared of protests. They only requested to transmit their representation to the chairman, which we did,” he said, replying to a question.