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Monday, April 12, 2021

In poll playbook: Central agencies come knocking on Opposition’s doors

The Income Tax department’s raids Friday on DMK leader Stalin’s daughter Senthamarai in Tamil Nadu and the Enforcement Directorate’s attachment of properties Saturday of TMC leaders Kunal Ghosh and Satabdi Roy in West Bengal fit a pattern.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: April 4, 2021 8:05:03 am
Be it the run-up to a state assembly election or Lok Sabha polls, central agencies have a knack of knocking on the doors of Opposition leaders in the states they control.

The Income Tax department’s raids Friday on DMK leader Stalin’s daughter Senthamarai in Tamil Nadu and the Enforcement Directorate’s attachment of properties Saturday of TMC leaders Kunal Ghosh and Satabdi Roy in West Bengal fit a pattern.

Be it the run-up to a state assembly election or Lok Sabha polls, central agencies — from the ED to CBI to I-T — have a knack of knocking on the doors of Opposition leaders in the states they control.

The agencies deny Opposition allegations that their actions are prompted by politics, but over the years a pattern has emerged.

Consider these:

MAHARASHTRA

  • In September 2019, a month before the assembly polls in Maharashtra, the ED registered an alleged money laundering case against NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar in connection with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam. The case is still under investigation.
  • In August 2019, the ED questioned MNS chief Raj Thackeray in connection with an alleged money laundering case pertaining to IL&FS group’s loan equity investment of over Rs 850 crore in a company called Kohinoor CTNL, of which Thackeray had been a partner until 2009. The case is still under investigation.

WEST BENGAL

  • In February this year, the CBI questioned Rujira Banerjee, wife of TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in an alleged coal scam case. It also summoned Ankush Arora, husband of Abhishek’s sister-in-law Menaka Gambhir, and her father-in-law Pawan Arora.
  • In March, the ED summoned state minister Partha Chatterjee and former minister Madan Mitra in two different cases relating to chit funds. Both are contesting the assembly elections on TMC tickets.
  • Also in March, TMC’s Jorasanko candidate Vivek Gupta was questioned for several hours in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam.

KARNATAKA

    • Between August 2 and August 5, 2017, the I-T department searched some 70 premises linked to D K Shivakumar, the then energy minister in the Congress government. The searches were conducted at premises belonging to his family and aides across Bengaluru, Mysuru, Delhi and Chennai. The I-T searches were carried out even as Shivakumar was protecting a flock of 42 Congress MLAs from Gujarat in a resort near Bengaluru in an attempt to help senior Gujarat Congress leader Ahmed Patel win Rajya Sabha polls that were scheduled August 8.
    • Based on the 2017 searches, the I-T filed a complaint of tax evasion and false evidence against Shivakumar in 2018, ahead of the assembly. In September 2019, Shivakumar was arrested by ED in connection with an alleged money laundering case registered in 2018 as a fallout of the I-T probe. The CBI has also registered a case against Shivakumar following the I-T probe.

RAJASTHAN

  • During the crisis in the ruling Congress in July last year, the I-T and ED searched the homes and businesses of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s associates, including Rajiv Arora and Dharmendra Rathore. While Arora, owner of Amrapali Jewels, was then the state Congress vice-president, Rathore was chairman of Rajasthan State Seeds Corporation.
  • Also in July, the CBI questioned former Olympian and Congress MLA Krishna Poonia in connection with the alleged suicide by police officer Vishnu Dutt Bishnoi in Churu on May 23.
  • The ED searched the properties of Ashok Gehlot’s brother Agrasen Gehlot in connection with an alleged fertiliser scam.

MADHYA PRADESH

  • In April 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the I-T searched 52 locations of close aides of then Chief Minister Kamal Nath, alleging tax evasion and hawala transactions.

CHHATTISGARH

  • In 2018, before the assembly election in the state, Bhupesh Baghel was named an accused by the CBI in a CD scandal. Journalist Vinod Verma, arrested by the CBI, became political advisor to Baghel when he became Chief Minister.

KERALA

  • In July 2020, the NIA registered an FIR under the stringent UAPA in a case of gold smuggling. M Sivasankar, principal secretary to the CM, was questioned by NIA in September, and he was arrested by the ED in October.
  • Weeks before the assembly polls this year, the Customs department and the ED said that Swapna Suresh, key accused in the gold case, had claimed that the smuggling was done at the behest of CM Pinarayi Vijayan.
  • On August 29 last year, the ED arrested the son of CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan from Bengaluru after booking him for alleged money laundering. This forced Balakrishnan to quit his post.
  • Early last month, the ED summoned officials of Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), of which CM Vijayan is the chairman, for questioning in connection with a case of alleged forex violations.

TAMIL NADU

  • In September last year, the CBI registered a case of corruption against some bank officials and DMK functionary Poonjolai Srinivasan. The case was based on recovery of over Rs 11 crore in a raid by the I-T in the run-up to the 2019 polls in Vellore.
  • Also in September, the ED seized assets worth over Rs 89 crore belonging to DMK MP S Jagathrakshakan and his family in a case of alleged forex violations. A month later, it seized assets worth Rs 8.6 crore belonging to another DMK MP Gautham Sigamani in the case.

ANDHRA PRADESH

  • In November 2018, months before Andhra Pradesh went to polls, the ED raided then TDP MP YS Chowdary in a case of alleged money laundering related to a bank loan fraud. It also seized many of his luxury cars. Following the assembly polls in April 2019, Chowdary joined the BJP.
  • TDP MP CM Ramesh, who had also been raided by the I-T ahead of the polls, too joined the BJP.

J&K

  • In the run-up to the DDC polls in J&K, the NIA, on November 25 last year, arrested PDP youth leader Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra in an alleged terror case. Parra had been summoned by the NIA a day after he filed his nomination papers for the DDC elections. Parra won the elections while in jail. Granted bail, he was later picked up by the J-K Police Counter Intelligence unit. He has been in jail since.
  • On December 9, a day before the voting for the 5th phase of the DDC elections, the ED issued a provisional order attaching the properties of former Chief Minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He had been appointed president of the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an amalgam of mainstream political parties that decided to fight for the restoration of the pre-August 5, 2019 status of J&K.

— With ENS reports

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