In response to the Election Commission’s advisory, the Revenue Department under the Finance Ministry Monday said it was being “neutral” and “impartial”. But data on those raided in the poll season paints a different picture.
In the last six months, at least 15 searches by the Income-Tax department have been carried out against Opposition leaders and their associates — five in Karnataka, three in Tamil Nadu, two in Andhra Pradesh, two in Delhi and one each in MP, J&K and UP. During the same period, information available in the public domain shows, searches were conducted at premises linked to one BJP functionary in Uttarakhand — the party later distanced itself from the individual.
The recent searches against Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s associates were preceded by searches in Andhra Pradesh at the premises of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam’s Chairman and TDP nominee for Mydukur Assembly constituency Putta Sudhakar Yadav and TDP leader and businessman CM Ramesh.
A mail sent to the Revenue Department by The Indian Express seeking its comments on the alleged political nature of searches went unanswered.
On March 29, the I-T department carried out searches in Tamil Nadu at premises of DMK Treasurer and Katpadi MLA Durai Murugan and institutions run by his son DM Kathir Anand.
Around the same time, on March 27 and 28, tax officials another Opposition-ruled state, Karnataka, where the JD(S)-Congress alliance is in power. Tax searches were carried out in Mandya at the premises of JD(S) leader and Karnataka Minor Irrigation Minister CS Puttaraju, who has been assigned to oversee the election campaign of Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil.
The same day, the tax department also carried out operations at the premises of several associates of Kumaraswamy’s brother and Public Works Department Minister HD Revanna, in Hassan along with Revanna’s associates Ashwath Narayan Reddy and Raya Gowda.
The tax department has also undertaken searches against two Aam Aadmi Party leaders — Kailash Gahlot and Naresh Balyan — in Delhi over the last six months.
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Searches were also carried on the premises of retired Uttar Pradesh-cadre IAS officer and aide to BSP chief Mayawati Net Ram, last month.
The tax department’s search actions have invited criticism from several ministers, including Karnataka’s chief minister HD Kumaraswamy. “PM @narendramodi’s real surgical strike is out in the open through IT dept raids. The constitutional post offer for IT officer Balakrishna helped the PM in his revenge game. Highly deplorable to use govt machinery, corrupt officials to harass opponents during election time,” Kumaraswamy had said in a tweet on March 28.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has also reacted to the search actions undertaken by tax authorities in the state, saying that special teams have been created to raid opposition leaders through ED and I-T.
“For last three days, an attempt has been made to pressure Kamal Nath. Nobody has been able to coerce me in my political career. It is an attempt to shift focus from issues. The BJP connection of those from whose house currency notes were found has come to the fore. All these are tactics of central agencies. I am not bothered,” said Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Tuesday.
The Income-Tax department’s record at securing convictions is, at best, patchy. As against 2,126 search and seizure operations conducted by it in the three-year period spanning FY 2016 to FY 2018, the number of convictions secured during the period was a paltry 89 (persons convicted), according to latest available provisional data updated till February 2018. While the number of groups searched in FY 2016 were 447, in FY 2017 were 1,152 and in FY 2018 (till February) were 527, the number of persons convicted in the three years were 28, 16 and 45, respectively.