Gujarat I-T raids at Karnataka minister’s house, resort housing Congress MLAs

The Income Tax Department is conducting search and seizure operations at Eagleton Resort on Bengaluru’s outskirts where Gujarat Congress legislators have been kept in anticipation of cross voting during the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.

Karnataka’s Energy Minister D.K. Shivakumar and his brother D.K. Suresh, MP from Bengaluru rural, who have been put in-charge of the legislators’ stay in the city by Congress party, have been the target of the operations. Searches are being conducted at their houses, both in Sadashivanagar in Bengaluru.

The I-T department, however, has issued a formal statement delinking the operations at the resort with the stay of the Gujarat MLAs. The statement said that the Karnataka Investigation Wing of the IT department was conducting searches in the case of “a Karnataka Minister and not concerned with the MLAs.”

“The search under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act is an evidence gathering exercise which is being carried in compliance with all statutory requirements. 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 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 search team has no concern with the MLAs and there has been no contact with MLAs’ and the search team,” the statement said.

Mr. Suresh told The Hindu that the search operations clearly showed the misuse of administrative mechanism towards political ends. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah seem to be directing the search operations against us. Such a raid during the Gujarat polls when Congress MLAs from the State are here is the lowest one can stoop to. Neither we nor the Congress Party will be put on a back foot by such brazen arm twisting tactics. We have nothing to fear as all our businesses are as per law and have not evaded any taxes. Gujarat Congress MLAs are our guests and the expense of their stay is being borne by Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee and not us,” he said.

Both Mr. Shivakumar and Mr. Suresh are presently staying at the Eagleton Resort and were there when the search operations began on Wednesday morning as well. Mr. Suresh said that while Gujarat MLAs’ were not being questioned by the IT sleuths, others including them were being questioned apart from the resort staff.

After six Congress MLAs left the party ahead of the crucial Rajya Sabha polls, Gujarat Congress flew down over 40 of its MLAs’ to Eagleton Resort in Bengaluru to prevent further cross over on July 28. Minister D.K. Shivakumar was put in-charge of holding the MLAs together. The minister had been in-charge of such resort stays of MLAs during times of crisis for Congress party earlier as well.

Congress leader Ahmed Patel called the raids an “unprecedented witch hunt” saying, “after using the state machinery and every agency, now this IT raid reflects desperation and frustration of BJP.”

Multiple teams of IT sleuths swooped down on these locations simultaneously at 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, sources confirmed. Sources said other locations of close associates and relatives of the minister-MP duo were also being searched.

Minister D.K. Shivakumar and his brother D.K. Suresh also had two separate rooms booked at the resort from the last five days. These rooms were also broken open and searched in their absence, sources said.

Incidentally in the last six months, several State Congress leaders including Hoskote MLA MTB Nagaraj, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Women’s wing chief Lakshmi Hebbalkar and firms linked to another minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, were targets of IT search and seizure operations in the state.