The Income Tax department today conducted searches at multiple properties related to Karnataka Energy minister D K Shivakumar, who was overseeing the stay of 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat at a resort near Bengaluru, in connection with a tax evasion case. IT officials said Rs 9 crore cash was recovered from the search of various properties linked to the minister, who has been taken to his house in Bengaluru from the resort by the IT team.
Note counting machines have been brought at a location in Safdarjung Enclave in Delhi and in Hasan and Mysuru in Karnataka to count the cash.
Officials privy to the early morning raids said I-T sleuths reached the Eagleton resort near here to question the minister, who was staying at the resort for the night. The minister, who was in charge of the 44 MLAs lodged there to prevent the BJP from allegedly "poaching" on them, was at the resort when the search took place, IT officials said.
As the raids on the resort triggered angry reactions from the Congress, the IT department said the resort is not being raided. They said only the minister's room in the resort was "searched" and not of the MLAs from Gujarat.
"The search team has no concern with the MLAs and there has been no contact with MLAs and the search team," the department said in a statement.
Raids linked to Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat, alleges Congress
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, who is contesting the Rajya Sabha polls from Gujarat, slammed the I-T raids on the Karnataka Energy minister and accused the BJP of indulging in an "unprecedented witch-hunt" to win one Rajya Sabha seat.
The issue also echoed in Parliament where the protesting Congress members disrupted the proceedings even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley insisted that the searches had no connection with the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.
The Congress members vociferously raised the issue in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, forcing four adjournments of the Upper House before the final one for the day at 2.45 pm. In the Lok Sabha, the Congress members staged a walkout.
The Congress legislators have been camping at the resort since Saturday last after the party flew them in here to fend off alleged "poaching" attempts by the BJP ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.
Six of the 57 Congress MLAs in Gujarat, from where senior party leader Ahmed Patel is contesting for the Rajya Sabha, have resigned from the party in the last few days with three joining the BJP on Friday.
The party has apprehensions over Patel's election prospects if more MLAs defect.
Modi govt using I-T dept for political conspiracies, alleges Karnataka CM
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah today alleged I-T searches was a politically motivated action to silence the voice against the BJP and vowed not to bow down to such "intimidation." Siddaramaiah accused the Modi government of using the Income Tax Department for its "political conspiracies." "I-T raids targeting energy minister D K Shivakumar is completely politically motivated and central government's role behind it is well known," Siddaramaiah said in a statement.
He said, "It is not right on the part of central government to use I-T department for its political conspiracies. We will not bow down to such intimidation." According to norms, during such raids, I-T officials should obtain help from local police, Siddaramaiah said, adding "by violating rules CRPF staff were used".
"Let I-T officials conduct raids and investigation by following rules and let people know the truth. Instead, if such raids are conducted with political vengeance, people will teach lesson in the days to come," he said.
"I-T raid is being used as a tool to silence the voice against BJP. This is anti-democratic," he said.
I-T Dept says raids were pre-planned, presence of MLAs 'unforeseen and unpredictable' event
IT officials said a total of 39 premises of the minister and his family are being raided by a team of about 120 Income Tax Department officials with the aid of central paramilitary forces. The raids are taking place in Delhi and Karnataka.
The department is also investigating charges of alleged role of money power and huge transfer of illegal funds for these polls. The IT Department further said 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," it said.
"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 IT department said.
Officials said the tax department had seized a diary and some documents after searches against a politician from the state sometime back and the latest action was a follow up on these "inputs" too.
Shivakumar, who hails from the powerful Vokkaliga community, has considerable influence in Bengaluru Rural and neighbouring Ramanagara districts. He is also the Congress' propaganda committee chief ahead of the 2018 Assembly polls.
Shivakumar has been brought to his city residence for further inquiry by IT officials from the resort
Raids not linked to RS polls, says Jaitley
Responding to allegations, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the properties of a "particular" minister of the Karnataka government was searched.
"In that resort where your MLAs are staying, no search has taken place, no MLA has been searched. A particular individual was to be searched. He has gone and parked himself in that resort.
"So the authorities, because they had to confront him with the recovery, they had gone to get him to his residence so that he could be adequately questioned by the authorities," the finance minister said, adding that the minister has been taken to his residence from the resort.
Jaitley also said the resort was not an area where the Karnataka minister can get "immunity from the law".
He said "whether it is a use or abuse, it depends of recovery". He maintained that the searches were being conducted at 39 other places and "not at this resort".
(With PTI inputs)