The Income Tax department conducted raids on Wednesday at the residence of Karnataka energy minister D.K. Shivakumar and his brother D.K. Suresh, a Lok Sabha member of parliament.
The IT department conducted searches at the resort of Shivakumar, who has been hosting 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs at a resort near Bengaluru since Saturday, allegedly to prevent the BJP from "poaching" on them ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat.
"I condemn the timing of the IT raid at the Kartanaka minister's resort in Bengaluru. It is an attempt to portray that Congress is indulging in horse trading. The Congress has never done that, but the BJP is known for horse trading. The BJP in Rajasthan is an example which doesn't trust its MLAs," the Congress national general secretary told reporters.
The raids on the Congress minister by the I-T department comes days after the two brothers undertook the responsibility to host at least 40 MLAs from Gujarat who have been residing in a posh resort outside Bengaluru ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections in their state. "Yes, the I-T department conducted raids on my brother (Shivakumar) house, offices and my home as well,” said Suresh.
I-T officials said Rs 9 crore cash was recovered from the search of various properties linked to the Shivakumar.
The I-T department, in a statement, said that the raids were part of an investigation over 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 IT department said in its statement on Wednesday.
The statement added that the minister being probed was staying at a resort where "some MLAs from another state are put up”. The department clarified that only the minister’s room was being searched.
The Congress reacted to the incident saying it was an attempt to terrorise their legislators. Congress MLA Shaktisinh Gohil, who had posted a video showing armed CRPF men roaming inside the compound, told reporters outside the gates of the resort: "Gunmen were roaming around inside the hotel as if our MLAs are criminals. This is politics at its worst.”
Karnataka chief minister K Siddaramaiah, accused the Modi government of using the Income Tax department for its "political conspiracies”, and called the I-T raids "an attempt to silence voice against BJP” and urged the MLAs to "not bow down to intimidation.”
"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. "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.”
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, but the finance minister said the matter should not linked to the polls in Gujarat for Rajya Sabha seats. Kharge termed the raids as "a political vendetta and witch-hunting”.
"I appeal to the government, not to terrorise and threaten the MLAs. You will also have to face this tomorrow. …. If there is any offence, then action should be taken even if it involves me. You are resorting to this to defeat one person (Ahmed Patel) in the Rajya Sabha polls,” Kharge said.
Responding to Congress members’ protests in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, finance minister Arun Jaitley told them not to link the searches with Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat. He also said that no search operation was conducted at the resort in Karnataka where Gujarat Congress MLAs have been staying.
Jaitley also said that the Karnataka minister who had "gone and parked himself” at the resort, was picked up from there for questioning.