Bengaluru, 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 here, in connection with a tax evasion case. IT officials said Rs 7.5 crore cash was recovered from the search of the properties of the minister, who has been taken to his house in Bengaluru from the resort by the IT team.
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.
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. 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 search is the continuation of an investigation which has been in progress for a considerable period of time.They added that the timing of the search was decided well in advance,” the IT statement said.
“The events involving certain MLAs of another state being brought to Karnataka were unforeseen and unpredictable events,” it said. The search, described as an “evidence gathering exercise”, is being conducted by the Karnataka Investigation Wing of the Income tax department.
“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.
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. The MLA are attending classes on a host of topics including “the party’s achievements in the last 60 years” and “the BJP’s lies” among others, since yesterday. The move to hold the classes came at a time when a few MLAs from flood-hit constituencies of Gujarat had reportedly expressed their intention to go back, worried about the public opinion going against them.
Earlier, the itinerary during their stay here included visit to some tourist destinations and religious places, which drew criticism as MLAs were accused of “abandoning” voters when their constituencies were facing nature’s fury.