The Income Tax department early morning on Wednesday raided the residence of Karnataka power minister DK Shivakumar, and the Eagleton Golf Resort in Bengaluru — where 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs are currently holed up, according to various news reports. The tax department raids are underway at 39 locations across Karnataka, with all Congress cash-handlers under investigation, CNN-News 18 reported.
However, PTI reports that even though Income Tax department officials are present at the Bengaluru resort, no searches have taken place at the resort.
The move has set off a political slugfest as the Congress is keeping its Gujarat MLAs in the Eagleton resort to prevent defection and horse-trading ahead of the Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls.
IT raids began at 7 AM this morning; Karnataka energy Minister DK Shivakumar was in-charge of hospitality for Gujarat Cong MLAs in Bengaluru
— ANI (@ANI_news) August 2, 2017
Meanwhile, Congress' Gujarat Rajya Sabha candidate, Ahmed Patel took a strong objection to the timing of the tax department's crackdown.
BJP is on an unprecedented witch-hunt just to win one Rajya Sabha seat — Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) August 2, 2017
After using the state machinery and every other agency,these I-T raids show their utter desperation & frustration
— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) August 2, 2017
Shivakumar, deemed to be one of the most influential leaders in Karnataka Congress, is also the person tasked to look after the MLAs from Gujarat, by the party's central leadership. He was in Singapore when the MLAs were brought to Bengaluru and rushed back to the state to take charge of the situation. The minister had also confirmed that he will be in charge of looking after the MLAs.
“I have been asked to help out and I am doing all that is necessary for the sake of the party. We have not made any plans for these MLAs to tour. But we will ensure that they will be safe and our party candidate wins the Rajya Sabha seat,” The Economic Times quoted Shivakumar as saying.
Shivakumar, while justifying the choice of venue to lodge the MLAs, said that the resort was picked after keeping the aspects of security, traffic and connectivity to the airport in mind.
"It is my land...means my district and my brother is MP from here, we have two strong MLCs from here....they (Gujarat MLAs) are my old friends from my Youth Congress days, they have confidence in me, they felt it is comfortable," he said.
The I-T raids coinciding with the talks around alleged poaching charges against the BJP have raised another political controversy.
The Congress and BJP leaders traded barbs over the issue. While the Congress cried foul, alleging that the Central government was indulging in vendetta politics, the BJP insisted that the I-T department's action was a "purely professional activity."
Congress leader Brijesh Kalappa, speaking to CNN-News18, said, "It’s obvious that the Centre is playing a role. Earlier, I remember BJP used to call CBI a caged parrot. Now, is the CBI a handmaiden of the BJP?"
"Even if the government crosses all limites of Hitlershahi, they will not be able to defeat the truth," an angry Randeep Surjewala said. "Now, a frustrated BJP is getting Income Tax raids conducted all over the place. But they will not succeed and Ahmed Patel will win the (Rajya Sabha) polls," he added.
However, BJP's GVL Narsimha Rao said that the Congress thinks its fashionable to call anti-corruption operations of investigative agencies a part of vendetta politics. He, however, said that he was not privy to the details of the operations.
Earlier, the Congress party had also alleged that the BJP was using CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) to target MLAs from their party.
"BJP is using CBI and ED to target Congress MLAs. BJP threatened our families back in Gujarat, and that is why we came to Bengaluru of our own accord," Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil had said during a meeting in Bengaluru. He had further blamed BJP of bidding Rs 1,500 crore as bribe money and claimed that the party had tried to "buy" MLAs from the Congress ahead of the Rajya Sabha election.
Meanwhile, this is not the first time that the Eagleton resort has courted controversy over financial irregularities.
According to The Indian Express, the Karnataka resort was served a Rs 982 crore penalty by the Congress-led state government just two days prior to the MLAs were sequestered away to the reesort. The decision to impose penalty was taken by the Congress government on the basis of a Supreme Court order directing to regularise 77 acres of land encroached by the resort.
The Eagleton resort, which began with 100 per cent tax exemptions under a tourism policy, was grantred the 77 acres land stretch in question by the then BJP government in 2012 for a regularisation fee of Rs 82.69 crore.
Updated Date: Aug 02, 2017 11:12 AM