Lok Sabha polls: BJP attempting to shock Opposition into submission with IT raids, but tactic may boomerang

The BJP seems to have resorted to the oldest trick in the election playbook: misuse of executive powers to shock political opponents.

Manuraj Shunmugasundaram April 17, 2019 20:47:32 IST
Lok Sabha polls: BJP attempting to shock Opposition into submission with IT raids, but tactic may boomerang
  • The BJP has been accused of manipulating central agencies such as Income Tax Department to cripple the electioneering of opponents

  • It has been alleged by Kanimozhi that when she enquired who was the subject matter of inquiry, the officials referred to her as the

  • Circumstances have also called into question the role of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in ensuring free and fair elections

There is no shortage of election strategists — often portrayed as chanakyas — within the upper echelons of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Yet, the BJP seems to have resorted to the oldest trick in the election playbook: misuse of executive powers to shock political opponents. Whether these tactics — that are intended to 'shock and awe' political opponents — will reap rewards shall determine the outcome of the upcoming elections and, perhaps, the future of free and fair elections.

Lok Sabha polls BJP attempting to shock Opposition into submission with IT raids but tactic may boomerang

File image of DMK leader Kanimozhi. Reuters

In the ongoing elections, the BJP has been accused of manipulating central agencies such as Income Tax Department to cripple the electioneering of opponents. Such allegations are substantiated by a spate of high-profile raids by the tax authorities. In Tamil Nadu, premises of at least two former state ministers belonging to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhaham as well as that Member of Parliament and candidate for Thoothukudi constituency Kanimozhi.

In the case of IT raids at Thoothukdi last evening, the officials entered the premises around 8:30 pm. As such , it is unusual for raids conducted under Section 131 of Income Tax Act to be conducted after sunset, unless there is specific permissions obtained for the same. Moreover, it has been alleged by Kanimozhi that when she enquired who was the subject matter of inquiry, the officials referred to her as the "candidate", a term which finds no mention under the Income Tax Act, the governing legislation.

Such conduct smacks of unmistakable bias and, not to mention, patent illegality.

In 2016, elections to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly constituencies in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur were cancelled. The following year, in 2017, the by-election to RK Nagar was also cancelled. Yesterday, the election notification for Vellore parliamentary constituency was rescinded. There is no doubt that this pattern invites our immediate attention to the myriad problems in conduct of elections. But these issues are not limited to any one state. In fact, during the ongoing elections, Gujarat tops the list of states in terms of goods and money seizures, while Tamil Nadu comes in second. Andhra Pradesh has recorded the second-most cash seizures.

Being so, it is strange that there has been no punitive action or cancellations in Gujarat or Andhra Pradesh.

Circumstances have also called into question the role of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in ensuring free and fair elections. While the model code of conduct is in force, the responsibility for conduct of free and fair elections falls on the ECI. The ECI has been shy in decisively dealing with electoral malpractices. It took a strong nudge from the Supreme Court of India before gag orders were passed in the cases of BSP chief Mayawati and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Nevertheless, it is apparent that there is a strong perception that the ECI is working in a biased manner. Under these circumstances, there is a quiet wave of sympathy building out of the actions of the Income Tax Department and other agencies. The chanakyas of elections, in their enthusiasm to bulldoze their opponents, may have just missed this.

The author is an advocate, and DMK spokesperson

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