Congress says I-T raids show BJP’s desperation in the face of impending decimation in Karnataka polls

Income-Tax sleuths raided residence, hotels and office belonging to Arvind Chauhan, a close aide of Priyank Kharge, in the Kalaburagi district on Sunday.

ByBellie Thomas

Published May 08, 2023 | 2:57 PMUpdatedMay 08, 2023 | 2:57 PM

Income Tax Department - Representational Photograph

A day after the Congress accused rowdy sheeter Manikanta Rathod, BJP’s candidate in the Chittapur Assembly segment, of threatening to eliminate AICC president M Mallikarjun Kharge and his family, it now seems that the party leader’s son Priyank Kharge is in the line of fire.

A team of Income Tax (I-T) Department sleuths inspected the residence, hotels, and office of Arvind Chauhan, a close aide of Priyank in Karnataka’s Kalaburagi district.

Priyank said on Sunday, 7 May: “The I-T Department raided Congress leader Arvind Chauhan’s stone-crushing unit, his hotel, and his house late last night as he had joined the Congress from the BJP. The raids were in revenge for Chauhan joining the Congress.”

BJP’s Rathod has 40 criminal cases against him in at least five districts.

Related: BJP candidate plotting to ‘wipe off’ Kharge and family, alleges Congress

Multiple searches

This was not the only inspection carried out by the I-T Department in Karnataka, which is going to polls on Wednesday, 10 May.

Tax sleuths on Saturday conducted simultaneous, massive inspections at several locations in both Bengaluru and Mysuru and seized cash worth ₹15.3 crore and 10.14 kg gold worth ₹7.08 core.

The I-T sleuths targeted a few financiers who allegedly mobilised “resources” for funding candidates contesting the elections.

The inspections were carried out at offices and residences located in Shanti Nagar, Cox Town, Shivaji Nagar, RMV Extension, Cunningham Road, Sadashiva Nagar, Kumarapark West, and Fairfield Layout in Bengaluru.

According to a statement issued by the office of the chief election officer (CEO), ₹4.77 crore was seized from Shivajinagar, ₹3.44 crore from Pulakeshinagar, ₹63 lakh from Shantinagar, and ₹55 lakh from Gandhi Nagar.

The I-T officials also seized 6.59 kg of gold worth ₹5 crore from the Hebbal, Shantinagar, and Gandhi Nagar constituencies.

The tax sleuths also seized 3.55 kg of gold worth ₹2.08 crore and ₹30 lakh cash from the Raichur district on Saturday.

According to the CEO’s office, the election-related seizures cumulatively totalled ₹365 crore ever since the Model Code of Conduct came into force on 29 March.

Of this, ₹138.55 crore was cash, ₹82.65 crore was valued for the liquor seized, ₹23 crore drugs and narcotics, 177.95 kg gold worth ₹92.62 crore, and 667 kg silver worth ₹4.62 crore.

Ground Report: Congress and BJP locked in a fierce battle in Chittapur

Continuing inspections

On 22 April, the tax sleuths searched the farmhouse of Hiriyur JD(S) candidate M Ravindrappa at Mungusuvalli in Dharmapur hobli of the Chitradurga district.

A team of 20 I-T officials inspected his farmhouse and declared that they had seized incriminating documents.

Ravindra had entered electoral politics after retiring as a chief engineer in the Minor Irrigation Department.

The JD(S) candidate declared assets worth ₹7.5 crore in the affidavit submitted to the poll panel while filing his nomination papers.

In another case, in the second week of April, the I-T Department detected a “bogus” expenditure and alleged financial irregularities worth ₹1,000 crore after it searched some cooperative banks in Karnataka, said the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) — the administrative body for the I-T Department.

The searches at 16 locations of these banks were launched on 31 March as the department suspected them to be engaged in the routing of funds of various business entities of their customers in a manner to abet evading their tax liabilities.

The CBDT said in a statement that cash of more than ₹3.3 crore and jewellery worth ₹2 crore were seized during the searches.

The seized evidence revealed these cooperative banks were involved in rampantly discounting bearer cheques issued by various business entities in the name of various fictitious non-existing entities, CBDT sources said.

South First pre-poll survey predicts possible majority for Congress

Moneyed tree

In another interesting case, where the question “Can money grow on trees” was raised, the I-T officials seized ₹1 crore found packed and hidden in a box hung on a mango tree at the house of the brother of a Congress leader.

The seizure happened at the house of Subramanya Rai, brother of Ashok Kumar Rai, who is contesting from the Puttur Assembly constituency in coastal Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district.

The tax officials on 24 April also searched two residential premises of former Congress leader Gangadhar Gowda.

The I-T sleuths inspected two of his residential premises and an educational institution in Belthangady in the Dakshina Kannada district.

The education institution belongs to Gangadhar Gowda’s son Ranjan Gowda.

Gangadhar Gowda quit the BJP and joined the Congress in 2018. He recently announced withdrawal from politics following the denial of a ticket for the Karnataka Assembly elections.

The I-T department searched the residence of expelled Congress leader KGF Babu around 5.30 am, on 19 April.

The tax officials were also carrying out searches simultaneously at 50 different locations, apart from KGF Babu’s house, according to reports.

Babu, whose real name is Yousuf Shariff, was expelled from the Congress in January after he made negative comments against his party, claiming that it would not secure even 80 seats in the upcoming Assembly elections.

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BJP desperate: Congress

Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Aiyshwarya Manchanahalli Mahadev said the BJP was acting out of desperation.

“The BJP is facing complete decimation in the state elections, and their desperation and frustration is clear,” he told South First.

“The fact is that these agencies —  whether it is the I-T, ED, or even the EC — are working for a particular dispensation is evident just by looking at the people they are targeting,” he said.

“No action has been taken against any of the BJP leaders, who alleged that the chief ministerial berth costs ₹2,500 crore or those offered ₹6,000 each per vote,” he claimed.

The Congress spokesperson also said that despite thousands of lamps being found in Murugesh Nirani’s sugar factory, no action was initiated.

“But they are targeting the Congress and its candidates to slow us down from winning the state elections decisively and convincingly,” he said, adding that the BJP has been using these agencies to target the Congress leadership at critical moments.

Mahadev added that once a rival party leader joins the BJP, they become clean as if they had gone through a washing machine.

“The BJP will be given a befitting reply in this election. We believe that the agencies should realise that they have a duty to the people and the Constitution, and not to any political dispensation,” he further said.

“What they are doing is shameful because it has completely eroded the trust that the people had on these agencies. The BJP is at fault and has to be blamed for this state of affairs,” he added.