Rajya Sabha on Wednesday saw a huge uproar by the Congress after Income Tax raids on properties related to Karnataka's Energy minister D K Shivakumar , with the ruckus forcing repeated adjournments in the Upper House.
The Congress alleged that the raids were in direct relation to the approaching Rajya Sabha elections in the state of Gujarat, from where 44 MLAs of the party were flown to Karnataka because of alleged horse trading by the BJP.
The Times of India quoted Congress leader Anand Sharma as saying in the Rajya Sabha, "This can't be a coincidence. It has become a brazen trend to use state power and agencies (for political ends), whether it is the income tax department or the CBI."
The Opposition also accused the government of abusing their power to influence the elections.
IANS quoted Sharma as saying, "For the past few days we have been raising our grave concerns about the attempt to derail and hijack elections to the council of states by abusing state power. Today (Wednesday) IT raids were conducted against a Congress minister at the resort where our MLAs are staying."
"What is happening in this country? This House as well as the Election Commission will have to ensure free and fair elections," he said.
Congress members walked into the well to the podium of the Chairman and raised slogans, forcing him to adjourn the house several times.
The Leader of Opposition in the Upper House Ghulam Nabi Azad was quoted by The Times of India as saying, "If this raid is only on a person, then you could have done it a month before, or a month after."
In the Lok Sabha Opposition Leader Mallikarjun Kharge said, "In Gujarat there is election for three Rajya Sabha seats. The Congress had 57 members and support of four others, but they (BJP) broke away five members," Kharge alleged.
"Now they are using the IT department on our MLAs from Gujarat, who are in a resort in Karnataka. The Income Tax department is being used to threaten them as well as a Minister of Karnataka," Kharge said
While Shivakumar was overseeing the stay of the 44 Gujarat MLAs in Eagleton Golf Resort so that the BJP couldn't poach them, the minister was present when the raids took place.
However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley denied any connection between the raid and the Rajya Sabha election saying the person whose properties were raided was caught "tearing" documents, NDTV reported.
IANS quoted Jaitley as saying, "In that resort where your MLAs are staying, no search has taken place. No MLA has been searched. A particular individual was to be searched. He had parked himself at the resort. The resort is certainly not an immune area."
"So the authorities, because they had to confront him with the recovery, they had gone to get him to his residence so that he could be adequately questioned by the authorities," PTI quoted Jaitley as saying.
Meanwhile, Gujarat Congress leader Ahmed Patel who is in the fray for being re-elected to the Rajya Sabha seat has called this a 'witch-hunt'.
After using the state machinery and every other agency,these I-T raids show their utter desperation & frustration— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) August 2, 2017
BJP is on an unprecedented witch-hunt just to win one Rajya Sabha seat— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) August 2, 2017
The MLAs in the resort have said that they "will save democracy" no matter what happened. Congress MLA Shaktisinh Gohil told The Indian Express that 'gunmen' were roaming the hotel and they felt like they were being treated as criminals.
The MLA was also quoted as saying, "We are even afraid to say how we will reach Gujarat on August 8, it is scary to share the details. No matter what happens to us, we will save democracy."
IT officials claimed that Rs 7.5 crore cash was recovered from the search of the properties of the minister. They had also said the resort was not being raided, but they went there because Shivakumar was spending the night there.
(With inputs from agencies)
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