Tax raids rattle JD-Congress in poll-bound Karnataka

Bengaluru, April 17 (IANS) A series of raids by sleuths of the Income-Tax department on those close to the ruling Janata Dal-Secular-Congress allies have rattled their ministers and leaders, leading to protests and even demand for transfer of its top official.
Though raids on tax-evading businessmen and industrialists for undisclosed income and possession of undisclosed assets are regular, searches on contractors and traders with political links after the 2019 general election were announced on March 10 led to the allies accusing the BJP and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “misusing” the tax office to harass and intimidate them.
While raids are more when the fiscal year nears end by March 31 to mobilise tax revenue, searches on contractors and businessmen with “affiliations” to the allies in Bengaluru, Mandya, Mysuru and Hassan on March 28 triggered a protest by Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD-S, Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara of the Congress, a few cabinet ministers, and leader of the allies at the tax office in Bengaluru the same day (March 28).
Unfazed by the protests and rallies, the tax sleuths continued to raid more contractors and businessmen to prevent “hoarding” of cash, which is allegedly meant to bribe the electorate to vote for their candidates.
Though I-T Director-General B.R. Balakrishnan clarified through statements that politicians, ministers or their party leaders were not among those who were being raided, the allies refused to accept and even wrote to the Election Commission on Monday to transfer him out of the state for conducting raids on those purportedly close to them and not the BJP.
As the tax office is working with the Election Commission on the funding and expenditure of parties, their agents and candidates under the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), raids continued even on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of the polling in two phases on Thursday and April 23.
“The searches being conducted are based on credible intelligence that certain businessmen have earned income not disclosed for tax and are in possession of undisclosed assets,” the tax official said in a statement here.
“The non-taxpayers under our search operations are engaged in the business of real estate, quarrying and stone crushing, executing government contracts, running petrol bunks and saw mills and managing cooperative banks.
“These are the sectors which are prone to generation of black money,” the statement said.
In view of the partisan tax raids on our political leaders, their relatives, contractors and traders ahead, Balakrishnan has to be transferred outside the state,” said the allies in a joint letter to Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar here.
As ensuring free and fair elections on a level-playing field for all the parties was the poll panel’s responsibility, the allies said the tax office was selectively raiding their candidates and associates in the state since March 28.
On April 13, the tax sleuths raided the premises of Congress candidates B.N. Chandrappa, contesting from Chitradurga, Prakash Hukkeri (Chikkodi) and Rizwan Arshad (Bangalore Central) “though nothing incriminating was found from them” as they claimed later.
“By selectively targeting our candidates, Balakrishnan is trying to show that only we are flush with funds and not any candidate of the BJP,” said Congress state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao in the letter.