Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy today hit out at the centre over income tax raids across the southern state, calling the move "Prime Minister Narendra Modi's real surgical strike". The income tax department in a statement denied Mr Kumaraswamy's claim that ministers of the ruling Janata Dal Secular-Congress coalition were targeted in the raids.
Income tax officers are searching the premises of businessmen, mining barons, people connected with the film industry and some "politically exposed persons" in Karnataka, the tax department said today, adding "no MP, MLA or minister have so far been covered in the searches" that the ruling coalition alleged was done on the behest of the Modi government.
The tax raids came less than 24 hours after Mr Kumaraswamy warned he would use "Mamata Banerjee's tactics" against any move by the centre to use the government's organs for political vendetta in election season.
PM @narendramodi's real surgical strike is out in the open through IT dept raids. The constitutional post offer for IT officer Balakrishna helped the PM in his revenge game. Highly deplorable to use govt machinery, corrupt officials to harrass opponents during election time.- H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) March 28, 2019
Last month, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee staged a sit-in after a CBI team knocked on the doors of former Kolkata Police chief Rajeev Kumar to question him in chit fund scam cases, in what Ms Banerjee termed was the Modi government's alleged vindictiveness towards opposition-ruled states.
In today's pre-dawn searches, income tax officials along with CRPF personnel came to the homes of Karnataka Minor Irrigation Minister CS Puttaraju in Mandya district and his nephew's in Mysuru, news agency PTI reported.
"I'm not deterred by the raids, which are election related. I would like to know which BJP leader's house in Karnataka has been raided?" said Mr Puttaraju, who is in charge of Mandya district from where the chief minister's son, Nikhil Kumaraswamy, is fighting his first election.
The homes of associates of Public Works Department Minister HD Revanna, brother of the chief minister and son of former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, were also reportedly searched. Mr Revanna's son Prajwal is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Hassan constituency.
On Wednesday, the IT department spoke of raids against an unnamed politician, said to be Prabhakar Reddy of the JDS, the same day when HD Kumaraswamy tweeted to warn of more income tax raids.
"The attention of the income tax department has been drawn to certain statements made by the Honourable Chief Minister of Karnataka. Certain searches are being carried out by the income tax department in Karnataka Goa on contractors and connected persons. No MP, MLA or minister have so far been covered in the searches," the income tax department said today in a statement.
"While it is true that CRPF is being used for providing security, the said Central armed personnel were requisitioned from the State Police (ADGP Law and Order) following normal protocol and have not been flown in outside the state," it said, adding the activities of the income tax department should not be "politicised, personalised or trivialised".
Congress-JDS leaders and party workers turned up outside the office of the tax department in Bengaluru today in protest against the action. The BJP used the opportunity to take a swipe at the coalition.
The intrinsic character of #Mahaghatbandhan - divided on politics & ideology and united in corruption - has come to the fore in front of IT office.- BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) March 28, 2019
At last the Congress and JDS have come together in the real and true sense of the word. #CongressJDSChorhai
The Congress also weighed in on the controversy. "This is the first time in the history of India that a Prime Minister has misused autonomous institutions with such flagrant disregard. The people will teach him a lesson," the Congress tweeted on Wednesday.
The Congress had made the same allegation when the premises of its leader DK Shivakumar were raided at a time when he was managing Congress legislators from Gujarat before the Rajya Sabha election in March last year.
The people of Karnataka will vote in the Lok Sabha elections on April 18 and 23. Results will be out on May 23.