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I-T dept raids Karnataka minister hosting Gujarat Congress MLAs, Ahmed Patel says ‘witch-hunt’

Tax officials raided on Wednesday Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar, who is in-charge of hosting Congress’s MLAs from Gujarat, and recovered Rs 5 crore in cash after their operation in several cities.

The raids triggered anger from the Congress, which accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party of carrying out “an unprecedented witch-hunt”, and said it would raise the issue in both houses of Parliament later in the day.

The party has accused the BJP of using “power, money and muscle” to engineer defections in Gujarat, following which 42 legislators were taken to a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru last week. If more Congress lawmakers from Gujarat break ranks, it could jeopardise the Rajya Sabha prospects of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.

On Wednesday, officials of the Income Tax department reached the resort to question Shivakumar, in addition to raiding multiple properties linked to him with the help of central paramilitary forces. The resort was not raided.

The I-T department issued a statement denying the raids were related to the stay of the Gujarat MLAs. It said the searches were part of an evidence-gathering exercise. “The search is a continuation of an investigation which has been in progress for a considerable period of time,” the department said.

“There has been no contact with the MLAs [from Gujarat] and the search team,” it added.

News agency PTI quoted unnamed tax officials as saying that 39 locations were raided, and Rs 5 crore cash was found from Shivakumar’s Delhi residence.

One of the Gujarati legislators staying at the resort told Hindustan Times that he and his colleagues found out about the raids through TV. “When we came here for breakfast we saw the news that raids were being conducted,” the MLA said.

If the Congress keeps the flock together in Bengaluru, Patel will romp home with the assured support of two NCP MLAs and one rebel BJP legislator. The Rajya Sabha election will be held on August 8.

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