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Chief Minister HD Kumarswamy with DCM Dr, G Parameshwara, Congress Leader Siddaramaiah, Ministers DK Shivakumar, Sa Ra Mahesh and State Congress Leaders and JD(S) leaders staging dharana in front of Income Tax office to protest against IT raid on State JD(S) leaders, in Bengaluru on Thursday 28th March 2019
Chief Minister HD Kumarswamy with DCM Dr, G Parameshwara, Congress Leader Siddaramaiah, Ministers DK Shivakumar, Sa Ra Mahesh and State Congress Leaders and JD(S) leaders staging dharana in front of Income Tax office to protest against IT raid on State JD(S) leaders, in Bengaluru on Thursday 28th March 2019
2019 Polls

IT raids in Karnataka to have political implications, say experts.

Imran Qureshi

Raids make Karnataka do a Kolkata, Kerala and New Delhi in terms of reaction against the centre.

At no point in the past has a Karnataka chief minister and his colleagues and a former chief minister held a protest demonstration before a central government office.

But the Income Tax raids on associates of a Janata Dal minister, taluk offices as well as contractors brought Karnataka’s HD Kumaraswamy and his coalition colleagues to emulate his Kerala, West Bengal and Delhi counterparts.

Kumaraswamy’s cabinet colleagues, including the Congress’ deputy chief minister Dr G Parameshwara, and former chief minister Siddaramaiah, held a “symbolic” protest before the IT department against the raids.

Even as they were busy with election campaigning, all of them had a few common points to make about the timing of the raids, one of which was: why no single BJP leader was raided either now or in the 2018 assembly election or during Operation Kamala in the last few months when Congress and JDS MLA’s were offered Rs 20 to Rs 30 crores?

KUMARASWAMY’S QUESTIONS

Kumaraswamy, however, had indicated late Wednesday night to reporters in Mandya, where he was campaigning for his son Nikhil K Gowda, that the IT raids would take place and expressed surprise at over 250 CRPF officials and other personnel arriving at the Bangalore international airport.

Addressing protesters before the IT office, Kumaraswamy wondered aloud as to “how a BJP leader addressing a meeting at Somanahalli knew that the raids were just about to begin at 2 pm Wednesday. This leader knew the list of people to be raided had been cleared by BJP president Amit Shah.”

“Why is the IT department raiding offices of irrigation department or the house of relative of a minister in a village? Do they think Kumaraswamy keeps money there for use in the election? How much did they get? “Kumaraswamy asked.

The chief minister also asked why the same official (BR Balakrishna, Principal chief Commissioner, IT department and Director General, Investigations) issued a statement to clarify when the diaries of Yeddyurappa were released last week.”

IT DEPARTMENT RESPONSE

The IT department responded to the statement of the chief minister that was made on Wednesday by issuing s press release. It said that certain searches were being carried out by the income tax department on contractors and “connected persons. These searches are being carried out in the basis of credible information received.”

The IT department admitted that CRPF was being used to provide security, but pointed out that they were requisitioned from Karnataka’s ADGP law and order following ” normal protocol and have not been flown in from outside the state.”

“The searches on politically exposed persons have covered the entire range of the political spectrum,” the press release pointed out.

The IT department had also a request to make, “The activities of the income tax department should not be politicised, personalised or trivialised. In particular statements which sound like an indictment to physical violence issued by persons holding very responsible posts are deeply deplorable.”

The release further added that the department was committed to carrying out its functions “in a professional and fearless manner. The department will act on credible information regardless of political affiliation.”

WHY IS IT NOT TAKEN ON FACE VALUE?

Said Dinesh Gundu Rao, state Congress president, “I have given a complaint to the IT department with the voice recording or leaders like BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa offering Rs 20 crores, Rs 30 crores to our MLA’s (to being down the JDS Congress coalition government). Their budget was almost Rs 300 – Rs 400 crores. Where is this money coming from. We complained and they did nothing about it.”

“Today, Modi is misusing this agency to finish off his political opponents. We will be raising this issue with the Election Commission as well, “Gundu Rao said.

POLITICAL IMPLICATION

Leaders like Dr Parameshwara and Siddaramaiah are of the firm view that the raids by central agencies were “an act of desperation on the part of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi.”

But at the ground level, the implications come at a critical moment for the JDS whose base lies in the Old Mysuru area. The party’s social base has largely been the dominant caste group of Vokkaligas. The community had voted almost with a vengeance against the Congress in the 2018 assembly elections.

The primary reason for its opposition was not so much because it was the Congress was it’s traditional rival. It was anger at the then chief minister Siddaramaiah who the community held singularly responsible for ” slighting” Vokkaliga officials by posting them to ” unimportant posts.”

Officials belonging to the OBC’s, particularly the Kuruba community to which Siddaramaiah also hails from, were given ” important” posts ( like even Tahsildar or Executive Engineers) that were denied to them during the 2006-2013 phase when the state was ruled by the JDS-BJP coalition and the BJP government headed by BS Yeddyurappa.

But the rivalry faded when the Congress offered chief minister-ship to HD Kumaraswamy, observers say.

According to analysts, it is in this context that the income tax raids will be looked at by the Vokkaliga community which is hyper- sensitive to any attack on itself or its most popular family headed by the former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda.