Simultaneous raids by nearly 300 I-T officials, who were provided security cover by armed soldiers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), were conducted at 60 places across the state on Monday morning in Bangalore, Bellary, Hospet and Sandur. The assistance of the City or State Police was not taken when the I-T sleuths swooped down on the assets of the seven legislators.
Although I-T officials here were tight-lipped on what the raids yielded, sources said enormous amounts of cash and several documents were unearthed and seized in the course of the search operations which began early in the morning and continued till late evening. The sources said the raids are likely to continue over the next two days.
The I-T action comes at a time when the ruling BJP is facing allegations of horse trading over what is being called Operation Lotus to allegedly buy out Opposition MLAs.
The Opposition has accused the BJP of poaching its legislators by offering crores of rupees. Reacting to the raids, State Home Minister R Ashok said the I-T action was part of the Congress strategy to destabilise the BJP government. “Even if hundreds of raids are conducted, they will not disturb the government,” he said.
In Delhi, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: “An attempt is being made to make the BJP government fall. They (the Opposition in Karnataka) tried to bribe MLAs. All these attempts were unsuccessful and now they have started on this route which we understand to be one more political game of the Congress. It is clearly their frustration that they have not been able to win one byelection this year”.
Major searches were conducted on the residential premises of Sriramulu and some of his confidants, relatives, business associates and an advocate. Even the Legislative Home rooms allotted to MLAs Suresh Babu and B Nagendra were searched thoroughly.
Three houses belonging to the advocate and trusted lieutenant of the powerful Reddy brothers, Raghavacharyulu, on Sankey Road and those of the personal assistants of mining barons, including that of Ali Khan, who is Janardhana Reddy’s aide, were searched. Khan’s house in the Indiranagar area of Hospet was the I-T sleauths’ target.
The I-T department’s surprise action was not only aimed at the seven legislators, but also some mining companies whose names figured in investigations by the state Lokayukta and the Corps of Detectives.
The other targets of the I-T officials were ILC, Swastik Steel, Laxmi Venkateshwara Minerals, J J Mines, Abhinava Consultant and a construction firm.
The residential premises and offices of the directors of these companies were searched and a large corpus of documents taken by the officials for scrutiny.
When contacted, Lokayukta officials said they were clueless about the raids, but some officials involved in the investigation into illegal mining said once the I-T department completed its operation, they expected to receive specific information on the nature of the documents that were recovered.