By Ashima Makhija
On 2nd August 2017, the Income Tax Department discovered ?10 crore in cash after conducting a slew of raids at several locations and properties associated with the Karnataka Energy minister, D K Shivakumar, in Delhi and Bengaluru. IT Department has contended that the minister was being investigated for tax evasion and for channelling large amounts into real estate and jewellery after demonetisation.
After six MLAs of the Gujarat Congress unit left the party and three swarmed to the BJP, Shivakumar was discharged with the crucial responsibility of holing up 44 ‘defection-prone’ MLAs, to isolate them from other parties till the Rajya Sabha elections. The IT Department also raided the Eagleton Resort, where the 44 MLAs have been kept by the Congress party leadership. Although the IT Department issued a formal statement to delink the operations at the resort with the stay of the Gujarat MLAs, the raids have kindled intense outrage in the Opposition. The Congress has criticized the use of CRPF in the raids and the misuse of state machinery like the IT Department to intimidate the Gujarat MLAs. It has claimed that the raids served the objective of threatening the Karnataka Energy minister, for supporting Gujarat MLAs.
IT Raids: Just suspicious co-incidences?
In the last five months, the IT and CBI raids have, allegedly, solely targetted apparent ‘BJP enemies’. On 7 April 2017, IT officials raided the premises of Tamil Nadu minister C Vijayabaskar and dredged up evidence regarding the distribution of ?89 crore funds, ahead of the RK Nagar by-election in Chennai. Such a move perfectly fits the grand BJP design to oust the Sasikala faction of AIADMK and revive a strong, united and NDA-inclined AIADMK.
Along similar lines, CBI raided NDTV founder Prannoy Roy’s offices and homes on 6 June 2017, for allegedly causing a huge loss to ICICI Bank. This came a few days after an anchor of the channel ordered a BJP spokesperson to “shut up and leave”, live on TV.
With this latest raid on Shivakumar, the BJP has offered plenty of evidence to suggest that the ‘saffron regime’ is using its executive authority and control to suppress all opposition in the nation. With its unprecedented raids, cloaked under claims of corruption and long-standing inquiries, the BJP is endangering the freedom of Opposition and media.
The Shivakumar raid on Wednesday involved Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, armed with AK47 rifles. “They tried to deter/scare the MLAs there. It is for the first time that the central forces went to a state without asking the concerned state government first. This has happened for the first time in India’s history”, said Kapil Sibal. Senior Congress leader, Ahmed Patel, accused the BJP of indulging in an “unprecedented witch-hunt” to win one Rajya Sabha seat.
The hand reacts and appeals
The incident had its echo in the Parliament where the protesting Congress members disrupted the proceedings. The Congress members vociferously questioned the peculiar timing of the IT raid and raised the issue in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, forcing four adjournments of the Upper House for the day, before the final one at 2.45pm. In the Lok Sabha, the Congress members staged a walkout.
As the Congress members charged the government with using investigating agencies like CBI, ED and IT to target their party and leaders, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “Whether it is a use or abuse, it depends on recovery (from the raids).” A Congress delegation has also approached the Election Commission and asked the poll panel to ensure the safety and security of its MLAs from Gujarat ahead of the August 8th Rajya Sabha election in the state.
‘Raid Politics’ versus ‘Resort Politics’
While the Congress approached the Election Commission in order to “ensure free and fair Rajya Sabha elections”, the Congress has hardly been true to its own objective. By virtually ‘kidnapping, caging and isolating’ its own MLAs, due to its apprehensions about defections and cross-voting, the Congress party is severely undermining the democracy which it seems so keen to protect. The game of ‘resort politics’, where D K Shivakumar is the Congress trustee for “holing up MLAs”, stands in outright contradiction to not just democracy, but individual liberty.
The ‘raid politics’ of the Centre emphasizes on the fragile constitutional norms and procedures on which the spirit of democracy rests. The blatant and distressing misuse of executive power to terrorize and intimidate the opposition and the media by the Centre shows the strategy of the BJP to steadfastly move towards an ‘Opposition-mukt India’. Its use of central agencies and raid politics, along with the pressurisation of the opposition to achieve electoral objectives, has tainted the hitherto corrupt-free regime of Narendra Modi with accusations of vindictiveness.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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