Central agencies’ raids on opposition leaders around elections is BJP’s set modus operandi
Ever since Modi government has come to power, every leader who has opposed BJP or posed a threat to its interests has seen central agencies at his/her door
The Income Tax raids on DMK chief MK Stalin's son-in-law, just four days before the Tamil Nadu election, has prompted the opposition to claim that the BJP is resorting to its usual modus operandi of targeting opposition leaders and people linked to them around any important elections.
The DMK has complained to the Election Commission, calling it "abuse of power" by the Income Tax department. It said that the tax officials were "working for the poll prospects of the AIADMK-BJP under the garb of discharge of their duties", urging the EC to restrain the action.
However, there is nothing new in this. Such raids against opposition leaders ahead of elections or afterwards as “vendetta” are commonplace. In some places, the pressure has forced politicians to switch loyalties, in other cases such raids and notices failed to have the desired effect.
For example, in September 2019 the Enforcement Directorate had to eat crow after serving a notice on NCP chief Sharad Pawar. After the Maratha strongman himself volunteered to turn up at the ED office in Mumbai, the probe agency informed him that his presence was not required. In September last year, Pawar was served an Income Tax notice over his poll affidavit.
In October 2020, just a few days ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections, the Income Tax Department raided the Congress party office in Bihar. Congress leaders Shaktisinh Gohil and Randeep Surjewala among others were questioned in the matter.
In the same month last year, ED quizzed former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah in connection with alleged Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association scam. The National Conference termed the interrogation as political vendetta. Incidentally, the ED notice arrived days after Farooq Abdullah moved to bring all the mainstream political parties of Jammu and Kashmir on board for restoration of J&K’s special status. It was called Gupkar declaration
"The letter from the Enforcement Directorate came after the Gupkar declaration. It is clear political vendetta after the People's Alliance was formed in Kashmir," a National Conference spokesperson had said.
In February 2020, Income Tax teams raided several places in Chhattisgarh for three days. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had to cancel an important cabinet meeting, days ahead of the presentation of the state budget on March 3.
Baghel called the raids an act of political vendetta and an attempt to defame and destabilise the government having a strong mandate. He along with his entire cabinet met Governor Anusuiya Uike and registered their protest.
In July 2020, following I-T raids at properties of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s loyalists, the ED went after his son Vaibhav over an investment deal struck between his business partner and a Mauritius investor. Congress said that the raids were an attempt by the BJP to topple the Congress government.
In November 2019, CBI conducted simultaneous raids at the official and private residences of former Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in Imphal and Thoubal. The raid pertained to the Rs.186.79-crore scam in Manipur Development Society during Ibobi’s tenure as the CM.
“The CBI raiding former Chief Minister of Manipur Shri Okram Ibobi Singh’s official and private residences in Imphal and Thoubal of Manipur before Congress MLAs protest against Modi government on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and Naga Accord at Jantar Mantar, Delhi today, reflects a clear political vendetta to intimidate Ibobi Singh and Congress’ opposition,” party’s Manipur spokesman Ningombam Bupenda Meitei had told the media at that time.
In October 2019, the Congress had moved the Election Commission over raids on houses of some party employees, alleging that the Income Tax Department was being misused ahead of assembly polls as a “revengeful” arm of the BJP to target political opponents.
“Ahead of elections, CBDT people in Maharashtra and Haryana go to our accountants’ house, enter and remain there from 6:00 pm Friday to Sunday evening, without any warrant, without any document,” Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who was part of the delegation that met EC, told reporters outside Nirvachan Sadan.
In August 2019, ED grilled senior Karnataka Congress leader DK Shivakumar for over four hours in connection with an alleged money laundering case. Shivakumar was credited for keeping the Congress flock together before H.D. Kumaraswamy was sworn in as the chief minister of Karnataka the previous year. Similarly, he also played a prominent role in flying in Congress MLAs from Gujarat during the Rajya Sabha elections.
In 2019, several TMC leaders were on the radar of central agencies. The TMC pointed out that only its leaders were being questioned in the alleged corruption cases while many BJP leaders like Mukul Roy and Babul Supriyo – against whom allegations of involvement in various chit fund scams surfaced in the Narada sting operation – were being ignored by the agencies.
BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, who handles many important matters in the northeast is an accused in the Louis Berger case. The case faded soon after Sarma joined the BJP.
Before the general elections, the agencies had initiated action against Biju Janata Dal’s ministers in Odisha in cases related to the Rose Valley chit fund scam. However, as Naveen Patnaik supported all the Union government’s Bills in Parliament – even those controversial legislations on which the opposition had expected BJD’s support -- those cases too were buried in the agencies’ files.