Former Karnataka deputy chief minister G. Parameshwara's confidant allegedly committed suicide in Bengaluru on Saturday, days after income-tax sleuths raided the senior congress leader's residence, office and educational institutions.
Ramesh, who hailed from Melehalli in Ramanagar, was found hanging from a tree near the Sports Authority of India grounds in the morning, police said.
According to Congress sources, he started his stint with Congress as a typist and became close to Parameshwara.
The sleuths, who raided the residence, office and Siddharth Group of Institutions belonging to Parameshwara two days ago, had questioned Ramesh too, the sources claimed.
The I-T department has summoned Parameshwara for questioning on Tuesday in connection with the raids.
A suicide note found from the spot where Ramesh's body was found hanging, read, "I am rattled with the I-T raids in my house and have decided to commit suicide to protect honour (sic).
Anguished with the culture that the poor should remain poor forever, I arrived at this decision." Police said the note appealed to I-T officials not to trouble his wife and children.
Lamenting the death, Parameshwara said he had told Ramesh to be courageous and face the situation boldly.
"Don't know why he committed suicide. This morning also, I spoke to him and told him to stay bold," he said.
Parameshwara, who had served as the Congress state chief, visited the place where his confidant committed suicide.
The Congress unit described Ramesh’s suicide an outcome of "targeted harassment" of their rank and cadre to keep them away from the party.
"IT dept claims second victim in State after Siddharth. Harassment from @BJP4India controlled IT dept has claimed life of Ramesh," the Karnataka Congress said in a tweet, drawing a parallel between the alleged suicide by Cafe Coffee Day founder V G Siddhartha and Ramesh.
"In its rush to pester opposition, they have surpassed all levels of Humanity & has repeatedly exceeded its mandate. This is condemnable & unheard of," the party tweeted.
Speaking to reporters, Dinesh Gundu Rao wanted to know why Congress leaders were only raided.
"What’s the motive? Their only agenda is to target and harass those who write and speak against them (BJP)," he said.
Former chief minister Siddaramaiah alleged that Ramesh was tortured for two-three days during questioning.
Ramesh had stated he was committing suicide unable to bear their atrocities, Siddaramaiah claimed.
Meanwhile, Income Tax officials summoned Parameshwara to depose before them on Tuesday after two days of extensive raids at his office, education institutions and residence.
Parameshwara's family runs the Siddhartha Group of Institutions which was established by his father H.M. Gangadharaiah 58 years ago.
Parameshwara on Saturday said the I-T officials have summoned him on Tuesday. "So, I will go there on Tuesday." He said the officials told him that the raids were carried out following complaints by some students.
Parameshwara refused to give political colour to the raids and said he was preparing to respond to the findings of the income tax officials.
Officials had earlier said the raids at premises belonging to Parameshwara and others were in connection with a multi-crore tax evasion case linked to the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET).
The department took the action as part of its probe to check alleged irregularities in the conduct of NEET exams in two medical colleges run by a trust in Tumakuru city in Karnataka.
Parameshwara is stated to be the chairman of the trust identified as Shri Siddhartha Education Trust.
A case of alleged forgery in the NEET exam by impersonation and alleged illegal payments made to secure seats was the trigger for the I-T action, they said.
The I-T department said in a press release on Friday that it had searched a prominent business group in Karnataka which runs multiple educational institutions on October 9.
According to the release, overall the total undisclosed income detected is around Rs 100 crore considering cash donations received for 185 seats averaging Rs 50 lakh to Rs 65 lakh per seat and total seizure of undisclosed assets of Rs. 8.82 crore.
It said it unearthed the conversion of seats, which were originally to be allotted by merit through counselling by the medical counselling committee into institutional quota seats through dropout system.
The department said it had found evidence substantiating conversion of seats, commission payments to brokers and sale of seats in exchange of receipt of cash.
Evidence of use of multiple agents for conversion of MBBS and PG seats have also been found.
Diversion of funds in the form of payment of "on-money" for the purpose of purchase of immovable assets for the benefit of trustees has also been established, according to the department.
Evidence of handling of such cash generated, diversion for construction of hotels have also been found, the I-T department said.
'Hawala' transactions relating to movement of such cash have also been established, it said, adding that Rs. 4.22 crore unaccounted cash has been found including Rs. 89 lakh in the house of the main trustee. Evidence also reveal undisclosed investments in real estate, it claimed.
Parameshwara on Thursday said his family was not engaged in any business other than running the education institutions and has been filing income tax returns promptly.
More than 300 I-T sleuths swooped down on premises linked to Parameshwara and former MP R L Jalappa's son J Rajendra on Thursday.
Officials also searched the residence of Parameshwara's brother G. Shivaprasad and personal assistant Ramesh, sources in the department said.
Rajendra runs the R.L. Jalappa Institute of Technology at Doddaballapura and Kolar.