“Have you seen a fountain pen that costs a whopping ₹50 lakhs” asked an incredulous Income Tax officer in Lucknow after the IT search and seizure operation conducted simultaneously in several cities and at several premises owned by retired IAS officer Net Ram.
The retired Babu was Principal Secretary to Mayawati when she was the chief minister and Uttar Pradesh. And since then it has been public knowledge that he enjoys the confidence of the Bahujan Samaj Party chief and has been managing her finances.
The IT ‘raid’, therefore, was interpreted as politically loaded and soon insinuations were flying thick and fast. The raid, political circles claimed, was meant to soften the BSP leader in favour of the BJP and to prod her to harden her stand vis-à-vis the Congress. As if to reinforce such political gossip, Mayawati did actually come out with a statement ruling out any alliance with the Congress anywhere.
The unilateral announcement apparently caught the Samajwadi Party by surprise.
While IT officials denied any political motive and claimed that raids in a separate case had revealed Net Ram’s links with ponzi companies, political circles in Lucknow did not rule out the possibility that the raid was meant to confiscate the cash collected from BSP ticket seekers and which was meant to be used in the election campaign.
Malicious rumour soon began to make rounds to suggest that a large part of what was recovered was not shown in records and had actually been delivered to politicians belonging to the ruling party. IT sources obviously vehemently deny the allegation and point out the ₹50-lakh pen which is in the official recovery list would have been the easiest to misplace.
What is not disputed is that Net Ram remains a confidante of Mayawati and is privy to all her business dealings.
IT officials claim recovery of documents of property worth ₹225 Crore besides partnership papers in over 35 ponzi companies. He had six houses two of them in South Delhi’s Greater Kailash. Besides, cash of over ₹2 Crore and a fountain pen of ₹50 lakh were recovered from the former IAS officer’s residence.
The IT officials say that the money was seized from different locations. Over ₹18 lakh were recovered from a house in Lucknow, ₹86 Lakh from a house in Greater Kailash phase I in New Delhi, ₹60 lakh from a relative of Net Ram and ₹50 lakh more from a bank locker.
A retired IAS officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, lent credibility to the gossip that the money recovered was much more than what IT officials have claimed.
“He had connections with hawala operators in Kolkata and Mumbai and had even given a few companies to relatives as `gift’. Do you seriously believe that a person who can donate companies to relatives and friends as gift will have just ₹2 Crore in cash,” he asked.
Political circles have been abuzz with word that after Demonetisation in 2016, Net Ram was holding on to the cash of BSP and it was to be used in this election.
“Net Ram himself was seeking a BSP ticket and wanted to use that money during the campaign,” the official added.
What has added credence to such gossip is the recent suspension of policemen after a businessman complained that they had recorded only half the amount of cash seized in a raid. While the police claimed to have recovered ₹1.86 Crore, the businessman claimed the actual amount taken away was ₹3.20 Crore. The police recovered the remaining cash from policemen.