Days before Uttara Kannada district goes to polls, Karnataka Election officials and Income Tax officials have jointly seized more than Rs 80 lakh cash from the homes and vehicles of two BJP functionaries in the constituency. This is the first major raid conducted on BJP leaders in the run-up to the elections.
On Monday, Uttara Kannada BJP General Secretary Krishna Rama Devadiga was caught travelling with Rs 9,20,000 in envelopes that contained Rs 5,000 each. Officials suspect that the envelopes were meant to be distributed to voters at the booth level.
Flying Squad and Income Tax officials were then tipped off that other BJP functionaries could be hoarding money as well.
The residence of Ramakanth V Hegde, a local BJP leader and taluk panchayat president from Sirsi was subsequently raided and Rs 71 lakh in cash was seized. The residence of KG Naik, Uttara Kannada BJP President, was also searched.
In all, the officials seized Rs 82.7 lakh in cash and 560 grams of jewellery, including 100 grams of bullion.
Sourabh Nayak, Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax and the nodal officer for the district, confirmed the raids and the seizure.
Speaking to TNM, an official in the Election Commission refused to comment whether the BJP leaders, whose houses were raided, had links to Union Minister and five-time MP Anantkumar Hegde. He is seeking re-election from the constituency as the BJP candidate.
"We have seized bundles of cash kept in envelopes and we are probing if this was being used to distribute to voters. This will be followed up and brought to its logical conclusion in the court of law," said the official.
The raid on the BJP leaders occurred around the same time Income Tax officials conducted search and seizure operations at the residences of the associates of Janata Dal (Secular) leader and Public Works Department (PWD) Minister HD Revanna. Revanna's son, Prajwal Revanna, is contesting the elections as the JD(S) candidate from Hassan.
Earlier this month, the campaign office and other locations connected to Bengaluru (Central) Congress candidate Rizwan Arshad were raided. In March, Income Tax officials carried out raids at the ancestral home of Karnataka Minor Irrigation Minister CS Puttaraju of the JD(S) and several other business persons and contractors linked to the JD(S).
Several senior Congress leaders have hit out at the Income Tax department for 'selective raids' on Congress leaders and its allies in order to intimidate them before the elections. They have also sought the transfer of the BR Balakrishna, Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (Karnataka).
The elections in Karnataka will be held in two phases – on April 18 and on April 23. Results will be declared on May 23.