Bengaluru, Mar 15: Days after the Election Commission of India raised concerns about politicians offering freebies to lure voters ahead of Assembly polls in Karnataka, officials from the Income Tax department on Tuesday raided the residence and office of former minister and BJP MLC R Shankar in Ranebennur in the state's Haveri district.
During the raid, the officials seized saree boxes, plates, glasses and school bags reportedly meant to be distributed among voters in the constituency.
The IT team has asked the Assistant Commissioner, Haveri, to check the bills of the items seized.and submit a report to the state government.
The IT raid did not go down well with MLC Shankar. Though he claimed he was cooperative with the officials, Shankar also alleged that the raid was conducted "at the behest of someone". The Model Code of Conduct has not been announced so far and this raid has no meaning, he said.
"I had pledged for the development of the constituency and will be committed to it. Such raids cannot deter me (sic)," said an annoyed Shankar.
The MLC further said that he had purchased all the materials after paying the requisite GST and there were no irregularities. All the bills have been documented and will be shown to officials, he said.
This is not the first time that the MLC has found himself in trouble for distributing goods in the election season - just last month, Shankar was caught distributing pressure cookers in Ranebennur's Medleri and Tumminakatti areas.
Earlier, Siddaramaiah, the former state Chief Minister and the current Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, alleged that Shankar had received money to change his political loyalty to the BJP. Reacting to these accusations, Shankar said that he will quit politics if the charges are proven.
The IT raid was not received well by Shankar's supporters either. They claimed that Shankar had been distributing essential goods to Ranebennur's people since 2012. Since he played "a big role" in making Basavaraj Bommai the chief minister, such targeted raids would spell trouble for BJP in the next election, Shankar's supporters warned.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Wednesday said that the BJP had no role to play in the tax department's raid. "Agencies are given a free hand, and there is no need for the BJP to raid anybody. Let him cooperate if he has done nothing wrong" Bommai said.
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