New Delhi: The Income Tax raids on a Karnataka minister had its echo in Parliament where the protesting Congress members disrupted the proceedings even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley insisted that the searches had no connection with the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat. The Congress members vociferously raised the issue in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, forcing four adjournments of the Upper House before the final one for the day at 2.45 pm on Wednesday.
In the Lok Sabha, the Congress members staged a walkout.
Jaitley, who spoke on the issue in both the Houses, said that no search operation was conducted at the resort in Karnataka where Gujarat Congress MLAs are staying.
He said only the minister, who had "parked himself" at the resort, was picked up from there for questioning. As soon as Rajya Sabha met for the day, Congress leader Anand Sharma raised the issue, alleging that an attempt was being made to "derail and hijack" the elections to the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the raids were "targetted".
"Since morning they (ED and IT) have started the raids," Sharma said and questioned the timing and place of the raids.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the elections to the Rajya Sabha should be held without fear in a free and fair manner but "all these three things are not happening with regard to Gujarat.
He alleged that Congress MLAs of Gujarat were being "kidnapped" and that "This is against democracy."
Azad also asked why the raids on the minister was "taking place today and not a month later or before."
Responding to them, Jaitley said the properties of a "particular" minister of the Karnataka government was searched.
"In that resort where your MLAs are staying, no search has taken place, no MLA has been searched. A particular individual was to be searched. He has gone and parked himself in that resort.
"So the authorities, because they had to confront him with the recovery, they had gone to get him to his residence so that he could be adequately questioned by the authorities," the finance minister said, adding that the minister has been taken to his residence from the resort.
Jaitley also said the resort was not an area where the Karnataka minister can get "immunity from the law".
Dissatisfied with Jaitleys remarks, Congress members trooped into the well of Rajya Sabha and started shouting slogans.
The House was adjourned for 10 minutes. Later the House took up Zero Hour mentions.
However, Congress members again started raising slogans during the Question Hour. Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the House for the second time for 10 minutes and later till 2 pm.
The uproar continued at 2 pm, in view of which the House was again adjourned for 15 minutes at around 2.15 pm. When the House met again, the Congress members were unrelenting in their protest.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien kept urging the agitating members to let the House proceed with listed business but failed as a result of which he adjourned the House for the day at 2.45 pm.
In the Lok Sabha, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue, but Jaitley said the matter should not be linked to the polls in Gujarat for three Rajya Sabha seats.
Terming the raids as "a political vendetta and witch- hunting," Kharge accused the government of using central agencies and said this would "ruin the ethos of democracy."
"I appeal to the government, not to terrorise and threaten the MLAs. You will also have to face this tomorrow. .... If there is any offence, then action should be taken, even if it involves me. You are resorting to this to defeat one person (Ahmed Patel) in the Rajya Sabha polls," Kharge said.
Patel is the Congress candidate for the polls in Gujarat.
Terming Kharges allegations as "baseless", Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the raids were part of action against black money and corruption.
Kumar, who also belongs to Karnataka, said the state government had decided to slap a penalty of Rs 942 crore on the resort. At the same time, the Gujarat MLAs are lodged there, he said.
"Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ahmed Patel should explain this. They should come out clean on this matter," Kumar said. Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul were present in the House earlier.
Jaitley, in his reaction to Kharge's charge, said, "Don't link it with (the) Gujarat) MLAs, link it with economic offence."
He said, "I have taken details from the income tax department and verified (them) myself. No resort where the Gujarat MLAs are lodged has been searched. Yes, searches have taken places at 39 locations involving a Karnataka minister."
"He (Karnataka minister) himself went to the resort. As per the procedure, the person against whom the raid was conducted has to be confronted to take his statement. The officials only visited the resort where the minister was tearing off the papers. We have also collected these papers and done a panchanama," Jaitley said.
Kharge later led a walkout of the Congress members from the Lok Sabha.