Income Tax Department officials on Wednesday conducted search operations at the Eagleton Resort near Bengaluru, where the Congress had put up its Gujarat MLAs to prevent them from being poached by the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha polls, The Hindu reported.

I-T officials also carried out search and seizure operations at 39 properties belonging to Karnataka Energy Minister DK Shivakumar and his brother DK Suresh. An unidentified investigator told ANI that they had recovered Rs 5 crore during raids at the minister’s house in Delhi.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah called the I-T Department’s raids a political conspiracy. “This is not fair in politics,” he said.

The Congress’ candidate for the Upper House polls Ahmed Patel also condemned the raids. “The BJP is on an unprecedented witch hunt just to win one Rajya Sabha seat,” he said. “After using the state machinery and every other agency, these I-T raids show their utter desperation and frustration.”

Rajya Sabha proceedings disrupted

The Congress created an uproar in the Upper House after the I-T raids in Karnataka, forcing three adjournments before the session was ended for the day.

“It is now becoming a trend to blatantly misuse the powers of the state,” Congress MP Anand Sharma said, calling it “targeted timing”. “The minister, an elected representative, and his brother were coordinating the stay of Gujarat MLAs [at the resort near Bengaluru].”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, downplayed the timing of the raids. He emphasised that no MLA or even the Eagleton Resort was searched. “Only one particular Karnataka minister was searched,” he told MPs in the Rajya Sabha.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad asked the Centre to conduct raids on BJP members who had offered Rs 15 crore as bribes. He was referring to allegations that the BJP had offered Gujarat Congress MLAs to join the saffron party.

Members of the Congress’ student wing, the National Student Union of India, gathered outside Shivakumar’s house in Bengaluru to protest as the raids were on.

On July 29, the Congress had flown most of its MLAs in Gujarat from Ahmedabad to Bengaluru after six of them quit the party ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections. The Congress had also accused BJP National President Amit Shah of using “money and muscle power” to lure its legislators.