Ahead of polls, slew of raids on opposition parties

There has been a rise in instances of central agencies targeting opposition leaders ahead of election

Police stationed outside the residence of Stalin’s son-in-law V Sabareesan during recent I-T raids on his properties in Chennai. Photo: PTI

Income Tax officials raided DMK chief MK Stalin’s daughter Senthamarai and her husband Sabareesan’s properties on Friday. Around 28 raids have taken place across Tamil Nadu on DMK leaders, including on EV Velu, ahead of the elections.

Meanwhile, over in West Bengal, the Enforcement Directorate on Saturday attached assets worth 3 crore of Trinamool Congress spokesman Kunal Ghosh, party MP Satabdi Roy and Debjani Mukherjee in the Saradha chit fund case.

Opposition leaders say the Centre’s alleged drive against corruption kicks into high gear only before elections, with the government ordering raids on its political opponents.

“Raiding the opposition is the BJP’s coping mechanism when facing electoral defeat,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi posted on Twitter after the raids on Congress ally DMK.

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Is there any truth to the opposition’s allegations?

Over the past few years central agencies – the ED, CBI, I-T – have certainly developed a habit of knocking on the doors of the opposition ahead of elections. Whether it is Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal or Maharashtra, opposition leaders have regularly alleged persecution at the hands of central agencies in the run-up to elections.

Also read: ’Won’t be scared’: Stalin after son-in-law faces tax raids in Chennai

Take Kerala, where the BJP is keen to make a mark. The government there has been embroiled in a gold smuggling case since last year. In July 2020, the National Investigative Agency booked an FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the case. The agency questioned M Sivasankar, principal secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in September, and the ED arrested him in October. Ahead of the polls this year, the customs department and the ED said that Swapna Suresh, another accused in the case, had claimed that the smuggling was done at the behest of Vijayan.

The ED has also registered a case against the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board for external borrowings through Masala Bonds without the permission of the Centre. State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac has vigorously denied there was any violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) in the case of KIIFB’s external borrowings.

In West Bengal a host of Trinamool Congress leaders and their families have been accused of corruption.  In February the CBI questioned Abhishek Banerjee’s wife Rujira in an alleged coal scam case. Abhishek is the nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The agency has also summoned other members of the CM’s family.

In March, the ED summoned minister Partha Chatterjee and former minister Madan Mitra in two different cases relating to chit funds. Both are contesting the elections on TMC tickets.

Also in March, several current and former TMC leaders have been questioned or arrested in connection with the Saradha scam.

The pattern is repeated in other states, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, where the opposition is or was recently in power.

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