New Delhi: Congress members on Wednesday disrupted the proceedings in Parliament protesting the Income Tax (I-T) raids against a Karnataka Minister, as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told them not to link the searches with Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.
Jaitley, who spoke on the issue in both Houses of Parliament, also said no search operation was conducted at the resort in Karnataka where Gujarat Congress MLAs have been staying.
However, the Minister, who had "gone and parked himself" at the resort, was picked up from there for questioning, he said as Congress members vociferously raised the issue in both the Houses.
They forced three adjournments of the Rajya Sabha and staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha.
As the Congress members charged the government with using investigating agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and I-T, Jaitley said "whether it is a use or abuse, it depends of recovery".
Maintaining that the searches were being conducted at 39 other places and "not at this resort", Jaitley said the searches "should not be linked to the Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat."
As the Upper House met for the day, Congress leader Anand Sharma raised the issue, saying an attempt was being made to "derail and hijack" the elections to the Council of States and the raids were "targeted".
"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 in this election (in Gujarat) all these three things are not happening," he said and alleged that Congress MLAs were being "kidnapped". "This is against democracy," he said.
Azad also asked why the raids on the minister were "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 Jaitley's 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.
In the Lok Sabha, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue, but Jaitley said the matter should not linked to the polls in Gujarat for 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 Kharge's 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 have been searched. Yes, searches have taken places at 39 locations involving a Karnataka minister."
"He 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....