Rivals creating wedge in Congress: Ramesh Jarkiholi

Ramesh admits that the political ideologies of the brothers may differ but all of them are a team when it comes to family matters.

Unfazed by the recent Income-Tax department raids that allegedly exposed huge benami assets and valuables in his possession, four-time Congress MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi, who is Minister for Small Scale Industries (SSI) challenged the claims of the IT Department while describing himself as non-corrupt and innocent.

Objecting to revelations made by the IT department that it unearthed an undisclosed income worth more than Rs 162 crore from him, Ramesh says all the assets which the department noticed during the raid, belonged to his sugar factory and that he did not earn even a rupee illegally. While stating that his chartered accountant has warned him against speaking anything about the IT raids, Ramesh says he was needlessly targetted by the IT department though he has never indulged in corruption. He claims a mere Rs 3.5 lakh, kept in his house, was recovered by IT officials.

Disclosing details of his business activity and factory deals, the minister said all transactions being made by his firms have been fool-proof and all documents were provided to the IT officials. Eldest of the four Jarkiholi brothers, Ramesh admits that the political ideologies of the brothers may differ but all of them are a team when it comes to family matters. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Do you admit that there was an IT raid on your house and offices?
Yes. The IT officials did raid my houses and offices, verifying details of my factory's businesses. Most information sought by them was provided including that of business being done by the factory for so many years.

If the newspaper reports are to be believed, it were your own party colleagues who tipped off the Enforcement Directorate against you.
Some of our rivals from other parties are trying to mislead people by resorting to such tactics, while all leaders in my party are united. I don't think anybody from my party has a grudge against me and would approach the IT department against me. I am sure that some of our rival leaders are trying to drag names of my party leaders into this matter in an attempt to create a divide in the Congress.

You have challenged the claims of the IT department that it found unaccounted wealth worth more than Rs 162 crore in your possession. Do you think the department misled the people?
All that the IT officials found during the investigation belonged to my sugar factory. I have been in public life for so many years and never attempted to amass money by indulging in unfair or illegal activities. Hardly any cash and valuables were found during the raid at my residences and offices. I am really shocked to learn that the IT department made such false claims about the raids. Believe me. I had only about Rs 3 lakh to 3.5 lakh kept at my residence and nothing more than that was found by them.

Several leaders feel your brother Satish Jarkiholi tipped off IT officials about your business activities. Comment.
As brothers, we have a good understanding. Even before Satish took over as minister, we had an understanding that he would stay as minister for three years and later make way for me. Satish came out of the cabinet on his own and was never under pressure from anybody including me. It is just an attempt by our rivals to mislead people about our family by spreading stories. In fact, most party leaders in Belagavi are rallying behind me to build the party from the grassroots.

Have you discussed the raids with the CM or your senior party leaders. What clarification did you give?
See, none of my party leaders including the CM ever asked me aword about the IT raids. How could I give any clarification about it even before they asked for it? In the last few days, I have met so many of my party senior leaders and colleagues but none of them asked me to clarify. I was with Mr Siddaramaiah for more than 10 hours in Belagavi district
attending many programmes in Bailhongal and Sangolli on Friday, but he did not ask for any clarification about the raids. Most of my leaders are aware of the fact that the raids were conducted needlessly.

Are you ready to resign if you are asked by the party?
I am sure that the party or its leaders would never ask me to put in my papers. For the past few days, reports in the media have been speculating about it though no party top leader commented on the issue.

PM Narendra Modi raised the issue of IT raids exposing your alleged benami properties at an election rally in Punjab on Friday. Is it not embarassing?
The PM did raise the issue of IT raids in Karnataka but never mentioned about the raids on my offices or residences. I learnt about it from my sources, that Mr Modi made a general statement in the rally that IT raids were conducted on ministers of Karnataka and did not mention my name in particular.

Some newspapers falsely carried stories on Saturday's edition that my name was mentioned by the PM at the rally. The IT raids have been conducted on several ministers' houses in the past. I also came to know that IT raids were conducted on several other ministers in the state cabinet which will soon come to light. My name has been highlighted by the media only because I belong to a backward community while many others (ministers) were able to ‘manage' things.

Why do you think only leaders of the Congress are being targetted by the IT wing?
Everyone is watching the developments taking place these days. It is the job of media to highlight such unfair things and ensure that every person indulging in illegal activities faces action.

A group headed by the brother of your party colleague in Belagavi attacked the house of a director of MLA Sanjay Patil's Gomatesh Vidyapeetha presuming that he tipped off IT officials. Is it fair to take law into your hands?
The attack was the handiwork of BJP members. After carrying out an attack themselves on the house of the party MLA's official, the attackers blamed a group of Congress party workers for the same.

I am sure that none of those whose names were highlighted by the media, carried out the attack on the director.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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