The Income Tax raids on a Karnataka minister on Wednesday 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.
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 the Congress members charged the government with using investigating agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Enfrocement Directorate and the Income Tax department to target their party and leaders, Jaitley said, "Whether it is a use or abuse, it depends on recovery (from the raids)."
Maintaining that the searches were being conducted at 39 other places and "not at this resort", the finance minister said the raids "should not be linked to the Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat" as was alleged by the Congress members.
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 Karnataka 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.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal alleged that the government was indulging in anarchist behaviour.
He said that it had never happened that in the course of an election, central forces had gone to a place where MLAs were residing for the purpose of instilling fear.
Sibal alleged that around the time of elections in Uttarakhand earlier, the Bharatiya Janata Party had taken a Spicejet flight in which Congress MLAs were taken to various resorts.
"I want to ask the finance minister did he conduct any raids at that time? I want to ask Prime Minister Modi what was he doing at that time," Sibal posed.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi hit back, saying that no one will be spared in matters of corruption.
Attacking the Congress, he said it should stop making a mountain of a molehill.
Amid the uproar, Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the House till 2 pm.
When the House re-assembled, Congress members also raised strong objections to the government bringing the IIIT Bill as part of supplementary agenda, to which the opposition had strong objections.
Kurien, however, said the Chairman has allowed taking up of the supplementary business.
As Congress members continued uproar over the Income Tax raids, Naqvi said the Congress had become a "revolutionary party synonymous with corruption".
He urged the Chair to ask the Congress whether they will allow the House to run.
Pramod Tiwari (Congress) raised a point of order, saying central forces cannot be sent to a state unless the state governemnt seeks it and that sending of central forces to Karnataka was violation of provisions.
Amid the din, Kurien asked Minister of State for Finance, Arjun Ram Meghwal to move the Companies (Amendment) Bill 2017 for consideration and passing on behalf of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh objected, asking how it could be moved when nothing was audible.
To this, Kurien retorted that shouting is not the monopoly of the Congress alone and he had heard it. Kurien also made certain remark against Ramesh, which he later expunged when pointed out by the Congress leader.
Amid the sloganeering, Congress leader Anand Sharma raised a point of order under Article 257, saying sending of central forces to Karnataka was a clear violation of it.
"We are a federal country...What has happened is illegal. I am not going into the rights of Income Tax in raids but they sent central forces without informing the state government," he said.
Kurien said he was helpless and not able to proceed as both the opposition and the ruling sides were shouting.
"I have no other option...I will be forced to ajourn the House," he said and 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.
Ahmed Patel is the Congress candidate for the Rajya Sabha 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 (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.
However, the Lok Sabha proceedings continued.