Ahmed Patel, the Congress leader whose bid for re-election to Parliament is threatened by a political crisis for his party in Gujarat, has accused the ruling BJP of a "witch hunt just to win one Rajya Sabha seat." Mr Patel tweeted his criticism this morning as income tax officials visited a resort in Karnataka where the Congress has sequestered 44 of its legislators from Gujarat to prevent any more defections after six of them resigned in two days, three joining the BJP.
"After using the state machinery and every other agency, these I-T raids show their utter desperation & frustration. BJP is on an unprecedented witch-hunt just to win one Rajya Sabha seat," Mr Patel tweeted.
The tax department said its officials visited Eagleton Golf resort near Bengaluru only in connection with Karnataka minister, DK Shivakumar of the Congress, who was staying at the resort, tasked by the party to look after its Gujarat guests. Taxmen have raided 39 locations linked to the minister today.
"The Minister being searched was staying at a resort near Bangalore where some MLAs from another state are put up. Hence the Minister's room alone is being searched. The search team has no concern with the MLAs and there has been no contact with MLAs and the search team," the tax department said in a statement.
Mr Patel has underscored that the Gujarat Congress has paid for their stay at the resort via bank transfer.
The Gujarat MLAs were flown by the party to Bengaluru last week and have been housed since then at the luxury Eagleton Golf Resort. They are scheduled to return to Gujarat on Sunday in time to vote in the Rajya Sabha elections to three seats in the state on Tuesday, August 8.
The BJP, which rules Gujarat with a big majority, will easily win two of the seats and has nominated its chief Amit Shah and union minister Smriti Irani. For the third, it has fielded a former Congressman Balwantsinh Rajput to challenge Ahmed Patel.
Mr Rajput is among the six Congress MLAs who quit the party over two days last week. He and two others joined the BJP, in what is seen as political revenge scripted by local leader Shankarsinh Vagehla, who exited the Congress last month after the party refused to project him as its presumptive chief minister in assembly elections to be held in Gujarat later this year.
All the MLAs who have resigned are loyal to Mr Vaghela, a former BJP leader who had joined the Congress more than a decade ago. Balwantsinh Rajput is closely related to Mr Vaghela.
The Congress flew out its legislators alleging that they were being intimidated and also being offered Rs. 15 crore each to support the BJP in the Rajya Sabha elections.
The BJP has rubbished the allegations, saying senior Congressmen are quitting because of the inability of its leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to hold the party together.