IT spotlight on Gadkari-linked firms, BJP cries foul

Mumbai/New Delhi, Jan 22 (IANS) The Income Tax (IT) Department Tuesday conducted surveys of around nine locations into shell companies allegedly owned by BJP president Nitin Gadkari, official sources said. The party called the move vendetta politics by the central government.

As part of the procedure, IT sleuths went about verifying the names, addresses, nature of businesses and other details to confirm their existence and other information related to the Purti group (not the Kolkata-based Purti Group), the sources said.

The surveys were conducted in and around Mumbai.

Gadkari immediately hit out, condemning as "calculated, mischievous and politically motivated the Income Tax Department's attempts" to drag his name into its surveys of various companies in Mumbai.

Gadkari was once part of the management of the Purti Group of companies but says he has resigned from the positions.

In a statement, Gadkari castigated "the highly questionable move by the IT Department as a command performance at the behest of its political masters sitting in New Delhi" who have hatched a political conspiracy to tarnish his image.

The IT Department's action comes on the eve of Gadkari's re-election as BJP president for a second term.

Gadkari said in his statement that he had volunteered an inquiry into all allegations of wrongdoing by him and his family and had been cooperating with the concerned departments as he had nothing to hide and his track record in public life was unblemished.

He said he always stood for probity in public life and "would never hesitate to quit his post if held guilty on any charge or charges by a court of law".

The BJP president also warned the UPA government against indulging in political vendetta against its opponents and said that such "cheap gimmicks" would not deviate him from fulfilling his commitment to serving the nation.

Tuesday's operation was a continuation of earlier search operations carried out at alleged shell companies of Purti Group in Mumbai.

Gadkari, who had been summoned by the IT Department to appear before it Monday, sought more time as he was preoccupied with political matters. He is now likely to present himself Feb 1.

Talking to mediapersons in New Delhi, the BJP accused the central government of misusing institutions like the CBI and IT Department against opposition party leaders.

"There was news of raids on some companies. We want to make it clear, it is propaganda. The raids are not connected to the Purti Group," said party spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad termed it vendetta politics by the central government.

"Gadkari is willing to face any inquiry and has reiterated that if proven guilty, he is willing to face any inquiry and quit. This kind of propaganda is being done before the election of a BJP president under vendetta politics by the central government," Prasad said.

Nominations for the post of the BJP president will be filed Jan 23.

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