I-T search on aide of BSY family sets off speculation

Irrigation and Public Works contractors under the scanner

Income Tax officials on Thursday launched massive search operations on alleged undisclosed income of Irrigation and Public Works contractors and a close aide of BJP leader and former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and his family. Coming just ahead of the bypolls to Hanagal and Sindgi, it set off political speculation.

The aide, an employee of BMTC, continues to be in the Chief Minister’s secretariat “on official duty”.

While Mr. Yediyurappa refused to link the searches to politics or his family, some within the party fuelled the speculation. A.H. Vishwanath, BJP MLC, who had alleged fraud in awarding works worth ₹20,000 crore during the tenure of Mr. Yediyurappa, said it was testimony to the corruption that prevailed during Mr. Yediyurappa’s tenure.

Though nearly 30 contractors, including half a dozen big contractors, were covered in search operations, the search on the residential premises of Umesh, bus conductor/driver turned close associate of the Lingayat strongman, has gathered much attention. Mr. Umesh worked with BJP MLC Ayanur Manjunath, Mr. Yediyurappa’s sons Shivamogga MP B.Y. Raghavendra and party vice-president B.Y. Vijayendra in the past.

The searches are being conducted in Bengaluru, Bagalkot, and Bidar among other places. A few contractors are said to be linked to politicians in North Karnataka. According to sources, the searches are being conducted over contracts for canal, road, and bridge works, besides an airport contract given during Mr. Yediyurappa’s tenure. The role that Mr. Umesh played in securing the tenders for the contractors and their associates is under the radar. “Though I-T searches on contractors are common, Mr. Umesh has emerged to be the focus of attention,” sources said.

However, Mr. Yediyurappa said, “I-T searches keep happening. It will not have any impact on the bypolls,” he said, acknowledging that Mr. Umesh had worked with him when he was the Chief Minister. Mr. Raghavendra also acknowledged that he had worked with the family. “The I-T officials have just done their duty,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Vishwanath, who is at loggerheads with Mr. Yediyurappa over being denied Cabinet berth, claimed in Mysuru that I-T searches were in connection with illegalities in awarding tenders worth ₹20,000 crore. He claimed that Mr. Yediyurappa had to surrender his post because of such alleged corruption.

Former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said, “The searches on the aide of Mr. Yediyurappa could be linked to internal affairs of BJP. It could be to keep the leader under the party’s control.”

(With inputs from Hassan and Mysuru)

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