The income tax department on Tuesday initiated field surveys of around nine locations in and around Mumbai into shell companies allegedly owned by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari, official sources said.
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.
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 I-T 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 I-T 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 I-T 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.
Defending Gadkari, senior state party functionary Vinod Tawade said that "the entire episode is a move of the Congress to tarnish the party and Gadkari's image".
"Taking the media along with them during the operation and circulating wrong and fake news is the tactic of the Congress party," Tawade said.