BJP president Nitin Gadkari faced more heat on Thursday over allegations of dubious funding into his companies with Income Tax department too launching a probe to trace the source of funds after ministry of corporate affairs began a similar exercise.
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"We will trace the source the funds of the companies including the 18 companies that invested in Purti," a top IT official told PTI in Mumbai on condition of anonymity.
The official said prima facie 'shell' companies (inactive firms used as a vehicle for various financial manoeuvres or kept dormant for future use in some other capacity) had pumped money into Gadkari's company Purti Power and Sugar Limited(PPSL).
Sources in the I-T department said a report would be submitted to the Central Board of Direct Taxes(CBDT) shortly.
"We have already started gathering documents relating to these companies," they said, adding officials in the investigation wing of the department in Mumbai and Pune were involved in the probe.
Officials of the investing companies would be summoned in due course and, if needed, the BJP chief would also be asked to be present, the sources said.
Gadkari, meanwhile, cancelled his scheduled trip to Delhi with his personal staff in Nagpur saying he was indisposed.
He is at the centre of a raging controversy over funding of PPSL with media reports claiming that major investments and large loans to Purti were made by Ideal Road Builders (IRB) group, which had won contracts between 1995 and 1999, when the BJP chief was PWD minister in Maharashtra.
The corporate affairs ministry said it is looking into investments made in Gadkari's company.
"The matter is being looked into," a senior corporate affairs ministry official said in New Delhi.
The official was responding to a query on whether the ministry has started probe into allegations of dubious funding into Gadkari's company.
On Tuesday, corporate affairs minister Veerappa Moily had said that Registrars of Companies would inquire into the allegations. Gadkari has denied the allegations and said he was prepared for a probe.
On the political front, BJP refused to go on the back foot over allegations against Gadkari, saying attempts were being made to malign him and adopted the strategy of attack being the best defence.
Launching a counter-attack on the Congress at a poll rally in Sundernagar in Himachal Pradesh, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said Congress has set "new records" in corruption and linked it to steep rise in prices
Referring to allegations against Gadkari, she said, "When Congress leaders' faces were blackened, they decided to malign us also and accused our national president Nitin Gadkari. But he did not sit at home. He faced the media alone and replied to all charges made against him.
"He is the only leader to have volunteered for a probe into the allegations against him from any agency, even though these agencies are controlled by them (government). He is confident that he will not be found guilty," she said.
"We come out with pride, they do it with shame," the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha said, chiding at the Congress leaders embroiled in scams.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said while Gadkari has agreed to any probe on his company's funding, Congress and Union ministers have not made any such offer about Robert Vadra's dealings and other corruption cases.
"Our party president has himself said that he is ready for a probe by any agency. He said not only on the day the allegations were levelled but subsequently also came forward to answer the questions being raised. But the same does not seem to apply to other parties, especially the Congress," she added.
Seeking investigation into charges levelled against Gadkari, Union minister Sachin Pilot said there should be one set of rules for all political parties or personalities.
"There should not be separate yardsticks or parameters for different people -- if there is one set of rules for one political party or personality, it should be implemented for all," he said.
Pilot was answering questions from reporters in Jammu on charges levelled against Gadkari.