Politics behind I-T raids at Meham MLA’s houses, offices
The MLA, a critic of Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, has been pumping his resources to support the farmers’ agitation that has already pushed the BJP in the state on the back foot.
Even as the income tax (I-T) teams were busy digging out clues about hidden wealth or financial irregularities of firebrand Meham MLA Balraj Kundu and his associates, the I-T raids have given a new momentum and direction to political activity in Haryana.
Kundu, 50, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rebel and first-term independent MLA, has been a thorn in the flesh of the BJP. Whether inside Vidhan Sabha during assembly sessions or outside, Kundu, known for deep pockets, has carefully crafted his image as that of an honest politician involved in philanthropic activities.
Kundu, who is into the business of roads and building construction spread in West Bengal, is one of the richest legislators of Haryana. His declared wealth as per his 2019 assembly poll affidavit is ₹141 crore.
Political watchers in the region say that Thursday’s I-T raids conducted at over 30 premises of Kundu and his relatives in Rohtak, Gurugram, and Hansi (Hisar) by a team of nearly 100 officials were clearly aimed at digging out anomalies, if any, from the records I-T teams seized during the day-long search.
“This material evidence generated from the I-T raids will help his opponents to retaliate and dent Kundu’s self-created clean image. Clearly, the I-T raids are aimed at taming Kundu,” a veteran political observer said.
And the raids have been conducted when the MLA, a known critic of Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, has been openly pumping his resources to support the current farmers’ agitation that has already pushed the BJP in Haryana on the back foot.
Also, the I-T raids are set to give more fire power to the principal opposition party the Congress ahead of what is likely to be a stormy Budget session beginning on March 5 in which, Congress will move a no-confidence motion against the ruling BJP-JJP coalition government.
In the 90-member House, the party position is: BJP 40, JJP 10, Congress 30, independents seven, HLP one and two seats (Ellenabad and Kalka) vacant. The BJP-JJP government, hence, is comfortably placed even if there is a floor test.
After BJP retained power in the October 2019 assembly polls with the help of 10 JJP MLAs, Kundu was one of the independent MLAs who supported the government.
But his animosity with former BJP minister Manish Grover, who had to bite the dust in the assembly polls, was at the root of hostilities between Kundu and CM Khattar.
The Meham MLA, in the last Budget session, was pressing for an independent probe into the alleged corruption by Grover.
But Khattar gave clean-chit to Grover. Since then, Kundu has been pointing accusing fingers at Khattar’s clean image for having shielded Grover.
TIMING OF RAIDS BEING QUESTIONED
A lament commonly aired Thursday was about the timing of the I-T raids.
According to Dadri independent MLA, Sombir Sangwan, if the raids at Kundu’s premises were in retaliation to the Meham MLA raising farmers’ voices in that case “it is a painful move.”
“If the I-T department has found some irregularities in the business activities of Kundu, they can investigate,” he added.
Former education minister and Jhajjar MLA Geeta Bhukkal (Congress) said the I-T raids were in line with the BJP government’s policy of browbeating rivals who raise their voice against them.
“The BJP government has been doing everything to throttle the voice of public and the Opposition,” she alleged.
Endorsing these views, Anant Ram, a Bhiwani-based political observer, said the public perception about the raids at Kundu’s premises is that it’s the result of “political vendetta.”
“Kundu,” he said, “withdrew support to the government after the CM did not accept his demand to hold probe against Grover.”
“He is a businessman. These raids, it appears, may only help Kundu politically,” Ram said.
Rohtak-based political analyst Satish Tyagi linked the raids with “political vendetta”.
“The raids at two dozen places cannot be a routine exercise. Sadly, it has become a norm in our country to conduct raids at Opposition leaders’ premises. These raids will only prompt Kundu to hit out at the Haryana CM,” Tyagi said even as Kundu, who was at his Gurugram house, kept mum.