The BJP and JDS have alleged that the cash is a part of the kickbacks collected by the Congress party for release of Rs 650 crore as payments to civil contractors for works done for the BBMP during the previous BJP regime. The searches have reportedly resulted in the discovery of as many as 23 cartons of cash valued at Rs 42 crore at the home of a son of the contractor Ambikapathi, police sources said.
A series of searches conducted by the Income Tax department on properties linked to civil contractors in Bengaluru has resulted in the seizure of Rs 42 crore in cash at the residence of the son of a contractor who has links to the ruling Congress party. The raid has resulted in allegations by the Opposition parties which said the funds are a part of commissions for BBMP contract works. The Income Tax department has been conducting searches over the last two days at properties belonging to several contractors who carry out civil construction works for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), government sources aware of the searches said. Among the contractors who have been raided are Ambikapathi R, the husband of former Congress councillor from the R T Nagar region Ashwathamma, as well as Hemanth Kumar, Pradeep R and Pramodh Kumar. The searches have reportedly resulted in the discovery of as many as 23 cartons of cash valued at Rs 42 crore at the home of a son of the contractor Ambikapathi, police sources said. The BJP and JDS have alleged that the cash is a part of the kickbacks collected by the Congress party for release of Rs 650 crore as payments to civil contractors for works done for the BBMP during the previous BJP regime. BJP MLC and spokesperson N Ravikumar said, “The Rs 42 crore found with a contractor is the commission for the release of Rs 650 crore of payments to contractors. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy CM D K Shivakumar should take moral responsibility and quit. There should be a detailed probe into the funds.” He added that the government released the Rs 650 crore fund after entering into negotiations with the contractors. “Contractors Hemanth, Pradeep and Pramod are being investigated. These contractors frequently met D K Shivakumar,” Ravikumar said. Former Karnataka chief minister and leader of the Janata Dal (Secular) party H D Kumaraswamy also questioned the source of the unaccounted cash. “The cash was found following the release of Rs 650 crore of payments to a few contractors. It seems to suggest that the money is illegal. Who are the people behind this and what is the percentage of kickbacks?” Kumaraswamy said on social media Friday. “The information is that the carton boxes with the money were to be transported to Telangana,” he added. The Opposition also alleged that the cash was meant to finance Congress party’s election in neighbouring Telangana slated to be held next month. Who is Ashwathamma and what has Shivakumar said Ashwathamma is incidentally the sister of former Congress MLA from Pulikeshi Nagar in Bengaluru Akhanda Srinivasamurthy, who was denied a Congress ticket for the 2023 election after a severe fall out with state Congress chief D K Shivakumar, who is now the Deputy Chief Minister. Shivakumar, who was earlier at loggerheads with the BBMP contractors over release of payments, said the IT searches are politically motivated and has denied links to the funds that have been seized. When asked about the link between the release of payments and the unaccounted money, Shivakumar said, “I do not know.” “I do not need to respond to people who speak on the streets,” he said about the BJP allegations. He, however, said the IT raids were politically motivated. “The IT department would not take any action without a political motive. We know everything that is happening. It is being done in states where the Opposition is ruling; it is being done in Chhattisgarh,” Shivakumar said. The IT raids and allegations against the Congress government came at a time when the president of the contractors association, Kempanna, asked the state government to release all pending payments from the BJP tenure. Shivakumar said a large chunk of payments has been made. “By keeping inquiries pending, almost 65 to 70 per cent of the payments have been done. We have prioritised the payments. We have released three fourths of the payments. Kempanna need not get agitated,” Shivakumar said Friday. In August this year, the new Congress government in Karnataka had threatened to withhold the dues of contractors who have carried out work on infrastructure projects in Bengaluru between 2019-2022 if the contractors present their bills without actually carrying out any work on the ground. The contractors had alleged that nearly Rs 710 crore of payments for works done in the BJP tenure were withheld by the Congress government. A group of contractors had also written to the Governor seeking his intervention for the release of payments for old infrastructure contracts in Bengaluru. The contractors said Shivakumar should swear that he is not demanding bribes for releasing the payments. The contractors later withdrew their allegations. Incidentally, one of the contractors who has been searched by the IT department this week is among those who were vocal in August regarding the allegations against the DCM. Shivakumar was accused by the BJP of imposing a “DKS tax” for release of payments to contractors who implemented work in Bengaluru. “It was they (BJP) who gave out the work contracts. A minister in their (BJP) government said six months ago that the payments of contractors will take two and a half years,” Shivakumar had said in August while accusing the BJP of seeking a 40 per cent commission on the value of BBMP contracts awarded to contractors during its tenure from 2019-2022 Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/bangalore/it-raids-bengaluru-civil-contractors-bjp-congresss-funds-telangana-polls-8981942/