New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala addresses a press confernece at party headquarters, in New Delhi. (PTI)

Caravan Report Alleging Payoffs To Senior BJP Leaders Sparks New Political Debate

An investigative report by news magazine Caravan, that alleges payoffs worth about Rs 1,800 crore to top brass of the Bharatiya Janata Party, including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, has sparked a fresh political debate ahead of the general elections.

The Congress sought an investigation by the newly appointed Lokpal into a media report that alleged bribes paid by former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa to the senior BJP leaders.

Yeddyurappa denied the allegations calling them “atrocious and malicious”.

The allegation has already been inquired by the Income Tax Department and it has been found that documents are “fake”, the former Karnataka Chief Minister claimed, terming it as a “closed chapter”. He accused the Congress of raising the issue as it was “frustrated” over its “imminent defeat” in Lok Sabha polls.

Caravan’s report had cited personal diary entries allegedly made by Yeddyurappa about the payoffs to Jaitley, Gadkari, LK Advani, Rajnath Singh, judges and lawyers. The report said the diary entries have been in posession of the Income Tax Department since 2017 but they have not acted upon it. The entries were obtained during a tax raid on Congress leader DK Shivakumar, it said.

The Central Bureau of Direct Taxes has also refuted the media report. In the raid on Shivakumar, the raiding party was given “some loose papers” which were a photocopy of the diary pages “with details of numerical entries against some individual names”, it said in a media statement. The original documents were never given, it said.

CBDT said it confronted Yeddyurappa in November 2017 regarding the contents of the diary entries. “He stated that he was not in the habit of writing a diary and that the loose sheets and signatures in question were not in his handwriting,” it said.

The tax department said it then made an enquiry to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Hyderabad for the document analysis. The laboratory said that disputed documents were needed in original form for a forensic analysis to be carried out.

"It is clear that for a forensic analysis of the disputed writings to establish its evidentiary value, originals of the same are required. All efforts have been made by the Income Tax Office to procure the originals of the disputed writings," CBDT said. "However, the details about the place and custody of the original writings and, if the original writings exist, are not available."

The same loose sheets prima facie appear to be of a doubtful nature and were given by the person who was being raided for tax violations.
CBDT Statement

Earlier, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, addressing a press conference, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should clarify whether bribes to the tune of Rs 1,800 crore were taken by the BJP leaders or not. “The diary with BS Yeddyurappa’s signature on it was with the Income Tax Department since 2017. If that's the case why did Modi and the BJP not get it investigated?” Surjewala asked.

The Congress spokesperson also read out a purported conversation between Yeddyurappa and a BJP leader alluding to the bribery. “Above all issues raised by Congress leaders are irrelevant and false. The issue is a closed chapter,” he said.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi accused all BJP leaders of being “corrupt”.

BJP President Amit Shah claimed that after all the “fake” issues have collapsed, “the desperate are now relying on forgery”.