Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu is seeking legal opinion on denying police security to Income Tax officers, so angry he is with the spate of I-T raids on business houses owned by his party leaders, on Friday and Saturday. If his plan materialises, Andhra Pradesh will be the first state in the country to refuse police security to I-T officers when they are conducting raids.
The Chief Minister, who chaired a Cabinet meeting on Friday, asked his law department’s opinion on moving the Supreme Court on the “misuse of I-T” by the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre for “political ends”. The law officers advised the Chief Minister that instead of his government filing a case in court, it would be better to move a PIL through NGOs.
The TDP ministers and MLAs have been shaken by a series of I-T raids at 28 places in the state since Friday morning. Around 200 tax officers from Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad landed in Andhra Pradesh, formed 19 teams and conducted raids on charges of tax evasion. Most of the business houses raided belong to either TDP leaders or those who are close to the ruling party.
A team of officers went to an educational institution owned by Municipal Administration Minister P. Narayana (who runs the Narayana Group of Colleges) in Nellore and Guntur, while another team went to the BMR Group of companies owned by Beda Mastan Rao in Nellore district. Mastan Rao is a TDP leader and the brother of TDP MLC Beda Ravichandra Yadav.
The I-T officers grilled the staff of the BMR companies on alleged violations in the returns filed by them for 2017-18. The group owns an aquaculture project at Kavali in Nellore district and exports its products for the last two decades. Mastan Rao and Ravichandra are important leaders who are said to be looking after the financial needs of the ruling party in Nellore district.
Another raid was carried out on M/s Southern Tropical Foods Private Limited belonging to Potula Rama Rao, a YSR Congress MLA who recently joined the TDP. This company, located at Bitragunta in Prakasam district, exports aqua products. Officers seized the mobile phones of its directors, Vinay and Karthik, both relatives of Rama Rao.
A major raid was conducted on Shubhagriha Projects India, a real estate firm owned by Nambur Shankar Rao, an associate of Telangana Congress Committee working president, A. Revanth Reddy. M/s VS Engineering Private Limited, owned by TDP supporters Vallabhaneni Sharat and others, was raided on charges of evading tax for the last two years.
I-T raids are on at a few more places and at firms directly or indirectly owned by leaders of the ruling party. According to sources, the raids might continue till Sunday. Several ministers told the Chief Minister that their followers were scared of these raids and that the TDP government should stop providing police security to the I-T officers.
Naidu agreed to this suggestion and asked his law officers whether the state could deny police cover to the I-T officers. The law officers who were present at the Cabinet are understood to have stated that the state was not under any compulsion to give police support to the tax sleuths, unless they faced any security threat from the locals or otherwise.
Naidu apparently told the Cabinet that he had never seen a Prime Minister like Narendra Modi who blatantly used I-T and ED (Enforcement Directorate) to victimise his political rivals. “My day begins with the fear of facing some kind of discrimination or harassment by the BJP-led Centre. We will go to people on these things,” the Chief Minister is said to have remarked.