UP Bureaucrat grilled over tax evasion

IT raids on Netram’s properties suspected as an attempt to arm twist Mayawati ahead of Lok Sabha polls, writes Mudit Mathur

The Income Tax teams recently raided the residence and more than 12 premises, interconnected with alleged tax evasion to the tune of 100 Crores by a powerful bureaucrat Netram (IAS 1979 Batch) who was considered to be a blue-eyed bureaucrat, of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati. Coincidently when the teams were busy in its search operations Mayawati issued significant statement reiterating that her party will not go for an alliance with the Indian National Congress for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in any state.

The Income tax teams conducted simultaneous raids, allegedly, to find out details of unaccounted money and trails of money laundering transactions through fictitious, sham and bogus firms. Political observers view it as a well-planned arm-twisting attempt to scuttle back channel efforts to reach electoral settlement with congress party to pose a united fight against saffron BJP.

Mayawati in a statement to media said, “It is being made clear again that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will not have any electoral alliance with the Congress in any state.” “The SP-BSP alliance is perfect enough to defeat the BJP, especially in Uttar Pradesh,” she added. Referring to her party’s pre-poll alliance with the SP in Uttar Pradesh, “It is based on mutual respect and honest intentions,” she remarked. The SP-BSP has come together 24 years after the shameful Guesthouse outrage that turned best friends into sworn enemies.

Mayawati repeated that while several parties were eager for an alliance with the BSP, her party would not do anything for mere electoral gains as it could “harm the BSP movement.” The statement comes days after the Election Commission of India announcing seven-phase polls in the country and the push for a grand opposition to counter the BJP has intensified since then.

Both the former chief ministers, Mayawati and Akhilesh have earlier accused the ruling BJP federal government of using investigative agencies to target political rivals and punish the opposition “gathbandhan” or alliance. “Petty politics and political conspiracy are not new for the BJP. The people of the country have understood it and they will teach the BJP a lesson in the Lok Sabha polls,” said Mayawati.

Meanwhile, the Income Tax Department searched a dozen properties in Delhi, Lucknow and Kolkata linked to a retired IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, who served in top positions during Mayawati’s chief minister ship, in connection with an alleged tax evasion and money laundering case, officials said.

They said the premises raided by the department are linked to 1979-batch Indian Administrative Service officer Net Ram, now retired. Though the details of outcome of raids have not been disclosed by raiding teams but it appears that Enforcement Director has filed a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to investigate the instances after taking cognisance of a 2014 state vigilance department complaint.

The complaint was filed under the Prevention of Corruption Act and various sections of IPC and it pertained to alleged financial irregularities in the memorial constructions, including statues of Kanshi Ram, BSP founder, and the party’s poll symbol ‘Elephant’, during Mayawati’s regime between 2007 and 2012.

The department is looking at instances of alleged tax evasion by making bogus entries of transactions or businesses worth aprox. 100 crores. The raids supposed to be also linked with some suspected cash deposits made post-demonetisation. The teams have also seized his accounts along with his daughter in State Bank of India Gomti Nagar branch, Lucknow. One leading cloth merchant firm “Garah Bhandar” of Vishnu Ballabh Rastogi and famous “Khunkhunji jewelers” were also raided for their close proximity with the bureaucrat.

Netram was secretary to then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati during 2002-03, her third stint in power in the state. The officer served in various capacities in UP, including heading the excise, sugar industries and cane department, stamp and registration, food and civil supplies department. He also served as additional cabinet secretary in her last tenure and retired in 2014. It is learnt that investigation agencies could enlarge their scope if they get sufficient proofs of money laundering and his role in it.

Now all eyes are waiting to see the list of candidates declared by BJP as thereafter many political heavy weight leaders are expected to switch their parties to keep their political existence alive.