Income-tax raids on the eve of elections should be stopped. These could be vigorous exercise of governance or partisan means of showing some people in a poor light in front of voters. One peculiar feature of the recent rash of income-tax raids in different parts of the country is that these have been almost exclusively on those close to political leaders of the Opposition.

There are two possibilities: one, ruling party politicians have all levitated above the use of dirty money for electoral purposes and manage purely with high-minded purpose and WhatsApp warriors of the voluntary kind, therefore escaping the attention of income-tax officials fixated on money; or, two, the income-tax machinery is being misused to target the Opposition. This would amount to misuse of government machinery for partisan political gain, and must be stopped forthwith.

In some cases, hoards of cash are discovered and hauled away with great publicity. In other cases, it is claimed that documents have been seized, with vague intonations of incrimination. In the case of the Augusta Westland investigation, stories are leaked to reporters that main accused in custody has been singing like a canary and warbling the names of senior UPA politicians.

But when Christian Michel is produced in the court, he says he has named no names. This, again, amounts to using the investigation into the chopper deal to implicate Opposition politicians without any evidence. Marshal the evidence, and by all means, nail the guilty. But to use the fact of the alleged middleman being in custody to keep up a media narrative of Opposition politicians taking kickbacks is unethical.

Some ruling party leaders have adopted a posture as if organs of the state belong to the person holding the office of the prime minister: see the repeated reference to the Indian Army as Modi’s army. The government machinery should not play a partisan role in the election process. The income-tax department and the Enforcement Directorate must be placed under the supervision of the Election Commission, till the elections are over.

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