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regular-article-logo Saturday, 25 May 2024

‘No plan whatsoever’ to introduce inheritance tax, Congress sticks to caste census

A caste census will give us clarity. It is not just a caste survey but it will include an economic and institutional survey also: Rahul Gandhi

Anita Joshua New Delhi Published 25.04.24, 06:27 AM
Rahul Gandhi at an event in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Rahul Gandhi at an event in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI picture.

The Congress on Wednesday said it had “no plan whatsoever” to introduce an inheritance tax as alleged by the Prime Minister after a Congress office-bearer referred to such a provision in the US.

The Congress pointed out that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had, in fact, done away with estate duty in 1985. Forced into another fire-fighting exercise by a reference to the US inheritance tax by Sam Pitroda, chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, while trying to clear the air on Narendra Modi’s earlier allegation that the Congress planned to redistribute the wealth of the people, party spokespersons adopted a two-pronged approach.

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In an interview with ANI after Modi set off the debate over the Congress manifesto with his allegation at a campaign rally on Sunday in Rajasthan, Pitroda said: “In America, there is an inheritance tax. If one has $100 million worth of wealth and when he dies, he can only transfer probably 45 per cent to his children, 55 per cent is grabbed by the government. That’s an interesting law…. In India, you don’t have that…. These are the kinds of issues people will have to debate and discuss. I don’t know what the conclusion will be at the end of the day. When we talk about redistributing wealth, we are talking about new policies and new programmes that are in the interest of the people and not in the interest of the super-rich only.”

Sam Pitroda

Sam Pitroda File Photo

While on the one hand the Congress asserted that what Pitroda had said was his personal opinion, the party also dug out speeches and posts of BJP leaders and functionaries supporting inheritance tax to ask Modi where he stands on the issue.

Categorically stating that the Congress has no plans to introduce an inheritance tax, party media in-charge Jairam Ramesh drew attention to what former junior finance minister Jayant Sinha had said in support of such a levy in 2013. BJP IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya had posted a tweet in November 2014 stating: “I am all for @JayantSinha’s idea to tax inheritance wealth.” After the Congress started circulating screenshots of the tweet, Malviya deleted the post.

Even as the battle of words was on, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asserted that a caste census would be the first order of business for the party if it were to form a government at the Centre. “This is no longer a political issue…. This is now my life’s mission. There is no compromise with life’s mission as there is in politics,” he said while addressing a social justice convention organised by the Samruddha Bharat Foundation in the capital.

“A caste census will give us clarity… it is not just a caste survey but it will include an economic and institutional survey also. We will know how many people are there in a particular caste and what they earn and also what their representation is across professions/institutions/ businesses,” Rahul added, repeating what he had said in Hyderabad on April 7 at the release of the Congress manifesto which Modi had alleged promised to take away people’s wealth for “redistribution”.

There is no mention of redistribution of wealth in the Congress manifesto. The manifesto mentions wealth inequality and makes a commitment to “address the growing inequality of wealth and income through suitable changes in policies”.

Asked about this by ANI, Pitroda said: “It doesn’t mean that you are going to take their wealth and give it to somebody. It means create new policies so that the concentration of wealth can be prevented. It’s like Monopoly Act…. We have to make sure that few people (do not) become so rich that they begin to run government. That’s a requirement in democracy everywhere in the world. Nothing wrong in being rich, nothing wrong in accumulating wealth but to what point.”

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