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regular-article-logo Saturday, 25 May 2024

Tax axe crippling us, our ability to fight elections damaged, says Congress leader Rahul Gandhi

'This is a criminal action on the Congress done by the Prime Minister and the home minister'

Sanjay K. Jha New Delhi Published 22.03.24, 05:41 AM
Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi File image

The Congress lined up its senior leadership including Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi on Thursday to allege the party’s accounts remained frozen because Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah had conspired to cripple it financially before a critical election.

While the accounts were frozen around a month ago, the Congress has decided to go to the “people’s court” after the high court denied relief and the income-tax department sent a fresh notice for the financial year 1993-94, when Sitaram Kesri was party treasurer.

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“As if freezing our accounts in the middle of elections was not enough, we are being asked to calculate penal charges for the financial year 1993-94 after 31 years,” current party treasurer Ajay Maken said.

Maken had last month said the accounts had been frozen because of a delay in filing income-tax returns in 2018-19, an election year, and over a cash deposit of Rs 14.4 lakh by “our MPs and MLAs”.

On Thursday, he said a penalty of Rs 210 crore for an alleged irregularity of Rs 14.4 lakh was unjustified because Section 234F of the Income Tax Act says the maximum penalty for a delay in filing returns can be Rs 10,000. The Congress had delayed the filing by around a month, he added.

Addressing a news conference after years, Sonia said: “The issue is very, very serious and affects not just the Congress; it impacts our democracy itself most fundamentally. A systematic effort is under way by the Prime Minister to cripple the Congress financially. Funds collected from the public are being frozen, and money from our accounts is being taken away forcibly.”

She added: “On the one hand, there is the electoral bond issue, which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The electoral bonds have benefited the BJP hugely. On the other hand, the finances of the principal Opposition party are under a determined assault. This is truly unprecedented.”

Rahul was more aggressive, saying: “This is a criminal action on the Congress done by the Prime Minister and the home minister. This type of activity doesn’t happen without them in today’s India.

“The idea that India is a democracy is a lie. Complete lie. There is no democracy in India today. Twenty per cent of India votes for us and we are not able to pay two rupees for anything. It has been orchestrated to cripple us in the elections.”

He added: “Even if our accounts are unfrozen today, a huge amount of damage has already been done. Our ability to fight elections has been damaged. There are institutions in the country that are supposed to protect the democratic framework — there are courts, there is the media, there is the Election Commission. Nothing is happening.

“The Election Commission has said nothing about the accounts of the largest Opposition party being frozen. We have lost a month; we are unable to book advertisement slots, our leaders can’t travel.”

Kharge said: “A level-playing field is essential in elections…. But the BJP is using its Rs 6,000 crore earned through electoral bonds and got the accounts of the Congress frozen…. All we want now is that the Congress be allowed to use its accounts while the legal proceedings can continue.”

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