I-T Dept action against think tanks indicates BJP's growing dread at losing power
The Modi govt evidently intends to send a message to the nation’s intelligentsia and the civil society not to support the Opposition’s all-out efforts to overthrow the BJP in the 2024 General Election
Is Prime Minister Narendra Modi unnerved by the growing prospect of being forced out of office in the 2024 General Election, now less than eighteen months away?
That would seem to be the only plausible explanation for the organisations targeted this week by the Income Tax Department, one of the central agencies being used unabashedly by his regime to fix perceived opponents and dissenters.
The department landed up at the premises of three leading liberal think tanks, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), OxFam India and the Independent and Public Spirited Media Foundation to carry out 'survey' operations, without any good reason to do so.
This was part of coordinated operations carried out at over 110 locations in Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and some other states against certain registered unrecognised political parties and their alleged financial transactions, the department claimed.
Some other instances of political funding through alleged illegal means were also being investigated as part of the action, it added.
But PM Modi and his sidekicks clearly nurse the impression that these organisations work against their political interests and decided to go after them in a typical manner.
CPR is a leading think tank on policy matters, and its former chairman Pratap Bhanu Mehta has been a known critic of Modi. As per its website, it is recognised as a not-for-profit society by the Government of India. All contributions to it are, therefore, tax-exempt.
"CPR receives grants from a variety of domestic and international sources, including foundations, corporate philanthropy, governments, and multilateral agencies," it says, adding that "a full accounting of annual finances and grants" is available on the website.
The raids on Centre for Policy Research (CPR), Oxfam India and media foundation are claimed to be part of a probe related to alleged FCRA contravention in funds received by them. The I-T Dept claims that all NGOs receiving foreign funds have to be registered under the FCRA.
That is all very well. But why did the department refrain from taking action against them all this time?
The only reason, clearly, is that the Modi government intends to send a message to the nation's intelligentsia and the civil society not to support the Opposition in its bid to wrest power from the BJP in the 2024 General Election.
Already, the government has cancelled FCRA registration of nearly 1,900 NGOs for allegedly violating various provisions of law in the last five years. There were 22,762 FCRA-registered organisations till December-end 2021.
The BJP’s top leadership has been using every available mode of instrument to force their opponents to fall in line and to starve them of any funding.
The premises of Rajasthan’s Minister of State for Home Rajendra Yadav and his family members were recently raided by the I-T Dept, clearly a move to intimidate Rajasthan Congress leaders in the run up to the Assembly polls in the Opposition-ruled state.
The Election Commission too has suddenly become active. Recently, it struck off at least 198 parties from its list of registered unrecognised political parties after they were found non-existent during physical verification. No doubt, such parties need to be blacklisted and their names removed from the list. But the question is, why was the Commission sleeping so far?
Significantly, the EC also announced that it was taking action against more than 2,100 entities, categorised as registered unrecognised political parties for flouting rules and election laws, including those related to filing of monetary contributions, failing to update their address and names of office bearers. It claimed that some of these parties were indulging in "serious" financial impropriety.
Meanwhile, the ED, CBI and I-T Dept have started a fresh round of raids against Opposition leaders. Only a couple of days back, the premises of Moloy Ghatak, a cabinet minister in Mamata Banerjee’s government was raided by CBI and IT Dept.
Reacting to the raids, the West Bengal CM and TMC supremo remarked, “BJP thinks they can threaten us with CBI and ED. The more they pursue such tricks, the more they will get closer to defeat in next year's Panchayat election and 2024 Lok Sabha polls”.
She also slammed a section of the media for unleashing a malicious campaign against her and her party leaders following the arrest of Partha Chatterjee and Anubrata Mondal by central agencies in different cases.
Their desperation to retain power in the next round of elections has evidently turned Modi and Shah restless. Even while these raids were being conducted, Amit Shah asked the Union Ministers to work in rural areas. They were asked to focus on at least 144 Lok Sabha constituencies till the 2024 election and ensure that the party wins those seats.
The BJP's top leadership is clearly fear stricken by the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, which is likely to impact at least 133 Lok Sabha constituencies falling in the path of the rally.
The ground reports emanating from various states indicate that the masses have turned receptive to Rahul Gandhi’s call. This is certainly an ominous sign for Modi and Shah.
In Bihar and UP, state BJP leaders are indulging in factional feuds. Sensing the despondence that has gripped their national leaders, some leaders in these two states are reportedly even contemplating crossing over to other parties. Already, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav is having talks with a few Dalit leaders of BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, in Karnataka, the BJP faced a huge backlash by its own supporters after the failure of the administration in restoring normalcy after torrential rains.
The tide is turning, and the Sangh Parivar can clearly sense it.
Views are personal
Published: 10 Sep 2022, 6:32 PM