Congress accuses Modi govt of 'financial terrorism' ahead of Lok Sabha polls

Party chief Mallikarjun Kharge says Modi government has "hoodwinked" nationalised banks to transfer Rs 65 crore in donations received by the Congress

(From left) Jairam Ramesh, K.C. Venugopal and Ajay Maken at the press conference (photo: PTI)
(From left) Jairam Ramesh, K.C. Venugopal and Ajay Maken at the press conference (photo: PTI)


The Congress on Thursday accused the Centre of indulging in "tax terrorism" against it and alleged that the government "looted" over Rs 65 crore from its accounts to financially cripple the country's principal Opposition party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections 2024.

The Congress also alleged that the BJP was attempting to "murder democracy" and drag the country to a "dictatorship raj". Addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi with senior leaders K.C. Venugopal and Ajay Maken, Congress general-secretary and MP Jairam Ramesh said "tax terrorism attacks" were being carried out against the party.

In a post on X, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said "an autocratic Modi Government is capturing democracy through extortion and financial terrorism".

He alleged that the Modi government "hoodwinked" nationalised banks to transfer Rs 65 crore of the donation received by the Congress and seized it as income tax. "Has the BJP ever paid income tax? Looting Opposition and blackmailing donors to fill BJP’s coffers is a dark phase for our democracy. We shall fight this tooth and nail — Both in the court of law and in the court of the people," Kharge said.

"A conspiracy is being hatched to cripple the Congress financially. This is an attempt to murder democracy," Ramesh alleged, adding that this is vendetta politics. He also said the action shows that the BJP government is rattled by the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, the ongoing farmers' movement, and rising inflation.

He said demonetisation was announced just before Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, because the Modi government wanted parties to not be able to contest elections. Similarly, before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Opposition parties have been "attacked", he added.

Maken also said the BJP-led Centre had "looted" about Rs 65 crore from its accounts through the Income Tax department, and said this was an attempt to cripple the Congress party financially ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. There are five accounts from which this money has been withdrawn, he claimed.

Congress general secretary Venugopal said this action amounts to an attack on democratic principles and values. "They (government) are trying to shut the voice of the Opposition. This type of low-level attack has never happened in history. We will fight it out," he said, adding that they will expose the government's actions before the public.

"Clearly, this is an example of dictatorship. The BJP is dragging the largest democracy in the world to a dictatorship raj," Venugopal also said. "This is financial terrorism imposed by the BJP government on the Congress party. According to the latest information from the banks, the BJP government compelled the banks to transfer approximately Rs 65.89 crore from our deposits to the government. What does this mean just before Parliamentary elections? It is essentially stealing our money from the bank."

Maken also asked whether the BJP has ever paid income tax. "Do we have democracy in our country?" he said, adding that the Congress received a total of Rs 142.83 crore in 2018-19, of which only Rs 14.49 lakh was given as cash by ex-MLAs, ex-MPs and others from their monthly salaries as donation to the party.

"We filed our returns on 2 February 2019, but our money was taken out five years later, just two weeks before elections are to be announced," he said.

A penalty of Rs 210 crore (Rs 135 crore and Rs 75 crore in two separate notices) has been imposed for an alleged delay, and for cash donations received from party MLAs and MPs, Maken said, asking why the tax authorities were sleeping for five years and why this action has come ahead of the polls.

"How will we campaign, do our publicity, and how will a level playing field be maintained? We are sure to get this money back from court. Our money should be returned, only then will democracy survive in the country," Maken said.

He also said people donate money to political parties so that their voice is strengthened, but the voice of the public was being strangled today. "We are collecting money from people to keep democracy alive. The BJP has never paid income tax, so why is it charged from the Congress?"

The turn of events started suddenly when on 14 February, the I-T department issued a notice to four bankers across 11 branches of the Congress, Youth Congress and the party's students' wing National Students' Union of India.

"We approached the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, requesting it to grant a stay; the IT officials clarified before the Tribunal that it was an exercise to 'mark the lien'; thus, the account was not frozen," the party said in a statement. "But brazenly, the IT Department went a step ahead and transferred our funds to the government accounts."

Youth Congress chief B.V. Srinivas alleged, "This is a pocket-maar sarkar (pickpocket government) and a tanashahi (dictatorial) sarkar, this is the first time such a thing is happening in India's democracy."

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