Business Standard

‘Systematic effort underway to cripple Cong’

Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarju­n Kharge, and Sonia Gandhi demand access to party’s bank account

- ARCHIS MOHAN

The top leadership of the Congress on Thursday accused PM Narendra Modi of crippling the party financiall­y and demanded access to its bank account, which it alleged has been frozen.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rejected the allegation­s and criticised the Congress leadership for its “irresponsi­ble and shameful comments” about India’s democracy, accusing it of concealing details about its legal actions, where it failed to obtain relief.

Addressing a press conference here, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi questioned the media and other institutio­ns for silently observing the treatment being meted out to the Congress. He claimed that it is a lie that India is the world’s largest democracy.

Flanked by Congress President Mallikarju­n Kharge, Congress parliament­ary party chairperso­n Sonia Gandhi, party treasurer Ajay Maken, and other senior leaders, Rahul said, “...we cannot carry out any campaign work... Our ability to fight elections has been damaged.”

“Unfreeze our accounts to ensure a level playing field in elections,” demanded Kharge.

Attributin­g it to the harassment that the Congress is facing, Maken said it had received an income-tax (I-T) notice dating back to 1994 when Sitaram Kesri was party treasurer. He said that the Congress party’s account has been frozen for more than a month. He also said that the I-T department has served the Congress a notice pertaining to a 2017-18 case for ~210.25 crore, and the party is unable to utilise the money in its accounts. “When all political parties enjoy I-T exemption, why is it being imposed on the Congress?” Maken asked, questionin­g the timing of the notice. “We don’t have money to give to our candidates, we don’t have money to publish our pamphlets, we don’t have money to organise our public meetings or book advertisem­ents on social media or in the newspapers,” Maken said.

He said that the government has not only raised a notice for 2017-18 but also served another notice last week, which pertains to 1994-95 when Kesri was party treasurer.

BJP Spokespers­on Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress concealed key details in its press conference, including that it approached the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and the high court, where it failed to get judicial relief.

He said the case is listed in the Supreme Court (SC) with a hearing scheduled for early next month. Prasad said it was a “desperate” attempt to create an alibi for the Congress’ imminent defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. Prasad said the Congress did not file I-T returns on time, leading to the freezing of its accounts. At the Congress press conference, Rahul Gandhi said, “There is no democracy in India today, and the idea that India is the world’s largest democracy is a complete lie.”

“A systematic effort is underway by the PM to cripple the Indian National Congress (INC) financiall­y. Funds collected from the public are being frozen, and money from our accounts is being taken away forcibly,” said Sonia.

 ?? PHOTO: PTI ?? Congress President Mallikarju­n Kharge with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi during a media briefing at the AICC headquarte­rs in New Delhi
PHOTO: PTI Congress President Mallikarju­n Kharge with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi during a media briefing at the AICC headquarte­rs in New Delhi

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