Congress accuses BJP of unleashing ‘tax terrorism’, says Income Tax department has again sought ₹1,823 crore

Congress moves SC and plans protests across the country today; Party leaders say BJP should pay a penalty of ₹4,600 crore for violations on donations; they say BJP collected ₹8,200 crore through ‘electoral bonds scam’ but wants to deny a level playing field to Opposition parties

March 29, 2024 12:26 pm | Updated 08:40 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Ajay Maken and Pawan Khera address a press conference at AICC HQ in New Delhi on March 29, 2024.

Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Ajay Maken and Pawan Khera address a press conference at AICC HQ in New Delhi on March 29, 2024. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

Accusing the Narendra Modi government of resorting to “tax terrorism” against the principal Opposition party in order to deny a level playing field in the Lok Sabha election, the Congress on Friday said the Income Tax (I-T) department has made a fresh demand of ₹1,823.08 crore from the party.

Addressing a press conference along with general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh, Congress treasurer Ajay Maken said an analysis of the donations received by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – posted on the Election Commission (EC) website – reveal “serious violations” that should attract a penalty of ₹4,600 crore.

The Congress said it arrived at this figure of ₹4,600 crore by using the same rate of penalty and interest that the I-T department used to penalise the party for a cash deposit of ₹14 lakh by its MPs and MLAs in 2019.

Mr. Maken said political parties have to fill up a proforma of Form 24A, in which two basic and important pieces of information have to be furnished – the names and addresses of their donors. However, there were over 1,400 entries of donors that didn’t have an address, and these totalled a donation of over ₹42 crore.

“I will soon file a public interest litigation (PIL) petition to recover ₹4,600 crore from the BJP for its violations in the past seven years,” he said, adding, “We have analysed all the submissions of the BJP to the Election Commission (EC). The party has faltered every year.”

Party general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal asked the State and District units of the Congress to organise massive protests across the country on Saturday against “the blatant murder of democracy”.

Also Read | PM trying to crush Congress financially, says Sonia

Rahul’s warning

Taking to social media platform on X (formerly Twitter), senior party leader Rahul Gandhi warned that when the government changes, there would be strict action against all those who assaulted democracy. “Such action will be taken that none will dare to do all this again. This is my guarantee,” Mr. Gandhi said in a post.

Mr. Ramesh alleged that while the BJP collected ₹8,200 crore through the “electoral bonds scam”, it wants to deny a level playing field to the Opposition parties. “The BJP believes in one nation and no election,” he said, adding, ”We will not be scared of these notices. We will be more aggressive and fight these polls.”

Hearing on April 1

The Congress treasurer informed that they had moved the Supreme Court and the case relating to the ongoing tax dispute has been listed for hearing on April 1. Asked about the United States government taking note of Congress’ financial troubles, Mr. Maken said “this is a internal matter and the Constitution empowers us to take on the BJP”.

He alleged that the Congress and other like-minded Opposition parties are being selectively targeted by the I-T department, which he alleged, is functioning as the BJP’s “frontal organisation” .Though he didn’t reveal the name of the other parties, source said the CPI(M) and the CPI had also received notices from I-T department.

‘Why this exemption?’

“₹4,600 Cr penalty overlooked for BJP’s ₹42 Cr unaccounted deposit, while ₹135 Cr penalty is demanded for Congress’ for ₹14 lakh cash deposits by MLAs & MPs! Who is pressurising the Income Tax Department to act in this unjustified manner only against the Opposition?...Our direct question is why is BJP getting this penalty exemption?” asked party president Mallikarjun Kharge on X (formerly Twitter)

“Notice, account freeze, notice, account freeze. That is the BJP’s modus operandi of stifling INC financially. In a new bizarre notice, a penalty of ₹ 1800 crore has been imposed on INC. Is this how a fair election is supposed to be conducted? Is the idea of a level playing field only on paper? Why is the Election Commission a mute spectator to this?” Mr. Venugopal asked on X.

The income tax returns filed by the Congress for eight years have been reopened on “baseless and manufactured” grounds to levy illegal I-T demand orders totalling thousands of crores of rupees, Mr. Maken said.

“These orders are based on manufactured and planted diaries and so-called raids by the BJP’s frontal organisation on third parties. Several of these raided third parties enjoy stay orders from courts based on vitiated search procedures by the I-T department,”Mr. Maken claimed, adding that the same interim relief is not being granted to the Congress.

“Why have the BJP or its alliance partners not been dealt with similarly? Why has the I-T department not taken cognisance of the Yediyurappa diaries, Jain diaries, Sahara diaries, Birla diaries, Bangaru Lakshman convictions and penalised the BJP?” he added.

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