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Congress says party funds frozen by IT dept, calls it a ‘criminal action’

New Delhi: The Congress party, led by its top brass including party President Mallikarjun Kharge, senior leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and Treasurer Ajay Maken held a press conference in the national Capital on Thursday and protested strongly against the party’s funds being frozen by the Income Tax Department, allegedly with the blessings of the ruling dispensation at the Centre.

“The freezing of Congress funds is a criminal action and it has been done with the blessings of the country’s top leadership. It is a clear attempt to cripple our election campaign,” former Congress President, Rahul Gandhi said.

No democracy in India today: Rahul

Speaking to reporters, Congress leader and MP Rahul Gandhi stated that India’s democracy is ‘a lie’ in current times. “There is no democracy in India today and the idea that India is the world’s largest democracy is a complete lie,” he said.

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Adding that the Congress has no money to fund its campaigns, he said, “…We can do no campaign work. We don’t have money to buy train tickets, we don’t have money to send our leaders for campaigns. Our ability to fight elections has been damaged.”

The senior Congress leader also questioned the timing and quantum of punishment and stated, “For an old case of Rs 14 lakh, the government has imposed a penalty of Rs 200 crore.”

He also stressed the need for constitutional bodies to not stay as “mute spectators” and take a “proactive role in creating a level-playing field to save democracy.”

Discriminatory, says Kharge

Congress President Kharge spoke about the appalling situation created by the ‘discriminatory’ behaviour of the ruling dispensation and said that there was a concerted attempt to derail the Congress’ election campaign.

“Elections call for a level-playing field but the present dispensation has blocked our funds, this will have foreseen consequences,” Kharge told the reporters.

Further taking on the government over electoral bonds, senior leader Kharge said, “The Supreme Court declared these bonds illegal and unconstitutional, but the ruling party has gathered thousands of crores via electoral bonds while the Congress party’s accounts have been frozen to stymie our election campaign.”

He accused the ruling party of binding Congress’ hands by blocking its funds and also slammed the BJP for being the biggest recipient of electoral bonds.

The Congress President also accused the ruling party of ‘coercing’ companies to donate in their favour via electoral bonds.

“I make an appeal to the constitutional bodies to let the Congress party access its bank accounts without any restrictions,” Kharge said while underscoring the point that political parties have stayed out of tax ambit but the Congress was being made a ‘scapegoat’ for political gains.

Systematic crippling by Centre: Sonia

Senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi also hit out at the Modi government alleging a systematic effort is underway to cripple the Congress financially.

“Electoral bonds were declared unconstitutional. It has benefitted the BJP hugely. But, the finances of the main Opposition party are underdetermined assault. We all believe this is unprecedented and undemocratic,” said the veteran Congress leader.

“This is truly unprecedented. However, even under these most challenging circumstances, we are doing our best to maintain the effectiveness of our election campaign,” she added.

Congress Treasurer Maken accused the BJP and Centre of derailing the Congress campaign, just months before the General Elections 2024 by blocking its access to party funds.

“We can’t use Rs 285 crore in our accounts, we can’t use our own money for funding our advertising and publicity campaigns,” Maken said.

Maken further said that the ruling party wants to ‘handicap’ the Congress in the run-up to the 2024 elections and tailor the situation for its benefit.

Maken told reporters that all political parties enjoy immunity from taxation but the Congress is being targeted to give the ruling party an advantage.

He also said that an old case was raked up by the tax agencies to impose an unexplained and harsh penalty on the grand old party.

(With inputs from agencies)

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