India’s Congress party accuses Modi of ‘crippling’ it ahead of elections with tax case

Published March 21, 2024
India’s Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge (C) with party leaders Sonia Gandhi (L) and Rahul Gandhi (R) address a press conference at the Congress party headquarters in New Delhi, India on March 21. — AFP
India’s Congress party president Mallikarjun Kharge (C) with party leaders Sonia Gandhi (L) and Rahul Gandhi (R) address a press conference at the Congress party headquarters in New Delhi, India on March 21. — AFP

India’s main opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday of crippling it before the upcoming general election by freezing its accounts in an income tax case.

A part of the Congress’ bank accounts was frozen last month pending a tax case that dates back to 2018-19, the party has said previously. Earlier this month, a tax tribunal dismissed its appeal to pause the recovery of 1.35 billion rupees ($16.32 million) in income tax from its bank accounts.

On Thursday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said all accounts belonging to the party had been frozen, leaving it with no access to funds for campaigning.

“20 per cent of India votes for us and we can’t even pay two rupees for anything. It has been orchestrated to cripple us in the elections,” Gandhi said at a press conference.

General elections are scheduled to be held in seven phases starting next month, with most opinion polls predicting an easy win for Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Congress, which leads a rag-tag bunch of bickering opposition parties in alliance for the general elections, is seen as Modi’s main challenger.

“We can do no campaign work. Our leaders cannot fly from one part of the country to the other. Forget about flying, they cannot even buy a rail ticket,” Gandhi said about the tax case, which he said had caused all the party’s bank accounts to be frozen.

The BJP was quick to deny Gandhi’s charges, saying the Congress was guilty of tax evasion and had to face action because of that.

A spokesperson for India’s Income Tax department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

The Congress has said that the frozen accounts had funds, including those collected by the party through crowd-funding and membership drives.

The party, which has ruled India for 54 of its 76 years since independence from Britain, has sunk to record low numbers in parliament after Modi swept to power in 2014 and is struggling to revive support.

Delhi CM Kejriwal arrested in liquor graft case

Separately, India’s financial crime agency arrested Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, in connection with graft allegations relating to the city’s liquor policy, his party said, a setback for the opposition ahead of elections.

The arrest means the main leaders of the decade-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are in jail, following the arrests last year of two of Kejriwal’s deputies in the same case — which the party has called “dirty politics”.

The agency, the Enforcement Directorate, is investigating allegations that a liquor policy implemented by the Delhi government in 2022, which ended its control over the sale of liquor in the capital, gave undue advantages to private retailers. The policy was subsequently withdrawn.

Atishi, an AAP lawmaker from Delhi, said on social media that the party was seeking to quash the latest arrest.

“We have asked for an urgent hearing by the Supreme Court tonight itself,” she said.

Opinion

Editorial

Unyielding onslaught
Updated 13 Jun, 2024

Unyielding onslaught

SEVEN soldiers paid the ultimate price in Lakki Marwat on Sunday when their vehicle was blown up in an IED attack,...
X diplomacy
Updated 12 Jun, 2024

X diplomacy

Both states can pursue adversarial policies, or come to the negotiating table and frankly discuss all outstanding issues, which can be tackled through dialogue.
Strange decisions
12 Jun, 2024

Strange decisions

THE ECP continues to wade deeper and deeper into controversy. Through its most recent decision, it had granted major...
Interest rate cut
Updated 11 Jun, 2024

Interest rate cut

The decision underscores SBP’s confidence that economic stability is gaining traction.
Rampant zealotry
11 Jun, 2024

Rampant zealotry

Decades of myopic policies pursued by the state have further aided the radicalisation of significant portions of the population.
Cricket breakdown
11 Jun, 2024

Cricket breakdown

THERE was a feeling that Pakistan had finally turned the corner in their T20 World Cup campaign. Sadly, it was only ...