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Congress cries foul over frozen party funds, calls it a ‘criminal action’

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New Delhi, March 21: 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.

MP Rahul Gandhi told the Press that the party doesn’t have money to fund its campaigns. “We don’t have money to buy train tickets, we don’t have money to send our leaders for campaigns,” he said.

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 on 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.”

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 Press.

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 the 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.

Senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi also hit out at the government and said that the party’s funds have been frozen and were also possibly being taken away.

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

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 the Press 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.

IANS

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