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"Desperation of imminent defeat...": Ravi Shankar Prasad on Congress' account freeze charges

"In utter desperation of imminent defeat, the Congress party at the highest level sought to make an alibi today," Prasad said.

Desperation of imminent defeat...: Ravi Shankar Prasad on Congress account freeze charges

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad (ANI)

NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday slammed Congress leadership over its allegations concerning freezing of its accounts and said "the party had sought to make an alibi at the highest level" for its "imminent defeat" in the Lok Sabha polls.

Talking to the media hours after Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ajay Maken held a joint press conference, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said Congress making "no democracy" comments over Income Tax Department action concerning its accounts was ridiculous.

"In utter desperation of imminent defeat, the Congress party at the highest level sought to make an alibi today," Prasad said.

He also targeted Rahul Gandhi over his remarks and said he had "shamed" Indian democracy.

"If the bank account of the Congress Party was frozen, the account of the country was frozen. Rahul Gandhi, Don't insult Indian democracy. If people of the country do not vote for you and are not going to vote for you, then what should we do...the more you allow Rahul Gandhi to speak, the more you are losing the ground in the country," he said.

"Section 13(a) of the Income Tax Act states that income tax is not levied on parties. But the party has to file its return every year in which it has to be told how many donors are above Rs 20,000 and how many are below. If you do not file this in every assessment, you will lose your exemption.....

"An Order passed for the assessment year 2018-19, as they had not filed returns due to which their exemption was denied," he said, adding that a demand of over Rs 105 crore was placed after that. "There is complete provision for collection and recovery in Sections 20 and 21 of the Income Tax Act," he added.

Prasad said penalty was imposed because the tax was not paid.

The BJP leader said first the tribunal rejected their stay plea and they did not get relief from the High Court.

"There is a provision in Income Tax that if you do not pay dues, your bank account can also be frozen during recovery," Prasad said.

He also asked Rahul Gandhi to apologise for castigating the Election Commission, Courts and Media.

"You went to ITAT, Tribunal and courts, then how can you say that you are not being heard? By this utterly irresponsible shameful comment, Sonia ji, you and your son have shamed Indian democracy globally. We are proud of this country," he added.

Former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said at the party's presser that the issue being raised today "is very, very serious and affects not just the Indian National Congress - it impacts our democracy itself most fundamentally".

"A systematic effort is underway by the Prime Minister to cripple the Indian National Congress financially. Funds collected from the public are being frozen, and money from our accounts is being taken away forcibly. However, even under these most challenging circumstances, we are doing our best to maintain the effectiveness of our election campaign," she said.

"On the one hand, there is the Electoral Bond issue, which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The electoral bonds have benefitted the BJP hugely. On the other hand, the finances of the principal opposition party, the INC, are under a determined assault. This is truly unprecedented," she added.

Maken alleged that the BJP government has "looted the donations given to the Congress" party by the common public "by freezing our accounts and forcibly withdrawing" Rs 115.32 crore from them.

" No political party, including the BJP, pays Income Tax, yet the Congress party's 11 Bank Accounts were frozen. Why?" he asked.

Maken said that for a notice for FY 2017-18, lien on Rs 210 crore was marked in the party's 11 accounts in four banks.

"The reason given is, that Rs 14.49 lakh was received in cash (as donations made by our MPs to the Congress party), out of total receipt of Rs 199 crore. This cash component is just 0.07 per cent of the total donations. And the punishment was 106 per cent!"

He also questioned the timing of freezing of party's accounts.

"We received the Rs 199 crore donation in 2017-18, but after 7 years, on 13th February 2024, 210.25 cr lien was marked, our bank accounts were virtually sealed, and later, Rs 115.32 crore was forcibly confiscated."

He said the lien was marked in such a way, that it not only sealed Rs 210 crore "but also prevented Congress from using its deposited amounts of Rs 285 crore".

"This virtually crippled the finances of the principal opposition party."

He said the party last week received fresh notice from the IT Department for the FY 1993-94, when Sitaram Kesri was the treasurer. "We are being asked to calculate penal charges for the FY 1993-94 after 31 years of the assessment," he said.

The Congress has also raised questions over electoral bonds received by the BJP.

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