"115 Crores Frozen, Don't Have That Much": Congress On Bank Accounts Row

Party treasurer Ajay Maken had earlier described the move to freeze the accounts as a "disturbing blow to the democratic process".

The freeze reportedly stems from a tax demand of Rs 210 crore raised by the Income Tax department.

New Delhi:

The Congress today faced a temporary hurdle after the Income Tax department froze its main bank accounts, including those of the Youth Congress. However, the party swiftly challenged the move, and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal granted relief by de-freezing the accounts until a final hearing next week.

The Congress issued a clarification stating that the party is mandated to ensure that a sum of Rs 115 crore has to be maintained in their bank accounts. The amount has to remain untouched in compliance with the directive from the tax authorities, implying a freeze on these funds. 

"This means that Rs 115 crore have been frozen. This Rs 115 crore is much more than we have in our current accounts," the Congress said. 

In a press conference earlier today, party treasurer Ajay Maken described the move as a "disturbing blow to the democratic process". The freeze reportedly stems from a tax demand of Rs 210 crore raised by the Income Tax department, a move that the Congress claims is politically motivated and strategically timed to disrupt the party's election preparations.

"Democracy doesn't exist; this is like a one-rule party, and the principal opposition party has been subjugated. We seek justice from the judiciary, media, and the people," Mr Maken said. 

The Congress leader said that the party has taken legal action in response to the freeze, with the matter currently before the income tax appellate tribunal. In a press conference, Mr Maken explained that they chose not to disclose the information earlier as the hearing is pending.

The party learned about the freezing of its accounts yesterday, and the party's lawyer Vivek Tankha said that a total of four accounts have been affected. Banks have been instructed not to accept or honour Congress' cheques, with the frozen funds to be submitted to the Income Tax department.

Mr Maken claimed that in the election year of 2018-19, the party submitted its accounts 45 days late, but freezing the accounts is an extreme measure. He argued that there have been cases and precedents where such actions were not taken.

"We have given the names of all MLAs and MPs who have contributed, based on the Manmohan Singh committee report," Mr Maken stated.

The Congress leader claimed that timing of the freeze, coming just ahead of the crucial general elections, raises suspicions about the motives behind the Income Tax department's actions

"Right now, we have no money to spend. Electricity bills, staff salaries, our Nyay yatra, everything is impacted. Look at the timing; this is clear," he said. "We have only one PAN, and the four accounts are all linked."

Party president Mallikarjun Kharge voiced his apprehension, stating, "Intoxicated with power, the Modi government has frozen the accounts of the country's largest opposition party - the Indian National Congress - just before the Lok Sabha elections. This is a deep blow to democracy."

"The unconstitutional money that BJP has collected will be used in the elections, but the money we have collected through crowdfunding will be sealed. That is why we have said that there will be no elections in the future! We appeal to the judiciary to save the multi-party system in this country and secure India's democracy. We will take to the streets and fight strongly against this injustice and dictatorship," he added, in a post on X. 

This development comes on the heels of the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, striking down the electoral bonds scheme. The electoral bonds scheme, introduced by the government on January 2, 2018, was seen as a solution to replace cash donations and enhance transparency in political funding.