PM Charge On Sam Pitroda's "Inheritance" Remark Takes Cue From LIC Tagline

Addressing a poll rally at Chhattisgarh's Surguja, Prime Minister Modi said the Congress's "dangerous intentions are coming out in the open".

PM Charge On Sam Pitroda's 'Inheritance' Remark Takes Cue From LIC Tagline
Surguja (Chhattisgarh):

Leading the BJP's attack over senior Congress leader Sam Pitroda's comments, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today alleged the Opposition party plans to tax inheritance passed down from parents to their children. The Congress has distanced itself from Mr Pitroda's remarks and said they do not reflect the party's position.

Addressing a poll rally at Chhattisgarh's Surguja, the Prime Minister said the Congress's "dangerous intentions are coming out in the open". Referring to Mr Pitroda, he said, "The advisor of the prince of the Congress royal family had earlier said that the middle class should be taxed more. Now they have gone further ahead. Now the Congress is saying that it will impose an Inheritance Tax and tax the inheritance received by people from their parents."

"The wealth you accumulate with your hard work won't pass down to your children. The Congress's hand will snatch it. The Congress's mantra is 'loot during your lifetime, loot after your death'," the Prime Minister said, taking a cue from Life Insurance Corporation's "zindagi ke saath bhi, zindagi ke baad bhi" tagline.

"As long as you live, Congress's high taxation will make you suffer. When you are dead, they will put the burden of inheritance tax," he said.

Mr Pitroda, who leads the overseas wing of the Congress, is at the centre of a huge row after his remarks during an interview to news agency ANI. While targeting the Prime Minister over his allegations that the Congress plans to redistribute the nation's wealth and that will take property and jewellery if it comes to power, Mr Pitroda said the Congress's manifesto is well-drafted and accused the BJP of making up stories.

The Congress, he said, has always focused on the people at the bottom of the economic pyramid, whether they are OBCs, Muslims, Dalits or tribals. "Billionaires don't need our help. It is the poor people who need our help. Inequality has substantially increased in the last 10 years," he said.

"This doesn't mean that you are going to take your wealth and give it to somebody. This means to create new policies so that the concentration of wealth can be prevented. It's like a Monopoly Act," he said.

He then cited a US example that snowballed into a controversy. "In America, there is an inheritance tax. If one has 100 million USD worth of wealth and when he dies he can only transfer probably 45 per cent to his children, 55 per cent is grabbed by the government. That's an interesting law. It says you in your generation, made wealth and you are leaving now, you must leave your wealth for the public, not all of it, half of it, which to me sounds fair," Mr Pitroda said.

It is worth pointing out that the US does not have a federal inheritance tax. In some states, such as Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, inherited assets are taxed. The payable tax depends on the amount of the inheritance and the relationship to the dead. This tax is only applied above a certain threshold and can go up to nearly 20 per cent of the inheritance.

Mr Pitroda said this is a policy issue. "Congress party would frame a policy through which the wealth distribution would be better. We don't have a minimum wage (in India). If we come up with a minimum wage in the country saying you must pay so much money to the poor, that's the distribution of wealth. Today, rich people don't pay their peons, servants, and home help enough, but they spend that money on a vacation in Dubai and London," he said.

Soon after the remarks started doing the rounds on social media, the BJP doubled up on its charge against the Congress. Union Home Minister Amit Shah appealed to the people to take Mr Pitroda's remarks seriously. "Their hidden plans have come out in the open. People should take note. And the Congress must withdraw the mention of survey from its manifesto," he said.

In fact, the manifesto calls for a nationwide socio-economic and caste Census to provide the data foundation for affirmative action, but does not mention any wealth redistribution plan.

The matter has gained steam after the Prime Minister alleged in election rallies that the Congress plans to conduct a survey and put into motion a wealth redistribution plan. He has also claimed that property and jewellery owned by citizens would be surveyed, taken away and redistributed.   

Pushed into firefighting mode over Mr Pitroda's remarks, the Congress distanced itself from the senior leader's remark and stressed that its manifesto does not mention what the BJP is alleging.

Senior leader Jairam Ramesh posted on X, "Sam Pitroda has been a mentor, friend, philosopher, and guide to many across the world, including me. He has made numerous, enduring contributions to India's developments. He is President of the Indian Overseas Congress."

"Mr Pitroda expresses his opinions freely on issues he feels strongly about. Surely, in a democracy an individual is at liberty to discuss, express, and debate his personal views. This does not mean that Mr. Pitroda's views always reflect the position of the Indian National Congress. Many times they do not," Mr Ramesh clarified.

"Sensationalising his comments now and tearing them out of context are deliberate and desperate attempts at diverting attention away from Mr. Narendra Modi's malicious and mischievous election campaign; that is anchored ONLY in lies and more lies," he said.

Mr Ramesh also took a swipe at the BJP's Amit Malviya and a 2014 tweet in which he cited a news report and expressed support for then junior Finance Minister Jayant Sinha's idea "to tax inheritance wealth".

"I have a feeling this tweet will be deleted soon, so here's a screenshot to go with..." he said, stressing, again, that the Congress has "no plans to implement a wealth tax." 

"Given multiple BJP leaders have declared their support for it, where does PM Modi stand?"

Pawan Khera, chairman of Congress's media and publicity department, said Prime Minister Modi's remarks suggest that he has a problem with social justice. "In the past 10 years, the society's deprived section has been left far behind due to Mr Modi's policies," he said.

Stressing that Mr Pitroda had not said the Congress will bring any inheritance act policy and that no such policy is mentioned in the party's manifesto, he asked, "Is discussing and debating different ideas not allowed in this ancient land of Shastrarth?"

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate told the media that the party did not impose any inheritance tax when it was in power for so many years. "Now you are trying to spread lies and create a bogey when there is none," she said.

"Congress doesn't believe in inheritance tax and we have never discussed or contemplated this. It's actually Narendra Modi and his former finance minister Arun Jaitley who contemplated this, it's their agenda," she said.