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Cong holds protests across country over income tax notices; BJP says it shows 'arrogance' of oppn party

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New Delhi, Mar 30 (PTI) The Congress on Saturday held protests in many states against fresh notices from the income tax department for payment of Rs 1,823 crore and said it would not be intimidated by the Centre's "tax terrorism", but the BJP accused the opposition party of misleading the country after committing "tax fraud" and asserted that no one is above law.

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Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar said he was shocked after he received an income tax notice last night though the case against him was a "settled matter" and alleged that the department was turning a blind eye to tax violations involving BJP leaders.

The I-T department, "which aggressively targets opposition parties, mysteriously turns a blind eye to the BJP's tax violations. The public is not so ignorant as to not question who is blindfolding" the I-T department", Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said in a statement.

"The Bharatiya Janata Party, fearful of impending defeat in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, has been misusing autonomous institutions like the I-T department, ED, and CBI to undermine the Congress Party. As part of this tactic, they have unleashed ‘tax terrorism’ on our party. The BJP is under the illusion that by weakening our party, it can win the election," he said.

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In the national capital, Indian Youth Congress (IYC) members led by its president Srinivas BV were stopped from marching to Rajendra Prasad Road by police and detained.

Under the guise of tax rules, the Congress is being harassed, Srinivas alleged.

The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) organised a protest in front of the Income Tax department office in Thiruvananthapuram.

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"The objective of the BJP is to choke the Congress party financially and keep it completely out of election-related activities," KPCC acting president M M Hassan alleged.

The BJP alleged that the Congress' reaction reflected its "arrogance" and asked if there should be a separate law for the opposition party.

The Congress would come down to a single-digit tally in this Lok Sabha elections as it is trying to "mislead" the people on the issue of income tax notices after indulging in "tax fraud", the ruling party claimed.

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“Congress is still arrogant due to its six-decade rule. If other political parties are honouring IT laws, why not Congress," Union minister Anurag Thakur said in Jammu.

“Should there be a separate law for the party? Is the Congress not violating the laws? "If they had tax exemptions, they just had to file their returns but they failed to do it. And secondly, they have received huge cash donations but they have not declared information related to it,” the minister told reporters on the sidelines of a public rally.

Addressing a press conference at the BJP headquarters in Delhi, party national spokesperson Syed Zafar Islam alleged that Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and other leaders of the party are trying to "threaten" the Income Tax Department with their remarks.

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"After committing tax fraud, the Congress is trying to mislead people by holding demonstrations and protests since the party got a notice from the Income Tax Department for payment of outstanding tax liability of Rs 1,800 crore," Islam told reporters.

Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Sathe said his party has asked candidates to seek monetary help while approaching them for votes.

“We have been saying that democracy is in danger in India and it is turning into a reality now. Another example of this is the tax terrorism by the BJP. Congress is fined by the I-T department, but the BJP is exempted,” Sathe, who is All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary, alleged, while participating in a protest in Guwahati.

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"The BJP may try to unsettle the Congress by sending income tax claim notices, but the Congress is neither afraid nor slowing down. We are prepared, we will overcome, and we will emerge victorious!," Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh posted on X.

The Modi government has not frozen the bank accounts of the Congress party, "but has frozen India's democracy. This is 'tax terrorism'," the Congress said as its state units organised protests in Jaipur, Lucknow, Chandigarh and other state capitals.

Former Union minister P Chidambaram claimed that it is a "warning to the political parties and people that the BJP wants to destroy all the parties." "It's agenda of 'One nation, One election' is nothing but 'One country, One party.' This warning is for everyone," the senior Congress leader said and added that people would soon realise this.

"The ruling party first filled its own coffers in the name of electoral bonds and then seized the accounts of the Congress and whatever donations it had received to paralyse the party. Now income tax notices are being issued," former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat said.

Congress general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal had asked all Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) to hold demonstrations at the state and district headquarters in their respective states on Saturday and the following day, involving senior leaders and party functionaries.

In his letter to all PCC presidents, Congress legislature party leaders, AICC general secretaries, in-charges and heads of frontal organisations, Venugopal said, "As you are well aware, the systematic process to thwart Indian democracy by the BJP proceeds at an alarming rate." "An illegal attempt to freeze the bank accounts of the principal national opposition party the Indian National Congress last month in February has gone on for over a month on the eve of the national general election. Yesterday, we received fresh notices from the IT department to pay Rs 1823.08 crore. Already the IT department has forcibly taken away Rs 135 crore from our bank account," the Congress leader said.

"Now in a patently illegal and undemocratic action, the Income Tax Department has launched its next premeditated, diabolical campaign against the Congress," he alleged. PTI GMS LGK PK TAS JSP SSG ALM NIT RT RT

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