Congress faces I-T action on 'unaccounted' Rs 524 crore following Rs 135 crore loss

This development will inflict another setback on the party, especially considering the recent withdrawal of Rs 135 crore by the I-T department from its bank accounts to settle past dues.

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With the Lok Sabha elections looming just three weeks away, the Congress party finds itself anticipating yet another substantial demand from the Income Tax Department, this time amounting to Rs 523.87 crore for "unaccounted transactions" spanning from 2014 to 2021. This development comes as a significant setback for the party, which recently had Rs 135 crore withdrawn from its bank accounts by the I-T department to settle previous dues. The newly identified "unaccounted transactions" were uncovered during I-T raids conducted before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

V K Tankha, a senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member who is also a senior lawyer, expressed concerns about the expected hefty penalty and interest that may accompany the Rs 523.87 crore demand. Tankha highlighted the predicament faced by the party, stating, "Not satisfied with crippling us by withdrawing the lien amount of Rs 135 crore on the eve of general elections, a bigger setback is expected, thus crippling us further."

The Congress party faced legal setbacks earlier this year, including losing its appeal before the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) in March and a challenge in the Delhi High Court regarding I-T department search operations. The party argued that these actions were "time-barred" and "delayed." Additionally, the Election Commission had previously requested a CBI inquiry into the tax matter case, stemming from I-T department raids conducted in April 2019 across 52 locations.

The Delhi High Court's March 22 order detailed evidence collected during the raids, indicating pay-offs to the Congress party, including from the Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) Group, which emerged as a significant donor to political parties. The court's judgment cited substantial evidence of unaccounted transactions, including alleged payments to various individuals associated with the Congress party.

Digvijay Singh, a Congress Rajya Sabha member, criticized the timing of these tax demands just weeks before the Lok Sabha polls, labeling it as vendetta politics. Singh highlighted the financial strain faced by the party, affecting its ability to fund advertisements, support candidates, and arrange travel plans for leaders. He denounced the perceived targeting by the I-T Department, emphasizing the impact on the election campaign of the principal opposition party.