Former Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday took potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of making an effort to cripple the lead opposition party financially.

In her rare appearance in the briefing to the media, Sonia Gandhi, who was joined by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and her son Rahul Gandhi, described the Income Tax department freezing Congress’ bank accounts as an “extremely serious” issue as the party is finding it difficult to contest elections.

“The issue we are taking up today is extremely serious. This issue affects not just the Indian National Congress, but 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,” Sonia Gandhi stated.

Income Tax Department notice

After Sonia’s presser, Congress treasurer Ajay Maken also interacted with the media to let the public know that the party had received another notice from the Income Tax Department for the reassessment of taxes for FY95. “I informed you last week, that after seven years, the Income Tax Department has frozen our bank accounts regarding a case of 2017-18. Now, we have received a notice about Sitaram Kesari ji’s time in 1994-95. I am sure more bank accounts will be frozen now,” Maken said, flashing a copy of the notice.

Last month, the party claimed the IT Department had frozen ₹115 crore in its bank accounts as a follow-up to a tax demand of ₹210 crore on dues and penalties for the financial year 2018-19. Subsequently, Congress leader Ajay Maken had alleged that ₹65 crore was withdrawn by the IT department from three of the party’s accounts, overlooking the fact that the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal was hearing a petition against the claim . The ITAT, earlier this month, had refused to accept the Congress plea to reign in a petition to stop the department’s action against its bank accounts.

Under these most challenging circumstances, Sonia Gandhi stated the party is doing its best to maintain the effectiveness of the election campaign.

“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,” she said.

Former party president Rahul Gandhi was equally vitriolic as his mother. Terming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s freezing of accounts a criminal action against the Congress, Rahul said, “...We can do no campaign work... Our ability to fight elections has been damaged.”

“There is no democracy in India today and the idea that India is the world’s largest democracy is a complete lie,” Rahul Gandhi alleged while taking a dig at investigating agencies for not protecting the democratic framework.

Kharge demanded that party accounts be defrozen to ensure a level playing field in polls.