‘Freezing Democracy’: India’s Main Opposition Party’s Funds Frozen Ahead Of Polls

Supporters of the Congress Party have gathered in Delhi’s iconic Jantar Mantar area to protest the move.

‘Freezing Democracy’: India’s Main Opposition Party’s Funds Frozen Ahead Of Polls

The Indian National Congress, India's major opposition party, stated Friday that its bank accounts have been ceased by federal tax authorities, just weeks before an expected nationwide election. 

Congress Treasurer Ajay Maken announced at a press conference that the accounts had been blocked following an examination of the party's income tax filings for the fiscal year 2018–19. He stated that the Income Tax Department has issued a payment demand of 2.1 billion rupees ($25.3 million) in connection with the ongoing investigation. 

Maken stated that the move done against his party was comparable to "freezing our democracy." 

"The Congress Party's financial accounts have not ceased. The democracy has been frozen," Maken emphasized. "Will there be only a one-party system in this country?" he questioned.

Meanwhile, Congress Party supporters gathered in Delhi's renowned Jantar Mantar area to protest the move, with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge labeling the freezing of funds an "assault on democracy." 

Allies of the Congress Party have often argued that democracy is being suppressed in India, with Friday's case the most recent in a string of probes targeting prominent opponents of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Rahul Gandhi, the son of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was banned as a lawmaker last year and sentenced to two years in prison for defamation in a verdict that his supporters claim was politically motivated. Gandhi was eventually reinstated as a lawmaker after an intervention by India's Supreme Court.