In the weeks leading up the prime minister's announcement, the BJP bought land in 18 districts of Odisha. Congress spokesperson RS Surjewala Tuesday alleged that the market value of these parcels of land was much higher than was quoted in land deeds. The possibility that the rest was paid from black money, not an uncommon practice in land deals, is not being ruled out.
Records of the deals, released by the Congress Tuesday, show that a two-acre plot in Kendrapara district worth about Rs 45 lakh was bought in August by Surendranath Lath, the BJP's in-charge of the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Odisha.
In September, Lath bought a 0.23-acre parcel of land in Jagatsinghpur for Rs 8.25 lakh, and paid Rs 66,000 as stamp duty. In October, about 10,000 sq ft of prime land near a national highway in Berhampur was bought for Rs 20 lakh. Another plot was bought in Jharsuguda.
"The mystery of black money is unravelling with each passing day. Just before demonetisation, the BJP made huge investments in real estate across India. People of this country are demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been talking about transparency and accountability, should declare all details of land purchases that the BJP and the RSS did in the 12 months prior to demonetisation," Surjewala said.
The Congress spokesperson went on to add that the bank account details of the BJP and the RSS should also be put in public domain so that sources of the money used to buy properties is revealed.
Since Catch's expose, the BJP has claimed that its national leadership had decided a year ago to purchase land across the country to erect party offices. "Why only Odisha or Bihar, we have been buying land in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and several other states. The decision to buy land was taken a year back and funds were collected for the same and we have been using the same funds for these purchases," BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal said.
Meanwhile, criticising Modi's decision to amend the Income Tax Act, 1961 and establish the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, the Congress said the government has given freedom to people who want to turn their black money into white. The Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by the Lok Sabha without discussion Tuesday.
Introduced as a Money Bill Monday, the legislation gives people yet another chance to declare their undisclosed income, only this time they will have to incur rigorous penalties and higher taxes. The government said a part of the proceeds would be utilised for the welfare of the poor through Garib Kalyan Yojana.
"To help black money hoarders, the prime minister brought two schemes so they have to pay no penalty or face prosecution, and even black money could easily be turned into white. Scared that the government would be exposed, the amendment in the income tax law was brought in as a money bill. There was no discussion and even parliament's approval was not taken," Surjewala said.
"The Modi government's real face stands exposed. The time has come for Modiji to abstain from jumlas, and take off the mask and follow Rajdharma," he added.