The prime minister launched a scathing attack on the opposition over alleged plans to “snatch” people’s earnings India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks after releasing the BJP’s manifesto in New Delhi on April 14, 2024. © Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a scathing attack on the opposition National Congress Party, accusing it of planning to “snatch” people’s property following suggestions of a new US-style inheritance law.

The prime minister’s comments came after Sam Pitroda, chief of the Congress’s overseas faction, suggested that India could look at a 50% inheritance tax, similar to the one enacted by the US.

Pitroda, who acted as adviser to Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, when the Congress government was in power, described the American inheritance law as “interesting.”

“If one has $100 million worth of wealth and when he dies he can only transfer probably 45% to his children, 55% is grabbed by the government,” Pitroda told the ANI news agency. “In India, you don’t have that. If somebody is worth 10 billion and he dies, his children get 10 billion, and the public gets nothing… So these are the kinds of issues people will have to debate and discuss,” he said.

Indian opposition demands action against Modi for controversial remark Indian opposition demands action against Modi for controversial remark

India’s richest 1% of the population earned 22% of the country’s income and held 40% of its wealth during the last financial year, a research paper published last month suggested.

Notably, Pitroda made his observations amid a heated debate between the ruling Bharatiya Janatiya Party (BJP), led by Modi, and the Congress over wealth redistribution in the country. In its election manifesto, the Congress claimed that “the people of India are divided into economic terms” due to the BJP’s policies. Instead, it pledged to build a “fair, just and equal-opportunity economy and bring prosperity to all sections of the people.”

The BJP, however, has hit out at the Congress, alleging that the party’s manifesto effectively means seizing and redistributing the wealth of Indians. Congress has denied those claims.

After his “inheritance tax” remarks added fuel to the fire, Pitroda claimed on Wednesday that his words had been distorted to deflect attention from key issues.

The Congress Party, meanwhile, promptly distanced itself from the remarks. “The Congress has no plan whatsoever to introduce an inheritance tax,” said senior party leader Jairam Ramesh.

BJP leaders, however, used the remarks to double down on their criticism of the opposition. “Your children will not get the wealth that you accumulate through your hard work, rather the claws of the Congress will snatch it away from you. As long as you are alive, Congress will impose higher taxes and when you are no longer alive, it will burden you with inheritance tax”, Modi suggested, while campaigning for the ongoing election on Wednesday in Chhattisgarh state.

At another rally, Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that the politics of the Congress Party had been “exposed.” BJP spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill also slammed the rival group, saying that voters need to be aware of “property snatchers.”

The heated political debate was initially sparked by Modi, who on Sunday suggested that if Congress came to power, it would distribute the country’s wealth among “those who have more children.” The comment triggered outrage as many saw it as a rebuke against the Muslim community.

Polling for the general election in the nation of 1.4 billion started last week and will continue till June 1. A party needs to win 272 seats of the total 543 to gain a majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament.

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