“Irony Died When…”: Minister’s Jibe At Shashi Tharoor In Affidavit Row

The BJP’s Rajeev Chandrasekhar is the junior Union Electronics and IT Minister (File).

New Delhi:

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar hit back at the Congress Thursday morning amid the ongoing row over a surprising detail on his election affidavit – that his taxable income for FY2021/22 was Rs 680, compared to Rs 17.5 lakh for FY20 and Rs 5.5 lakh for FY23.

In a post on X, he countered the Congress’ plan to “run a campaign about my Rs 680 as taxable income” and offered “… the facts, all of which are in my mandatory disclosure”.

“I am only in public life for several years and my income is derived only (from) MP or Minister’s salary and perks, and interest/dividend from savings/investments,” he began.

“Year 2021-2022 my taxable income was sharply reduced because of partnership losses incurred during the Covid period. My 18-year-career in public life has been totally free from any blemish despite many attempts by (the Congress), including their recent attempt after my entry into Thiruvananthapuram.”

The Union Minister has been fielded by the Bharatiya Janata Party from the Lok Sabha seat in the Kerala capital, which has been held by the Congress’ Shashi Tharoor since 2009.

The seat has flipped between the Left and the Congress since 1977. The BJP has never won it.

Asserting to the Congress that the “obvious attempt to distract voters from the main issues of progress, development, jobs, and investments will NOT work”, he also took a double jibe – one at the party’s “first family (a reference to the Gandhis)” and another at Mr Tharoor.

“Irony certainly died when the Congress, whose first family is on trial for stealing properties and transferring it to their name surreptitiously, and a candidate who resigned as minister for his illegal IPL ‘interests’ start talking about disclosures and taxation,” he sneered.

The jibe was over charges against the Congress, including the National Herald case, and claims Mr Tharoor, in 2010, used his position to lobby for an Indian Premier League franchise for Kochi.

Mr Tharoor, then the junior Foreign Minister in ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet, quit saying he didn’t want to embarrass the government.

Legal Notice Against Shashi Tharoor

On Wednesday Mr Chandrasekhar sent a legal notice accusing Mr Tharoor of making defamatory statements. The notice claimed the statements were intended to harm the BJP leader’s reputation, and that his remarks also disrespected the city’s Christian community of Thiruvananthapuram.

READ | Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar Sues Shashi Tharoor For Defamation

Mr Chandrasekhar sought an immediate withdrawal of allegations and an unconditional apology, to be published on electronic and print media, within 24 hours of receipt of notice.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar Election Affidavit

Controversy over Mr Chandrasekhar’s poll affidavit broke after it showed his income for FY 2021/22 was just Rs 680. In his papers, he also declared assets worth Rs 28 crore, including included cash, bank deposits, and various holdings, as well as bonds, debentures, shares, units in companies/mutual funds.

His declared movable assets included a vintage motorcycle – a 1942 Red Indian Scout – and other items valued at an estimate Rs 3.25 crore. His sole declared immovable asset was a plot of non-agricultural land in Bengaluru in Karnataka worth an estimated Rs 14.4 crore. 

The opposition (Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front also made complaints) has alleged the Union Minister failed to fully disclose his income for the year, as also his connection to Jupiter Capital – a holding company to “hide the complex web… to hide his true assets”.

It was also alleged that Mr Chandrasekhar did not disclose other owned real estate, including property in Bengaluru. The BJP leader has denied all these charges.

Mr Tharoor, meanwhile, has declared assets of Rs 55 crore – up from Rs 23 crore in 2014 – and a total income, for FY2022/23 of Rs 4.32 crore.

Election Commission To Probe Mismatch

On Tuesday the Election Commission directed the CBDT, or Central Board of Direct Taxes, to verify any potential mismatch – between actual and declared assets, and income – in Mr Chandrasekhar’s affidavits.

READ | After Congress Complaint, Poll Panel To Verify Union Minister’s Affidavit

The law says candidates concealing information in nomination papers or affidavits – a violation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 – could face a six-month prison sentence and/or get a fine.

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