Saturday, Jul 13, 2024 | Last Update : 11:45 AM IST

  Opinion   Edit  25 Apr 2024  AA Edit | Inheritance tax paradox: It may be costly for Congress

AA Edit | Inheritance tax paradox: It may be costly for Congress

Published : Apr 26, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Apr 26, 2024, 12:05 am IST

Inheritance Tax Debate: A Political Role Reversal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI Photo)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI Photo)

Great ideas come alive through history, the first time as a tragedy and the second time as a farce. In one of arguably Victor Hugo’s greatest novel, Ninety-Three (short for 1793), set in France two years after the Revolution, following the lives of de Lantenac, a noble royalist, Gauvain, an embodiment of a dreamy romantic revolutionary, and Cimourdain, the pragmatist, people stand up and fight for ideas against their personal interest. With Hugo’s artistic genius, this reversal makes for beautiful art, but in the Indian political season, it is a bit of a comedy.

Rahul Gandhi, the scion of a family party, with generations of wealth, and according to the BJP, decadent and ill-gotten wealth, and unearned, entitled power and position, should, in normal context, oppose inheritance tax. After all, he should favour the continuity of the power of the wealthy, the idea of inheritance having no liability, and passed on from generation to generation. If there was an inheritance tax in India, the Congress should oppose it, seek its removal.

In direct contrast, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came from nothing, the most humble of backgrounds, and sold tea as a child to eke his most modest of existences. Such a person should, personally and viscerally, dislike and disapprove of easy inheritance, without liability, and would like to impose such a tax, and champion against tax-free entitlement and inheritance.

Indeed, it is a very philosophically, and politically, difficult idea that a hard working middle-class person’s salary should be taxed every month, every year, but a scion on inheritor’s inheritance should be tax-free. The defence against such a proposal for inheritance tax is that such money, income or wealth, has already been taxed; and it is not the right of the person inheriting but the one bequeathing that matters.

But the irony is that while given the family reality, Mr Modi must support inheritance tax and Mr Gandhi oppose it — in the election campaign so far, the BJP, while giving an impression that the Congress wishes to impose such a tax and that it would comprise a conspiracy to loot Indians of their traditional wealth, stands against it.

Actually, there is no proposal for a fresh imposition, or even consideration, of such a tax in either the Congress manifesto, or the speeches of any leader of the Grand Old Party. It is actually drawn from a somewhat irrelevant proposal of Sam Pitroda, who said in a virtual discussion that the Congress Party’s idea of redistribution of wealth to benefit the poor, should also include the inheritance tax, which is de rigueur in most Western nations.

The chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, Mr Pitroda, associated with the Rajiv Gandhi government and the early telecom revolution, is no stranger to controversy, while Mr Modi is not new to using one wrong statement from a rival to turn around the entire political situation. It was chai wallah in 2014, then chowkidar chor hain in 2019, and now, in 2024, perhaps the idea of inheritance tax might prove to be a very expensive mistake for the Congress.

Mr Pitroda’s statement and the subsequent controversy is such an inherited problem for the Congress, and it might be taxed severely for this mega-blooper.


Tags: aa edit, inheritance tax, prime minister narendra modi