- "I speak as a Congress member and an advocate, the summons are baseless," Chidambaram said
- "It is like accusing a person of the offence of ‘purse snatching," Chidambaram said
- Party leaders will express solidarity with Rahul Gandhi and march with him to ED’s office, he said
With Rahul Gandhi set to appear before the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Sunday asserted that the summons to the former party chief was "baseless" and said it appears that the ED’s jurisdiction does not extend to the BJP members or to states ruled by the saffron party.
In an interview with PTI, Chidambaram also said every effort should be made and will be made to forge unity among the Opposition parties in the upcoming presidential polls.
Asked about the ED summons to Rahul and Sonia Gandhi and the Congress' decision of a show of strength when the former appears before the investigative agency on Monday, Chidambaram said, "I speak as a Congress member and an advocate. The ED’s summons to Mr Rahul Gandhi under PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) is baseless."
Pointing out that the offence of money laundering requires ‘money’ and ‘laundering of money’, the former home minister said that in the National Herald debt-to-equity conversion, something which lending banks do on a regular basis, there was no transaction of money.
Therefore, how can there be money laundering, he asked.
"It is like accusing a person of the offence of ‘purse snatching’ when there was no purse and no snatching," he argued.
As Congress members, Chidambaram said, party leaders will express solidarity with Rahul Gandhi and march with him to the ED’s office on Monday.
Reacting to the government's contention that the agencies do their job and the opposition should not worry if they have done no wrong, Chidambaram said as far as the ED 'doing its job' is concerned, "it appears that the ED’s jurisdiction does not extend to BJP members or to states ruled by the BJP!"
Asked about the Opposition's allegation that agencies like the ED and the CBI were being used against it, he said the "selective actions" of the investigative agencies have raised doubts in the minds of Opposition parties.
"I shall not say anything more," he added.
With Rahul Gandhi set to appear before the Enforcement Directorate on June 13 in connection with the money laundering case pertaining to the National Herald-Associated Journals Ltd deal, the Congress has decided that all its top leaders and MPs would take out a protest march to the agency headquarters here and stage a "satyagraha" against what the party called its "misuse" by the central government.
Congress leaders in states will also take out marches to the agency offices in their respective states and will stage "satyagraha" on Monday.
Asked about the outrage and condemnation from a number of Muslim-majority nations over the controversial remarks on Prophet Mohammad and calls that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have intervened in the matter when the comments were made, Chidambaram said, "Most certainly, yes, the prime minister should have spoken and acted immediately after the offensive utterances by the two (BJP) spokespersons."
"The PM’s silence is baffling, but in tune with his silence on past occasions. It is sad that the government turned a deaf ear when Opposition parties, civil society leaders, writers, scholars and common citizens forewarned the government to put an end to Islamophobia, but woke up startled when 16 countries remonstrated against the utterances," he said.
Should Indian Muslims look to foreign countries to stop Islamophobia, Chidambaram asked.
On the protests continuing over the issue in various parts of the country, Chidambaram said the government — and the BJP behind the government — has been "exposed as insincere" when it comes to upholding secularism.
"I read that Sadhvi Pragya has spoken in support of Nupur Sharma. The silence of the prime minister and the Home Minister, the voices within the BJP in support of the spokespersons and the bureaucratic response to the loud protests of 16 foreign countries tell everything about the BJP‘s position," Chidambaram said.
This is not a new position, it can be traced to the writings of RSS leaders, he said.
"Naturally, I am concerned about the ferment in society. It is the responsibility of the government to reassure the minorities and restore peace," Chidambaram said.
On the ongoing debate on the need for blasphemy laws in the country, he said there are enough laws in the country to deal with blasphemy and there is no need for a new law.
"Under the BJP governments, the laws are applied with an evil eye and an unequal hand," he alleged.
Asked about the Congress being accused of peddling 'soft Hindutva' in the past and if the party needs to take an aggressive stance on issues of minorities, Chidambaram dismissed suggestions of his party peddling in soft Hindutva and asserted that the Congress’ official position, resolutions and statements have never deviated from its commitment to secularism.
"The Congress need not be aggressive or defensive. We have to stand by the declaration in the Constitution that India will be a secular country," he asserted.