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  4. OPINION | National Herald case: Money laundering or political vendetta?

OPINION | National Herald case: Money laundering or political vendetta?

The Congress wants to convey the message that the Modi government is trying to harass senior party leaders by issuing summons and subjecting them to questioning. Rahul Gandhi has been trying to portray that neither he nor his party is afraid of Modi and the investigating agencies.

Rajat Sharma Written by: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Published on: June 14, 2022 15:44 IST
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OPINION | National Herald case: Money laundering or political vendetta?

For the last two consecutive days, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been questioned by Enforcement Directorate in a money-laundering probe linked to the National Herald case. On Monday, Rahul Gandhi was questioned by ED officials for eight and a half hours, with a break in between, when Rahul visited his ailing mother Sonia Gandhi in Delhi’s Gangaram Hospital. Party president Sonia Gandhi has also been summoned for questioning, but she has sought time, as she is presently recuperating from Covid. Sonia Gandhi has now been summoned by ED for questioning on June 23.

On instructions from high command, Congress chief ministers, senior leaders and workers have gathered in Delhi since Monday. Delhi Police prevented them from taking out a march to the ED office. Several Congress leaders were taken into custody for violating Section 144 prohibitory orders, both on Monday and Tuesday.

The Congress has named its protest as ‘satyagraha’ against, what it called, ‘misuse of investigating agencies against the party’ by the Centre. The BJP said, it was a case of financial wrongdoing and there was unnecessary “theatrics and drama” on part of the Congress.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “It is a fake satyagraha by fake Gandhis. Both Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi are presently on bail, but the Congress is making a huge drama out of it.” Union Minister Smriti Irani said, these protests are a drama to save the “ill-gotten wealth of Gandhi family”.  The Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala described the ED questioning as “an act of political vendetta”. He alleged that “there is a reign of dictatorship” in India now.

According to sources, two assistant directors of ED questioned Rahul Gandhi about the investments made by his company Young Indian Ltd in National Herald. He was asked about his partnership in Young India, about other shareholders, his personal bank accounts in India and abroad, his movable and immovable assets, and other related issues. Associated Journals Ltd is the holding company of the National Herald newspaper launched in 1937 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and other freedom fighters. Since AJL was running in loss, the publication of its newspapers was discontinued. AJL had taken Rs 90 crore loan from Indian National Congress.

In 2010, Rahul Gandhi floated Young Indian Company, in which both he and his mother had 76 percent shareholding, while the remaining 24 percent shares were in the name of the then Congress treasurer Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes (both now deceased). Young Indian, a not-for-profit company, purchased AJL shares by paying Rs 50 lakhs. Its owners do not take any salaries or allowances. It is alleged that AJL owned properties worth several thousand crores of rupees, which Young Indian acquired for peanuts. In 2012, Dr Subramanian Swamy filed a case, consequent to which the case is being investigated by central agencies.

Union Minister Smriti Irani alleged that Rahul and Sonia Gandhi were involved in a scam of several thousand crores and that they took help from hawala operators and misused donations collected by the Congress party. She alleged that by doing so, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi took possession of several thousand crores worth of properties belonging to AJL. 

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, neither Rahul nor Sonia Gandhi gained a single rupee from this deal. He said, AJL which was the owner of the National Herald newspaper, was unable to pay wages to its workers, and it was Young Indian owned by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi which came to its rescue.

Surjewala said, the agencies had been investigating this case for the last seven to eight years, and they have not found any discrepancy or illegal doings. He said, the loans were squared off by converting them into shares, and money collected by sharing equity was paid as wages to workers. He claimed that the entire transactions were transparent.

Though ED had summoned only Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party had brought the chief ministers of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, and top leaders and MPs from Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala to show its political might.  

The Congress wants to convey the message that the Modi government is trying to harass senior party leaders by issuing summons and subjecting them to questioning. Rahul Gandhi has been trying to portray that neither he nor his party is afraid of Modi and the investigating agencies.

BJP says that the Congress and Rahul Gandhi are afraid and that is why the party has marshalled all its senior leaders to Delhi and has asked them to come out on the streets. The simple question is: if Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have not committed any financial bungling, then why these theatrics and show of political might? Why are party workers coming out to court arrest? Can it be assumed that this could be part of pressure tactics?

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