No escape for Rahul Gandhi in National Herald-AJL case

Rahul Gandhi is trying to make a “leader” out of himself while out on bail

Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are two remaining citadels for Congress  

By Lalit Garg

Why there is a panic in Congress when the Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons Rahul and Sonia Gandhi for questioning? Few in the Congress camp are seeing the questioning of Rahul Gandhi and protests by other leaders as an opportunity to rejuvenate the party. But at the end of the day, the fact remains that they are fighting on the road to save their king!

The National Herald case reached the courts when the UPA government was in power. The allegations were first leveled by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who filed a private complaint in November 2012 in a Delhi court claiming that the Gandhis had committed fraud and misused party funds to purchase the company that ran the National Herald newspaper.

As part of its money laundering probe against the Gandhi family, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is looking into suspected misuse of Congress party funds to take over Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) through Young Indian Private Limited (YI), which resulted in the acquisition of all immovable properties of AJL as well. It cannot be overlooked that the process of selling AJL, having assets of thousands of crores to Young India, does not seem to be as fair as is being told by the Congress.

The first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had established AJL for the publication of newspapers during the freedom struggle, but he did not own the company. The shareholders of the company included about five thousand freedom fighters. There was no concrete answer from Congress as to how the ownership of this company was passed on to the Young India Company, in which Sonia and Rahul Gandhi hold 76 percent stake and the rest to the leaders close to them, without the permission of the shareholders.

After all, the ED wants Rahul to clear the facts by answering the questions of partnership pattern, financial transactions, the role of promoters, and the alleged transfer of money between Young India Company and AJL.

Congress leaders should also not lose sight of the fact that Rahul and Sonia Gandhi are out on bail in this case. The Congress leaders, who are making noise that the Modi government is using the central agency to harass Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, better remember that the Supreme Court has refused to grant them relief in this matter.

The allegations against the top leaders of the Congress party regarding corruption should be answered by constitutional means and not by agitation and muscle-flexing. This is probably the first movement in India in favor of alleged corruption. If Congress is not wary of consequences, they generally let the law take its own course.

Selection of the recent Rajya Sabha election had shown that “loyalty” to the Gandhi family was the only criterion for a ticket to the house of elders. Instead of cooperating with the investigating agencies, Rahul Gandhi is trying to make a “leader” out of himself while on bail in the case. Two remaining Chief Ministers of Congress – Ashok Gehlot from Rajasthan and Bhupesh Baghel from Chhattisgarh are actively participating from the opposite camps of Congress, which is facing a battle within.

More importantly, the competition to justify the wrong is a sign of great trouble for the nation, where a strong opposition is considered a healthy sign of democracy.

The other option Rahul Gandhi had was to cooperate with the ED probing the case and come out clean glittering after being tested on the altar. But, Congress has decided to make a spectacle out of a fraud case by playing the victim.

So why are they scared of investigating agencies? Why Congress is running away from legal challenges? After all, what do they want to hide? Those who call themselves the oldest political party, are working today not to save democracy but to save the assets of the Gandhi family allegedly worth around Rs2000 crores. Questions are many for Rahul Gandhi to answer, to the ED and to the common men.

Congress leaders-workers who took to the streets in Delhi as well as in other parts of the country during the National Herald were trying to send a message that their leader was being persecuted and implicated in false allegations. The grand old party has been playing tricks to make lies come true and sometimes has been creating a daring drama to expose lies. But the worrying question is whether this intellectual and political struggle of the party keeps the credibility and security of the ideals of India?

Congress, which showed the direction to the country and the people for many decades, has itself gone astray. It is a disgrace that the protest of Congress leaders is openly coming out as a tactic to put pressure on the country’s one of the premier investigative agencies.

It is very clear that the National Herald case of the Congress party is not a political matter, it is a legal matter related to corruption and in such cases, the politics of strikes and demonstrations do not work. If Sonia and Rahul Gandhi feel that the Enforcement Directorate has no right to interrogate them, then they should have gone to court instead of taking their leaders out on the streets. It is a strange and tragic development of the Congress party that they are trying to show that they are above the rules and regulations.


National Herald-AJL Case

Associate Journal Limited (AJL) was incorporated in 1937 by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The company published English daily National Herald, Urdu publication Quami Awaz, and Hindi language Navjivan. However, due to financial difficulties, it stopped publishing newspapers in 2008. The All India Congress Committee (AICC) advanced loans worth Rs90.21 crore to AJL over a period of time.

Young Indian was formed in November 2010 with Gandhi family loyalists Sam Pitroda and Suman Dubey as its founding directors. Rahul and Sonia Gandhi are majority shareholders in the company with 76 percent share while the late Oscar Fernandez and Motilal Vora owned the remaining shares. AJL’s registered office was later shifted to Herald House in Delhi.

Swamy’s allegation was that the Rs90.21 crore interest-free loans, which AICC gave to AJL, were assigned to Young India, 23 days after the new company was formed. The transaction value was Rs50 lakh. After the loan was assigned to Young India, it was converted into equity on February 26, 2011, even though Young India was yet to pay Rs50 lakh to AICC, resulting in the company holding 99 percent of AJL’s shares.

(The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.)


Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times 

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