A court in New Delhi on Tuesday asked top Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to appear on December 19 in connection with BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s complaint in the National Herald case even as the issue sparked clashes between the two parties both inside and outside parliament.
The two houses faced repeated disruptions, and were eventually adjourned for the day, as Congress members protested “political vendetta”. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hit back at the Congress, saying the National Herald case was a matter of serious corruption and the government had nothing to do with the matter.
A combative Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who briefly spoke to reporters, signalled party’s determination to fight the issue legally and politically.
“Why should I be scared of anyone? I am (former prime minister) Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law. I am not scared of anyone,” she said.
Party vice president Rahul Gandhi, who is touring Tamil Nadu to see conditions after the floods in the state, said he saw the case as “political vendetta.”
“This is the way the government functions. They think they can do this kind of vendetta politics and stop me from asking questions. This is not going to happen. I am going to keep posing questions, keep pressure on the government,” he said.
Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi held a press conference in the afternoon and said there was no illegality done by party leaders and the party fight the case will all its might.
“We will make the people realise that they made a mistake by electing Narendra Modi as prime minister,” Sibal said.
Singhvi, who appeared for Gandhis in the case before metropolitan magistrate in the morning, said he had told the court that “the accused” were willing to appear at the earliest date.
Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen granted the Gandhis and others exemption from personal appearance on Tuesday.
The Delhi High Court had on Monday dismissed the plea of the Gandhis to quash the summons issued to them by a trial court on Swamy’s complaint regarding the acquisition of National Herald and asked them to appear before trial court on Tuesday.
On June 26 last year, the trial court issued summons to the Congress leaders on Swamy’s complaint about “cheating” in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL) by Young India Ltd. (YIL) – “a firm in which Sonia and Rahul Gandhi each own a 38 percent stake”.
Singhvi told the court that the Gandhis were willing to appear but the Delhi High Court order was received late.
Senior advocate Ramesh Gupta, counsel for another accused Sam Pitroda, a former chairman of National Innovation Council, told the court that Pitroda lived in the US and needed time to reach India.
Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, Gandhis’ family friend Suman Dubey and another party leader Oscar Fernandes were also granted exemption.
Swamy had alleged that the AJL received an interest-free loan of Rs.90.25 crore from the Congress and the party transferred the debt to YIL for Rs.50 lakh. At that time, AJL with Vora as its chairman allegedly said it could not repay the loan and agreed to transfer the company and its assets to YIL.
Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day following repeated adjournments as Congress members raised anti-government slogans. Rajya Sabha was also adjourned after repeated disruptions as Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad accused the government of wanting a “opposition free country”. Jaitley, however, offered a debate on corruption.
Azad told reporters afterwards that two kinds of rules being followed by the Modi government, noting no action had been taken against BJP chief ministers over allegations of corruption but complaints were being filed against Congress leaders including Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. Members of non-NDA parties including Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party had been targeted, he added.
“BJP’s slogan was Congress-free India. Now they want opposition-free India,” Azad said.
Jaitley told reporters that the case was a matter of serious corruption as “funds collected for political purposes are being used for commercial activity”, adding that the government “doesn’t come into the picture” as it was a private complaint.