National Herald case: Congress' desperate bid to shield Sonia and Rahul Gandhi is hurting its image more

Why would not the Congress just say go ahead and get done with the probe against the Gandhis in the National Herald case? The more it seeks legal options to evade the probe, the more it seems to be trying to escape from something uncomfortable. In its desperation to shield Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi from scrutiny, it could be damaging its image more than doing any good to it.

The decision of the Delhi High Court, allowing an Income Tax investigation into Young Indian Private Limited, has been followed by the usual reaction from the Congress. Besides calling it political witch-hunting, it has decided to move the Supreme Court for relief. The Congress president and vice-president are directors in the company with a majority – 76 percent – stake in it.

File photo. PTI.

File image of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. PTI

This is what party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had to tell Firstpost in reaction to the ruling: “Young Indian had raised certain fundamental jurisdictional issues challenging authority of Income Tax authorities. The Delhi High Court directed Income Tax authorities to decide all the issues raised in petition before the high court. Being satisfied with it, Abhishek Singhvi, advocate for Young Indian, has himself withdrawn the petition."

Surjewala added, "Incidentally, Young Indian is a 'not for profit' company that only runs the 'National Herald ' paper which is the last vestige of freedom movement which contributed to India's freedom struggle. No one can withdraw a single rupee of profit, salary or dividend from it or benefit from it any manner as per the Companies Act. We are proud of protecting this important symbol of the freedom struggle and will always protect this trust of people of India. Witch-hunt or malice of the current BJP government will not deter us from upholding our bounden duty to the nation.”

The case pertains to BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s 2012 complaint that the Gandhis had committed fraud and breach of trust while acquiring Associated Journals Limited, which brought out the now defunct National Herald, through Young Indian Private Limited. The latter, according to his complaint, took over the assets of the company, worth about Rs 2,000 crore, to make a profit. He had named six Congress leaders, including Sonia and Rahul. The Congress has been maintaining that Young Indian was a non-profit organisation and it was making no financial gains out of the transaction. Moreover, no illegality was involved in the transaction.

The case has been good ammunition for the BJP to target the Gandhis with over the last five years. It’s like the Robert Vadra land deal case which becomes staple for raucous media debates at routine intervals. In fact, these are two cases which directly bring the Gandhi family in the line of fire. For the BJP, the outcome of these cases is less important than the perceptional damage these cause to the Congress leadership. It serves the BJP well if the debate lingers without a conclusion.

The Congress may well cry witch-hunt and have valid ground objecting to an Income Tax probe. The department, after all, works under the government and there could be questions on its neutrality. However, the fact is it is fait accompli if the Supreme Court too agrees with the high court’s order. Wouldn’t it be good for its image if it faces Swamy’s challenge and concedes to a probe? What’s better if the offer comes from the Gandhis themselves?

Right now, the impression is that the party is running away from a probe. What aggravates matter for it are other cases related to Associated Journals properties in Haryana and Mumbai. The CBI has already registered an FIR against Haryana former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and others. It is alleged that the process of allocation of a plot in Bandra, Mumbai is full of legal loopholes. How does the party get out of the mess? Its options are limited.

Updated Date: May 12, 2017 17:22 PM

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