National Herald case: Delhi HC ruling derails Congress' attempt to rally Opposition parties against BJP in presidential election

The Delhi High Court verdict, upholding the trial court order, to allow the Income Tax Department to investigate Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case comes as yet another shock to the Congress party's first family.

The problem for the Congress is four-fold. First, it is faced with the ignominy of losing a case in higher court which concerns the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Second, once the Income Tax Department begins its investigation and starts scrutinising the books, no one can be sure what it would lead to and what additional matters it could unearth, especially now when the Narendra Modi government is going strong.

A file photo of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. PTI

A file photo of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Third, the verdict yet again reinforces the public perception that the Nehru-Gandhi family were involved in wrongdoing.

Fourth, it comes at a time when Congress strategists are trying hard to put Sonia on the forefront, to stitch some kind of Opposition unity for the coming presidential election, and since she was leading the consultation process with the regional Opposition leaders, the Congress president is being positioned as the leader of a hypothetical UPA 3.

The timing of the Delhi High Court order could not have been worse for the Congress party.

As the case stands, Sonia and Rahul are the accused in a case of cheating and breach of trust and are out on bail. Together, they have 76 percent of the share, Young India Private Limited controls 38 percent of the share and the remaining 24 percent is held by their trusted party and family loyalists Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitradoa. The original charge against them, as filed by Subramanian Swamy, is that they used dubious means to acquire Associated Journalists Limited, which owned National Herald. The crux of the charge is that National Herald may have been a defunct print media outlet but it had real estate assets worth over Rs 2,000 crore in prime areas of important cities across India and the Gandhis, with the allegiance of some other Congress leaders, allegedly gained control over all the properties illegally.

The morale of Congress workers is currently at its lowest point. The Congress party is now reduced to a single digit figure of seven seats. Moreover, it could not form the government in Goa and Manipur despite having the majority. It's performance in urban civic bodies and rural panchayat elections held in different parts of the country have been dismal too.

Despite the resolution of the Congress Working Committee, Rahul is reluctant to take up the post of Congress president. His all-round electoral failure as a leader, Robert Vadra's land deal cases and even Priyanka Gandhi's name figuring in some dubious land deals have further compounded the problems for Congress.

Priyanka had stood surety when Rahul was granted bail on December 19, 2015 in a Patiala House court in New Delhi, while AK Antony had stood surety for Sonia.

When Sonia and Rahul were forced to appear before the trial court, following Supreme Court's refusal to step aside a lower court order that they must appear in person before the court, the Congress party had created quite a show. Hundreds of party workers chanted slogans while the Congress top guns accompanied the two inside the court room.

Though this was a legal issue, the Congress had disrupted the Winter Session of Parliament in 2015. Thankfully, this time around there is no Parliament session and the Monsoon Session will start only in July.

Moreover, some of its present and potential allies like RJD, BSP and TMC, for a grand opposition unity for presidential polls against ruling BJP, too are facing corruption charges.

The only solace for the Congress is that party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who argued the case in the high court, looked cheerful during the afternoon media briefing at the party headquarter and claimed that the court's order was actually favourable to them.

Updated Date: May 12, 2017 19:58 PM

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