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PNB fraud: Congress pins hope on Rs 11,400 cr scam to corner Narendra Modi govt, seeks joint parliamentary probe

The multi-crore Punjab National Bank scam involving jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi is the biggest arsenal that Congress has got in hand to launch an attack on the Narendra Modi government ahead of the 2019 General Election to Lok Sabha.

A major part of the steering committee meeting of Congress, headed by its president Rahul Gandhi at the AICC headquarters on Saturday, was spent in discussing the Rs 11,400 crore scam and chalking out a strategy to pin down the NDA government by demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe.

The members of the steering committee decided to attack the government by raising the PNB scam inside and outside the Parliament in a big way. Inside the Parliament, Congress will try to rope in other ‘like-minded political parties’ to form a joint action committee and formulate a fool-proof strategy to pressurise the government. Outside, it would reach out to the public through press conferences and rallies.

Congress members taking part in steering committee meeting. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

Congress members taking part in steering committee meeting. Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

The attack began immediately after the meeting, as the Congress president told media that the prime minister would have to tell the nation who was responsible for India’s “biggest bank scam”.

“It all began on 8 November 2016, when Modiji banned (old notes of) Rs 500 and Rs 1000, demonetised the economy, took out entire money from people’s pocket and put it into the banking system. Through his actions, the prime minister destroyed the financial system of the country. But the most surprising thing happened is that jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi escaped by withdrawing Rs 22,000 crore out of the banking system. If the PM could spend 1.45 hours giving lessons to students on examination, why is he silent on this issue? Why is he not telling the nation about those responsible for allowing Nirav Modi and Choksi to escape with Rs 22,000 crore of public money? As much as 90 percent of the entire transaction happened in NDA regime. The prime minister must speak and tell the nation the truth,” Rahul said.

According to Congress, the scam in reality involved over Rs 22,000 crore as against the said Rs 11,400 crore value declared by the investigating agencies.

“The figure may go up to Rs 30,000 crore, as more skeletons are likely to tumble out of the cupboard,” one of the members of the steering committee told Firstpost.

Later, referring to the scam vis-a-vis decision of the steering committee, Randeep Singh Surjewala, communication in-charge of All India Congress Committee (AICC), said, “Congress will speak with all like-minded parties in the Parliament to form a joint action committee. Our senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge have been assigned with the task of speaking with other political parties and thereafter demand a JPC probe on this scam. As our party president has demanded, the prime minister must speak on this issue and explain why and how this scam happened and what he plans to do. The prime minister is accountable as Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi escaped the country under government protection by siphoning-off public funds.”

Presenting a list of 367 LOUs (Letters of Undertaking), Surjewala claimed that the transactions dated back to 2016-17 which was during the NDA government.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram, also a member of the steering committee, during the meeting reportedly said that the scam of this proportion couldn’t be possible without having 'protection' from the topmost level of the government.

Later reiterating Chidambaram’s statement, Gandhi told media, “During the meeting, Chidambaramji said that this Rs 22,000 crore scam couldn’t have been done without high-level protection. The people in the government must have known (about the transactions) beforehand because it’s a very big amount. The prime minister has ignored it and now he’ll have to come forward and answer.”

Following the decision that was taken in the steering committee meeting on PNB scam, the Congress will take it forward in its upcoming plenary session on how to create an amplifying effect across the country ahead of the Assembly polls in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, and thereafter ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Plenary session

Putting an end to speculations regarding the date and venue, the committee took the decision to hold a plenary session of the Congress party in the national capital from 16 to 18 March.

Though the venue has not officially been announced, according to sources, it could be Indira Gandhi Stadium in Delhi, where approximately 25,000 Congress workers from across the country are expected to attend the three-day brain-storming session.

The Congress will decide its new ideological line and prepare a blueprint after taking views and opinions from party workers.

“During the plenary session, the party will look into the ideological and organisational challenges — faced both by the country and Congress — and thereafter build its viewpoint,” a party source said.

Besides passing resolutions, some major organisational decisions related to restructuring, strengthening the party at grassroots, new memberships and formation of a new Congress working committee will be taken during the session.

New faces

According to another committee member, during the meeting, the emphasis was laid on getting new faces in the organisation as well as in the AICC.

Rahul expressed his desire to have youth and women as well as members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as fresh faces in the organisation.

“The plenary session will look for new faces. Gandhi said that the organisation will have a combination of old guards and new faces. He wants the party to reflect the vitality and vigour of youth,” the member said.

Issues that touch common man     

The Saturday meeting also dwelt on the issues that affect the common man.

Agrarian crisis, farmer distress, growing unemployment among the youth, joblessness, and problems of labourers — are the other areas that Gandhi-led Congress wants to pursue aggressively both during the plenary session and on the ground. Undoubtedly, it would have an amplified effect on the burning issue of PNB scam.

 


Updated Date: Feb 18, 2018 10:55 AM

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