If Arvind Kejriwal had breached the unwritten political protocol by targeting Robert Vadra and brought the corruption issue to the doorsteps of 10 Janpath, Janata Party president and NDA member Subramanian Swamy has gatecrashed Sonia Gandhi's fortress.
At a press conference today, Swamy accused Sonia Gandhi and her about-to-be-anointed deputy and son Rahul Gandhi of land grab and fraud. Rahul has termed the allegations "utterly false'' and "motivated''. In a letter, he has also threatened to pursue the legal course. On his part, Swamy has said he welcomes Rahul to pursue the legal option.
The Congress was initially dismissive of the allegations. Since the matter concerns Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, party leaders wanted to be sure of their facts and then wait for a clear signal from them before opening retaliatory fire.
Party general secretary and chairman of the media department Janardhan Dwivedi made a limited sarcastic comment against Swamy: “The world has many wonders, the gentleman (Swamy) concerned is one of them. He can say anything against anyone.”
The charges made by Swamy are that Rahul and Sonia Gandhi had floated a private company called Young Indian, and acquired a public limited company, Associated Journals Ltd., which once owned National Herald and Qaumi Awaz Newspapers, and other high-value real estate properties in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The media company founded by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938 ceased operations some years ago.
As the property was originally allocated by the government for the publication of the two newspapers, it could not be used for any other purpose. The Sonia and Rahul Gandhi-controlled Young Indian did not intend to publish any newspaper; instead they had rented the premises, including parts to the Ministry of External Affairs to run a passport seva kendra. The rental value ran into several lakhs of rupees, Swamy alleged.
A report published by The Pioneer last month, quoting an e-mail response from Rahul Gandhi's office, said the company floated by them had no intention of relaunching any newspaper. “Young Indian is a company registered and holding a licence granted under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956. As a Section 25 company, Young Indian is a not-for-profit company and does not have commercial operations. The activities of the company are in the public domain. Anyone who chooses to can inspect the objects of the company. The company has no intention of starting any newspaper,” informed Rahul Gandhi’s office in an e-mail, The Pioneer reported.
Swamy calls the takeover of the erstwhile media company by Young Indian, where Sonia and Rahul command stakes of 76 percent together, as “a sham, bogus, and a violation of several laws. It is a fraud committed in order to grab Herald House in Delhi, that is located in a hub and which is valued at about Rs 1,600 crore.”
The timing and nature of the allegations made by Swamy are a clear indicator that the BJP-led NDA is preparing some kind of counter-strategy not to let Arvind Kejriwal eat into the opposition space. The fact that Swamy’s statement and other supportive documents were circulated by the BJP is a pointer that it will use such charges to advantage without directly being a party to the assault on the First Family.
The Janata Party leader had done some deep background work on the subject. He will go to court in December-January, for he wants to use the intervening time to prepare his legal points. But before he moves the court, he demanded an inquiry by the Serious Frauds Investigation Office and the CBI on the said issue.
Even as he levelled charges against Sonia and Rahul, Swamy also jibed against Kejriwal: “I not only make accusations but follow it up with filing legal cases. I have faith in the judiciary and even without Lokpal there are enough provisions under the law to bring the accused to book”. This is a clear pointer that he is competing hard against the India Against Corruption activist turned political for grabbing public space.
Swamy's accusations and headlong plunge against the First Family suggests that politics is going to get uglier than before. The political taboo of not involving the Gandhi family is now shattered.
Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the charges levelled by Swamy are substantive and the Congress needs to respond. The government should institute an immediate enquiry, he added.
Updated Date: Nov 01, 2012 21:50 PM