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Monday, February 20, 2017

The National Herald Case

After much hullabaloo, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul, along with five others appeared in the Patiala House Court on 19 December, 2015 in connection with the National Herald case and were granted bail. They are ordered to appear in the court on 20, February 2016, on the date of next hearing. The climb down on the part of the Congress stalwarts seems quite interesting.

The National Herald case has caused an acrimonious exchange of words between the ruling BJP and the Congress Party. The case, apparently having a huge legal implications, has taken a contentious political turn, the echoes of which were heard in the Parliament as well. Actually the Congress MPs vociferously blamed the government for tarnishing the image of the Gandhis by pursuing a false charge.

The ruling party claims that Subramaniam Swamy has acted in his individual capacity. He filed the complaint against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and others way back in 2012,much before the Modi government came to power. At that point of time, Swamy was not even a member of BJP. It argues that  the whole issue is essentially legal and the matter must be resolved in the court of law and not outside at all.

The allegation, according to Swamy, is the massive financial fraud and property grabbing worth Rs. 5,000 crore committed by the Gandhis. His charge is that they have virtually acquired the Associated Journal Limited (A.J.L.), the owner of the newspaper The National Herald, through their private company, Young Indian.AJL allowed the transfer of an unsecured loan of Rs. 90 crore from the All India Congress Committee. Swamy’s  contention is that  it was absolutely illegal for a political party  to lend its money for any commercial venture.

The Congress Party, on the other hand, brushed aside the allegation by claiming that  the National Herald, founded by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937,an iconic institution, has been saved by  the fund transfer  for its legacy so intertwined with India’s historic freedom movement. The Congress Party led by the Gandhis has acted in good faith. Since the controlling company is a non-profit entity, the Congressmen  argue, deriving any pecuniary benefit does not arise at all. They defend themselves by saying that the Gandhis have not taken any advantage whatsoever from the deal. The whole issue, according to them , has been purposely given a legal colour  by distorting and manipulating  facts and Subramaniam Swamy is just a  front, acting on behalf of “vicious and vindictive” government under Narendra Modi.

BJP says that on the face of it, the conduct of Sonia Gandhi and others in this matter seems improper and illegal. According to them, the Gandhis by encouraging the Congressmen to create bedlam inside the parliament and outside have tried to give the impression that they are being framed by the hostile and vicious dispensation. They believe that the Gandhis are involved in a very serious financial wrongdoing and the fear of going to jail has made  them  jittery and desperate .  Sonia Gandhi being the daughter-in-law of indomitable Indira Gandhi cannot be frightened and subdued by political vendetta unleashed by the present government and its supporters.
           The Gandhis seem to be on a sticky ground. Many independent observers believe that the Gandhis may not find the experience of going through the process of  trial to their liking. They would have to stand in the witness-box and would be intensely questioned by the unforgiving legal experts. The questions thus asked would in all probability be tough and embarrassing. The whole proceedings would be widely reported. Obviously that would further add to their discomfiture.
It is true that only very few politicians in India have been  convicted on the corruption  charges. But the reputation of many people has been irretrievably damaged on this ground. They must be remembering how Rajiv Gandhi suffered grievously on this count.

Despite their bravado, the Congressmen, including the Gandhis must be anxious if not worried.
              -----Sailendra Misra

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