“This political witch hunt will only enable us come to power faster,” a defiant Congress president Sonia Gandhi told reporters in New Delhi today. Behind this outburst against her political bete noire — the BJP — the Congress chief clearly knows that all the facts related to the National Herald case cannot be simply termed as ‘political vendetta’.
It is true that court-savvy BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed a private complain against the Gandhis dragging them to the court. The Congress president today confirmed that following the petition in the court, an Income Tax notice was being issued to her and her son Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case.
Acting on Swamy’s petition, Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha on 26 June had said: “I have found prima facie evidence against all the accused.”
“Since all the accused persons have allegedly acted in consortium with each other to achieve the said nefarious purpose/design, there are sufficient grounds for proceedings against all of them,” Manocha observed. Although the Congress called the complaint a motivated one, the court directed all accused to appear before it on 7 August.
According to a Firstpost story, soon after the court petition party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi strongly defended the Gandhis and the Congress.
“The allegations are baseless,” Singhvi said on 26 June. “This is a stale complaint made some time in 2013. About a year later, we heard in the press that a summon is being issued. We have not even received it yet. You can rest assured that a fitting response will be given after we receive the papers,” he said.
“Swamy is known for his motivated campaign against the Congress. Allegations made over a year ago lead to only a process. Issuance of process on a stale complain over a year ago is not something we are excited about. Let us receive the paper which we have not received and seek comprehensive legal advice and you will see how all allegations in this respect are going to be legally demolished,” Singhvi had said then.
A party statement also said later that day: “All the people named in the National Herald matter will seek legal advice and do the needful.”
According to IANS, apart from the Gandhis, Congress leaders Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes and Sam Pitroda, who was an adviser to former prime minister Manmohan Singh, and former journalist Suman Dubey, who is close to the Gandhi family are also summoned by the court.
The complainant alleged that the Gandhis formed a company, Young India, in 2010 with 38 percent share each to take control of Rs 2,000 crore worth of assets of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), which published the now defunct National Herald.
“The National Herald was started in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru. Over the decades, it lost circulation and ran into major financial losses, leading to its closure in 2008,”
There is little doubt that the modus operandi employed to make the Gandhis-owned Young Indian owner of Associate Journal is suspect.”The Congress party lent Rs 90 crore to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), a defunct media company that once published National Herald, which then got taken over by Young Indian, a non-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act owned largely by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul for Rs 50 lakh. In the process, the loan given to Associated Journals became a loan to Young Indian, and the latter got full control over Associated Journals and all its assets…. In essence, with just Rs 50 lakh of their own, a private section 25 non-profit controlled by mother and son now owns property worth Rs 1,600 crore. Or so it is alleged…. It is not going to be easy for the dynastic duo to wriggle out of this one, for the facts clearly show that Sonia and Rahul owned 3,800 shares – 1,900 each – out of the issued capital of 5,000 shares of Young Indian – at least at the time the controversy broke cover in 2011-12. ”
The ground for the next battle between the Congress and BJP is set, not in the political arena, but in the court of law. Only time will tell who will emerge the winner.