Probe against our leaders is nothing but BJP's vendetta, claims Cong
- A company called Ziqitza Health Care is alleged to have embezzled money from the Rajasthan govt
- Ziqitza was in charge of running the government\'s ambulance-on-call programme
- The CBI is probing the scam, and has registered an FIR
- The CBI FIR names Rajasthan Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot
- It also names Karti Chidambaram and Ravi Krishna, both sons of former Union ministers
- They were all allegedly connected to Ziqitza
- The Enforcement Directorate has now registered a complaint against these leaders
- The Congress claims this is the BJP\'s vendetta
- Cong leaders say the BJP is trying to defame the party ahead of the Bihar polls
- They claim Vasundhara Raje is taking revenge for the party\'s campaign against her in the Lalit Modi case
At first, it just seemed another war of words. Congress president Sonia Gandhi called Prime Minister Narendra Modi 'hawabaaz' (windbag), and the PM responded with a jibe at the scams that have taken place under Congress rule, calling the party 'Hawalabaaz' (scamster).
But now, there seems to be a deeper meaning to the words. Days after the 'Hawalabaaz' jibe, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a criminal complaint against former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, state Congress chief Sachin Pilot and former Union minister P Chidambaram's son Karti.
Background of the case
The complaint is in connection with an alleged ambulance scam in Rajasthan. The case, registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), also names Ravi Krishna, son of former Union minister Vayalar Ravi, as an accused.
All these persons are said to have been associated with the company at the centre of the scam, Ziqitza Health Care.
The CBI has already registered an FIR and the investigation is on. The ED's move comes in the wake of the FIR filed by the CBI.
Accused leaders' defence
Speaking to Catch, Gehlot said, "It was my government which went to the court against this company. The case is still pending in the High Court. People of the state know what I have done for the health sector in the state. This government is unnecessarily politicising the issue and wants to malign our image. However, they will achieve nothing. I have done no wrong."
The ambulance scam surfaced within a few months of the BJP coming to power in Rajasthan in 2013. The Vasundhara Raje government ordered an inquiry into the matter and an FIR was registered in Jaipur.
When their names surfaced in connection to the scam, Congress leaders strongly denied them. Pilot said he had had nothing to do with the company for the last 13 years.
This is not the only instance of persons with strong Congress connections being probed under the current dispensation.
Earlier this year in May, an inquiry was ordered into alleged irregularities in land deals related to Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra in Haryana. A one-man inquiry commission, headed by retired Delhi High Court judge SN Dhingra, is investigating the cases.
After CBI's FIR, ED has registered a complaint against Gehlot, Pilot & others with Cong connections
The Congress claims all this is a clear case of political vendetta.
"It is vindictive politics by the BJP. They don't know how to digest power. Even after months of hue and cry, they are not able to defend themselves on the Lalitgate scandal, land deals in Rajasthan, the Vyapam scam in MP, and scams in Chhattisgarh and Gujarat," Congress general secretary BK Hariprasad told Catch.
The Bihar factor
The Congress alleges that the chief reason for these recent actions is the upcoming Bihar assembly elections. It feels there will be 'more action against leaders', in an attempt to 'defame the party'.
The Congress is fighting elections on 40 seats, as part of the grand alliance with Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD.
During the campaign, it plans to raise issues like the Lalit Modi scandal, Vyapam, the rice scam in Chhattisgarh and other alleged corruption cases against BJP leaders.
These issues have become an embarrassment for the government and the BJP in the last few months.
The monsoon session of Parliament was washed out without any concrete work being done. The uproar against the government in these alleged cases was led by the Congress itself. And now, the plan is to harp on these issues on the campaign trail too.
Hariprasad said, "They [BJP] won the [general] election through perception. Now, the illusion is fading and they have to fight the elections in Bihar on reality. That's an acid test for them. That's why they are trying to divert the attention."
At the state level too, the Congress believes the cases being registered are Raje's bid for revenge.
A Rajasthan Congress leader explained, "Raje has faced a very tough time recently after the Congress exposed the misconduct of the CM and her son. Now, she's taking revenge."
A political observer, who was unwilling to be named, said, "She is trying to kill two birds with one stone. Action against opposition leaders would help party in the state and at the national level. And secondly, one can say that it's not only the BJP; even the Congress's hands aren't clean."
But Congress's senior spokesperson Satyavrat Chaturvedi told Catch, "They are in government. Who is stopping them from taking action against us and putting us behind bars. These baseless allegations are nothing but a clear sign of their frustration."
Sources sense there is possibility of more cases and inquiries against Congress leaders and ministers of the UPA government. These cases would help the government hush the opposition in the upcoming winter session of Parliament and during the Bihar elections as well.