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Time to forget GST? Cong alleges BJP witch-hunt against Sonia and Rahul

Suhas Munshi | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 12:22 IST
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The charge


  • The Congress alleges that the BJP is using Subramanian Swamy to witch-hunt Sonia and Rahul Gandhi

  • Swamy has filed the National Herald case, in which the Cong president and vice-president have been summoned to court

The casualty


  • After a week of constructive debates, both Houses of Parliament saw pandemonium on Tuesday

  • The govt is keen on getting the GST Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, but now the Congress may stall it

More in the story


  • Swamy\'s long history of filing cases and making allegations against Sonia and Rahul

  • Are govt agencies actually targetting Congress leaders, as it claims?

What makes Subramanian Swamy launch attack after attack on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi? In the past, he has dragged both mother and son to court about their educational qualifications, accused the Congress president and her family of contracting the LTTE to kill her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, and of being the recepient of kickbacks from the Bofors scam. In 2011, he even filed a 206-page petition with PM Manmohan Singh, seeking permission to prosecute Sonia.

At the moment, it doesn't matter whether he's acting at the BJP's behest, as the Congress has alleged, or whether his motivation comes from within. What matters is that the GST Bill, which the government had hoped to get passed through Parliament in the winter session, has 'gone for a skywalk', as Congress leader Anand Sharma put it.

Tuesday's developments

The GST Bill's fate was already in doubt on Monday, 7 December, when the Delhi High Court dismissed the Gandhis' plea challenging summons by a trial court in the National Herald case.

Must read: The albatross around the Gandhis' neck: what's the National Herald case?

Tuesday morning's ruckus in both Houses of Parliament confirmed that the Congress was up in arms against the BJP, whom it blamed for filing proxy cases against its president and vice-president through Swamy.

Congress was up in arms against BJP in both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, alleging a witch-hunt

By afternoon, Congress members held a protest march from Teen Murti to the PM's residence, 7 Race Course Road. Sonia Gandhi's statement - 'I am Indira Gandhi's daughter-in-law. I am not scared of anyone' - had clearly set the mood in the Congress camp.

Also read: While #HeraldHauntsCong, Sonia re-brands herself Indira Gandhi's bahu

What led to this

On Monday, the Delhi High Court dismissed Sonia and Rahul's plea, observing that "serious imputations smacking of criminality [have been] levelled against [them]... [they] need to be properly looked into".

In his 27-page order, the judge found 'criminal intent' in the manner in which the assets of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) - which used to publish the now-defunct National Herald daily - were taken control of by Sonia and Rahul through their company, Young Indian Limited (YIL).

"The transactions of the Congress with AJL via YIL are not mere commercial transactions, as these transactions legitimately attract the allegations of cheating, fraud, breach of trust, misappropriation, etc."

Incidentally, the National Herald case was listed in the trial court on Tuesday itself. This meant that if the trial court so wished, it could ask all the accused - Sonia, Rahul, journalist Suman Dubey, technocrat Sam Pitroda, and senior Congress leaders Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes - to produce themselves before the court.

Also read: National Herald case: Arun Jaitley rejects Congress' 'political vendetta' comment

But the trial court granted them exemption from personal appearance in the case till the next hearing on 19 December.

Swamy argued that all the accused knew the date of hearing, and thus, could not be exempted.

On the other hand, the Gandhis' counsel, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, claimed his clients were "keen to appear" before the court. But he's now likely to use the intervening period to get a stay on the case.

Troubled times for Congress

It is not just the president and the vice-president of the party - a lot of senior Congress leaders have recently been inconvenienced by government-led probes and cases.

Other Congress leaders and their kin have also faced a crackdown by government agencies recently

According to a recent report, a commission set up by the Haryana government was planning to summon Sonia's son-in-law Robert Vadra in a land deal case.

Just a week ago, teams of Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate officials raided firms linked to former Home Minister P Chidambaram's son Karti, in connection with a case of alleged money laundering in the Aircel-Maxis deal.

Also read: Rahul alleges political vendetta by govt in National Herald case

ED teams also raided Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh in the middle of his daughter's wedding. Shankersinh Vaghela, the Congress leader in Gujarat, has also been booked by the ED recently.

What happens to the GST Bill now

Over the last one week, Parliament has hosted perhaps the most civil and productive debate in many years. This would surely have upped the hopes of the government, which has been working for almost a year now to introduce a nationwide Goods and Services Tax to replace a long list of state levies. The GST is expected to attract investment by making it easier to do business in India.

The Modi government needs opposition support to see the Bill through the Rajya Sabha, where it doesn't have the numbers.

The closest that the two parties came to settling their differences over GST was when Modi invited Sonia and Manmohan Singh to discuss the bill over high tea on 27 November.

While some might argue that it should keep its legal troubles out of the Parliament, the Congress is likely to use its might to thwart any chances of any bill being passed in the winter session. Less than a fortnight is left in the session.

Who said what

  • "I am Indira Gandhi's daughter-in-law. I am not afraid of anyone, why should be I upset?" - Sonia Gandhi, Congress president
  • "This is the way the Union government tries to silence me. It will not happen and I will continue to ask questions and put pressure on the government." - Rahul Gandhi, Congress vice-president
  • "The country cannot pay the price by stalling GST if one political party faces graft charges." - Arun Jaitley, Union Finance Minister

  • "We are protesting in both Houses against this dictatorship. Democracy is in danger."- Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress's leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha
  • "The BJP's dirty tricks department has been unleashed to target the opposition." - Congress leader Anand Sharma

  • "The ruling party is using proxy litigation to attack senior Congress persons out of political malice." - Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress leader and Sonia and Rahul's lawyer
  • "Subramanian Swamy is the BJP power of attorney to persecute and prosecute Congress. He is his master's voice." - Congress leader Kapil Sibal

  • "Simple question: how can the directors of a non-profit company (Young Indian) be charged with illegal profiting? Young Indian is the holding company, associated Journals is the subsidiary. The directors are the same. So, who has cheated whom?" - P Chidambaram, Congress leader
  • "Parliament needs to pass an important bill like the GST. Instead of disrupting the House, they should cooperate." - Babul Supriyo, Minister of State for Urban Development

First published: 9 December 2015, 1:39 IST
 
Suhas Munshi @suhasmunshi

He hasn't been to journalism school, as evident by his refusal to end articles with 'ENDS' or 'EOM'. Principal correspondent at Catch, Suhas studied engineering and wrote code for a living before moving to writing mystery-shrouded-pall-of-gloom crime stories. On being accepted as an intern at Livemint in 2010, he etched PRESS onto his scooter. Some more bylines followed in Hindustan Times, Times of India and Mail Today.

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