Rahul Gandhi Must Go to Bharat Jodo Yatra Again to Evade ED Action

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with his mother Sonia Gandhi. Photo: Congress (file photo)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with his mother Sonia Gandhi. Photo: Congress (file photo)

Rahul Gandhi Must Go to Bharat Jodo Yatra Again to Evade ED Action

Since ED has resumed its action against Congress, Rahul Gandhi should again start a Bharat Jodo Yatra to dodge the agency so that it should not arrest and imprison him.

By Rakesh Raman

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) of India – which investigates financial crimes – has issued an order to provisionally attach properties worth Rs. 751.9 crore in a money-laundering case linked to Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi.

In a statement issued on November 21, ED said, “Investigation revealed that M/s. Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL) is in possession of proceeds of crime in the form of immovable properties spread across many cities of India such as Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow to the tune of Rs. 661.69 crore and M/s. Young Indian (YI) is in possession of proceeds of crime to the tune of Rs. 90.21 crore in the form of investment in equity shares of AJL.”

In response, Congress said in a vaguely written tweet that the ED case against it is politically motivated and the ED action against the party is being taken under instructions from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi.

But it is a serious money laundering case for which Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi were called for questioning by ED in June 2022. 

However, to evade further ED action – which could include arrest and imprisonment of Rahul Gandhi and / or Sonia Gandhi – Rahul Gandhi cleverly launched an extravagant event called Bharat Jodo Yatra (or Unite India March) in September 2022.

In this Yatra, the Congress leader surrounded himself for five months with a few hundred men and particularly women who were presumably hired by Congress to walk with Rahul Gandhi. Although Bharat Jodo Yatra was a totally futile event, it provided a shield to Rahul Gandhi as ED won’t arrest him from the crowd because Congress would project it as a Modi onslaught on opposition leaders.

Both Congress leaders were questioned by the ED in the money laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper. The probe agency recorded the statements of Congress leaders under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for the alleged financial irregularities in their closely held company, Young Indian.

The National Herald is published by Associated Journals Limited (AJL) and owned by Young Indian. Although Congress claims that it is a fabricated case in which its top leaders are being implicated, the party has not given any explicit proof of their innocence. 

If Congress believes that ED is questioning its leaders in a false case, it should make a web compendium to publicly make its position clear instead of releasing vague statements on Twitter and in press conferences. 

Similarly, the ED should also hold the investigation in a transparent manner and publicly release the text of its hearings with Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. Thus, the investigating agency will not be accused of collusion with the ruling party of PM Modi to harass Modi’s political rivals.

National Herald Case

In 2018, the Delhi High Court had dismissed the petition filed by AJL linked with Congress and observed that the order passed by the government justifies the re-entry of the premises at 5-A, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi.

According to a statement released by India’s Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, the court has further ordered that there is no impediment in the way of the government to invoke the provisions of PP Act [ The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 ] to seek eviction and vacant possession of the property within a period of two weeks by 03.01.2019.

The case – filed by an Indian politician Subramanian Swamy against Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, and others – is known as the National Herald (newspaper) corruption case.

The government statement added that 0.3365 acre of land was allotted to AJL in Delhi in 1962-63 at a concessional rate of Rs. 1,25,000 per acre for construction of a five-story building (in addition to basement) for purpose of press on the ground floor and offices on other floors.

However, according to the statement, complaints were received regarding misuse of the land. It was found by the inspecting team of the ministry on April 9, 2018 that no printing press was functioning at any floor of the premises and no paper stock was found anywhere.

In earlier inspection also, the basement where the press machine should have been, was found vacant. Further, the statement adds that it was also found that almost all shares of AJL were transferred to Young Indian having the same address as that of AJL without any permission of the ministry.

As per a report of Income Tax Department, in Young Indian company, majority of shares (76%) are held by the Gandhi family and the rest by other Congress leaders Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes.

It was also observed that instead of using the land given to AJL for press purposes, they are earning a huge sum of money by renting out almost the entire building except one floor which has negated the purpose for which the land was originally allotted.

Since all these violations came to the notice of the government, Show Cause Notices were issued to AJL on June 18, 2018 and again on September 24, 2018.

As AJL could not give any satisfactory reply to these violations, an order for re-entry of the premises was issued by the ministry on October 30, 2018. Against this order, the AJL had gone to the Delhi High Court which pronounced its order in December 2018.

As per the complaint filed in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, AJL took an interest-free loan of Rs. 90.25 crore (~ US$12 million) from the Congress party. It is alleged that the loan was not repaid.

A closely held company, Young Indian, was incorporated in November 2010 with a capital of Rs. 50 lakh (~ US$65,000) and it acquired almost all the shareholding of AJL and all its properties, alleged to be worth Rs. 5,000 crore (~ US$650 million).

Subramanian Swamy had alleged criminal misappropriation by both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The courts had determined that a prima facie case was established in the matter.

Since ED has resumed its action against Congress, Rahul Gandhi should again start a Bharat Jodo Yatra to dodge the agency so that it should not arrest and imprison him.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of the humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

He has also been publishing The Integrity Bulletin news magazine since 2018 to cover local and international corruption issues to engage with different stakeholders who are trying to combat corruption in the world.

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