The way company called Young Indian with just Rupees 5 Lakh capital tried to misappropriate the Associated Journals with thousands of crore Rupees was bound to come under scanner some or the other day. Associated Journals, started by Nehru in 1938 to publish the newspaper National Herald, was taken over by a company through a route of political party, was nothing but gross manipulation of law. In 2012, Dr Subramanian Swamy filed a criminal complaint in a lower court in Delhi alleging cheating. In the same case, Delhi High Court has given the judgement of summoning Sonia-Rahul and other accused to be present in the lower court. Instead of respecting the court orders, Congress chose to raise the bogey of ‘Vendetta politics’ and decided to stall the proceedings of the Parliament. This high profile case has kept the fate of dynasty and important legislative business hanging. Here is the in depth analysis of the National Herald Case, along with interview of the complainant Dr Subramanian Swamy.
We are witnessing a bizarre though not unprecedented situation. Ever since a trial court in Delhi issued summons to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, who, in keeping with the traditions of the Nehru Dynasty is also party vice-president, proceedings in Parliament have been disrupted.
Protest marches have been organised in the streets. Congress leaders have vociferously accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Government of ‘political vendetta’. More ludicrously, they have demanded that the Government should have the case withdrawn.
Needless to say, both the protests and demands are ill-founded. Here's why.
The acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd, a public company with multiple shareholders set up in 1938, by Young Indian, a private company set up under Section 25 in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi own 38 per cent share each, through a circuitous and legally untenable route using Congress funds, happened in 2010-11.
The Congress had given an interest-free loan of Rs 90 crore to AJL, publishers of the now defunct National Herald, to settle all outstanding dues and liabilities before shutting shop in 2008. As a tax-exempt political party, the Congress erred in advancing money to a commercial organisation. That was only the first mistake.
Subsequently, Young Indian acquired the loan from the Congress for a paltry Rs 50 lakh, which means AJL now owed Rs 90 crore to Young Indian. In lieu of repaying the money, AJL converted the loan into equity shares and transferred them to Young Indian.
With that, Young Indian came to own 99 per cent of AJL, and by virtue of that ownership, it came to own vast prime properties in many places, including Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai. A Rs 5 lakh private company with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi owning 76 per cent shares and Oscar Fernandes and Motilal Vora owning the remaining 24 per cent, thus came to own real estate worth at least Rs 2000 crore for a mere Rs 50 lakh.
In 2012 the documents related to this transaction became public. Mr Subramanian Swamy, who was then not in the BJP, filed a petition alleging criminal breach of trust. The Congress, which was then in power, debunked his claim and appealed for quashing of the case in the High Court. The High Court upheld Swamy's petition and the trial court found prima facie merit in Swamy's contention, issuing summons for personal appearance by both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
This in a nutshell is the National Herald story. Meanwhile, Swamy had joined the BJP, the Congress had lost the 2014 election, the BJP had come to power. But the political developments had nothing to do at all with the legal process. This point is now being intentionally glossed over by Dynasty fans.
Clearly the purpose behind the Congress’s disruptive response is two-fold. First, it wants to confuse public opinion by making a private citizen’s case appear as litigation by Government. Second, the Congress, more so its first family, believes that offence is the best defence.
What the Congress is trying to do is recreate and restage Mrs Indira Gandhi’s response to the 1975 Allahabad High Court judgement unseating and disqualifying her from Parliament and public office because of electoral malpractice. Minions of the Dynasty grotesquely attacked the judiciary, others alleged it was the Opposition’s handiwork while Mrs Gandhi sensed a grand conspiracy by “disruptive forces” in Bharat and abroad.
Protest rallies were organised outside Mrs Gandhi's residence. Fiery rabble-rousing speeches were delivered. The Gandhi family, it was claimed, could do no wrong. This was the backdrop of the Emergency that was declared on June 25, 1975. It was all-out political vendetta against the Opposition: Everybody who opposed Mrs Gandhi and her Emergency was put behind bars.
We know how the Emergency ended. We also know how Mrs Gandhi used the fig leaf of political vendetta to gain popular sympathy when she was thrown out of power. A disunited, shambolic Janata Party Government failed to counter her and the Shah Commission was portrayed as an instrument of harassment.
The same Congress did not hesitate to unleash political vendetta on its opponents in the following years. Mrs Gandhi encouraged Bhindranwale’s rise in Punjab to settle scores with the Akali Dal. The infamous St Kitts conspiracy was hatched on Rajiv Gandhi's watch to fix VP Singh. LK Advani was falsely implicated in the Jain hawala case.
Ten years of UPA rule with Sonia Gandhi as the Super PM saw the hounding and silencing of critics. Investors looking at investing in Gujarat found taxmen knocking on their doors. Chief Minister Narendra Modi was subjected to relentless vilification. His Home Minister Amit Shah was framed in criminal cases. Congress forgets the massive misuse of state machinery during those years.
It is for the courts to decide the National Herald case. The Government is not a party to it. And it is for the Congress to contest the charges in court. Not to do so would be brazen display of contempt for the law, the judiciary and the legal system of India. Sonia Gandhi may be the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi, but neither she nor any dynast is above the law.
Sadly, the Congress misses this simple point. Or shall we say it refuses to accept this simple fact. It has instead chosen to hold India to ransom, much as Indira Gandhi did in 1975 to escape the law of the land. What Sonia Gandhi and her flatterers do not realise is that 2015 is not 1975; today’s Bharat is not the same country it was 40 years ago. Bharat is not Sonia & Sonia is not Bharat.
Kanchan Gupta (The writer is a senior journalist)