New Delhi: The BJP on Wednesday hit back at the Congress over its condemnation of the seizure of National Herald assets, as the ruling party asserted that the Gandhi family must pay for its “sins”.
Former Union minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Gandhi family of capturing National Herald assets by converting the now-defunct newspaper’s properties into its “personal properties”.
An online version of the publication is, however, available.
Addressing a press conference, Prasad asked the Congress to explain as to how the action taken against “rank dishonesty and loot of public property” can be described as negation of democracy.
After the ED attached assets of the Congress-promoted National Herald on Tuesday, the Congress said such “petty vendetta tactics” cannot frighten it and dubbed the probe agency a “coalition partner” of the BJP. Its leader K C Venugopal slammed the BJP and the probe agencies as “murderers of democracy”.
Prasad said the newspaper had prime properties in many cities and alleged that senior Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi appropriated these pricey assets as the shares of the firm owning it were transferred to a company where the two controlled 76 per cent of shares.
It was a shameful new low in democracy, he claimed.
The Gandhi family not only appropriated the Congress’ legacy of spearheading the freedom movement but also the assets associated with the party, he alleged, adding that both Congress leaders moved judiciary against actions of probe agencies, including Income Tax, but did not get relief.
What the family did was a case of the “Congress and commerce”, he said, citing the use of the phrase in past cases of similar nature involving opposition leaders.
Rejecting the Congress’ claim that the ED’s action was an outcome of the BJP’s frustration as it was losing in the current round of assembly polls, Prasad claimed that it was the Congress which will be defeated soundly and noted that the National Herald case probe began on a private complaint before the Modi government came to power in 2014.
Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul are facing cheating and forgery charges and are currently on bail, he noted and cited the trial court’s critical observations about the allegations against them to make his point.
“You think that you keep looting but no action should be taken. The family must pay for its sins, corruption and misuse of power,” he said.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also questioned by probe agencies in “sponsored” cases related to the 2002 Gujarat riots when he was the chief minister but BJP workers did not carry out protests. He came out unscathed, the BJP leader said.
When the Congress leaders were called for questioning, they act like freedom fighters, he said in a swipe at Sonia Gandhi and Rahul.
To a question about the AAP’s claim of the BJP targeting its leaders, he said the judiciary has vetted the action taken by probe agencies. If AAP leaders think proceeding will stop of they make a lot of noise, then they are mistaken, he said.
A number of AAP leaders are currently behind bars in the corruption case related to excise policy.
The ED said on Tuesday that it has issued an order to provisionally attach properties worth Rs 751.9 crore in the money laundering case being investigated by it.
The federal probe agency also alleged in the statement that the shareholders and donors of the Congress were “cheated” by the office-bearers of AJL and the party.
The National Herald is published by AJL and owned by Young Indian Private Limited. Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are majority shareholders of Young Indian, holding 38 per cent shares each.