Former finance minister P Chidambaram on Thursday defended his party’s decision to escalate its attack against the NDA government over the National Herald case, saying the Congress has strong reasons to suspect the Enforcement Directorate acted on political vendetta as it reopened a closed case.
“We are not accusing the court. We have great respect for the judge. But we are entitled to criticise the order. The Enforcement Directorate had looked into the National Herald matter and said earlier there was no case. They had closed the matter. A private complainant then wrote a letter to the Prime Minister. On that letter, the Enforcement Director was transferred and the case is reopened. These facts rise to the suspicion that the BJP is not indifferent or neutral to this case but it is motivated,” Chidambaram told HT.
In a blog, finance minister Arun Jaitley dismissed as “Goebbelsian propaganda” the Congress charge that its leadership was a victim of political vendetta. “The battle has to be fought legally. But the results of legal battles are always uncertain. The Congress is therefore crying foul and calling it political vendetta. Is that a charge against the courts?” Jaitley wrote.
Stating that nobody was above the law, Jaitley maintained that the government has passed no order in relation to the disputed transaction and asked the Congress why its leaders should not contest the notice before the court.
“The government can not help them in the matter, nor can the Parliament. Why then disturb the Parliament and prevent legislative activity from continuing,” Jaitley wrote, adding that the Congress leadership had created a ‘chakravyuh’ for themselves with a series of financial transactions.
Calling Subramanian Swamy, a BJP leader and complainant in the case, a ‘private citizen’, the finance minister said it is the duty of every citizen to report an offence when it comes to his notice. “The accused (Sonia and Rahul) have two alternatives. They can either challenge the order in the Supreme Court or appear before the trial court and contest the case on merits.”
Jaitley said prime facie it can be said that there is a breach of provisions of the Income Tax Act inasmuch as an exempted income (for political activities) is used for a non-exempt purpose.
Earlier, Chidambaram pointed out the Congress is not disrupting the ongoing Parliament session over the National Herald case in which party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi have been asked to appear before the trial court. “There is no link between the National Herald case and the disruptions in Parliament. What happens in Parliament on any given day depends on the dynamics of the day, who said what, who interrupted whom, etc. Based upon that the parliamentary party managers take a call on that day,” Chidambaram said.
The Congress, in a bid to rope in other parties’ support for its attempt to stall proceedings, has resorted to a larger plank of “vindictive attitude” of the government.
Chidambaram said he saw no wrong-doing on the part of the Congress in floating a non-profit company to acquire control over Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the holding company of National Herald. He pointed out the Congress party, over a period of time, lent money to AJL amounting to a total of Rs 90 crore. “The Congress is the lender and AJL is the borrower. The Congress creates a non-profit company, The Young Indian (TYI), and assigns the debt to it. So, instead of the Congress being the lender, the non-profit company becomes the lender. TYI asked AJL to convert its loans to equity. This happens all the time. So many banks have acquired assets in this process,” he added.