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National Herald case: Gandhis’ day in court may turn tide against BJP

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and vice-president of the party Rahul will appear in the court on Saturday to defend themselves against graft allegations in the National Herald case which they hope to turn to their advantage by energising their party faithful against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2015 18:10 IST
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi will appear in the court in connection with the National Herald case on Saturday.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi will appear in the court in connection with the National Herald case on Saturday.(PTI File Photo)

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and vice-president of the party Rahul will appear in the court on Saturday to defend themselves against graft allegations in the National Herald case which they hope to turn to their advantage by energising their party faithful against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The National Herald case was brought by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who alleged the Gandhis of misusing party funds to acquire properties. The Gandhis deny any wrongdoing and would seek bail on Saturday, a senior Congress leader said.

The Congress accuses Modi of pursuing a political vendetta against the Gandhi family, the political heirs of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, which has ruled the country for over 60 years. Congress workers have threatened an uproar if the court treated the pair harshly, which would back-fire on Modi.

Read | Sonia, Rahul may not seek bail in National Herald case

“If the judiciary makes a call to detain them for a day, it will be an across-the-board tsunami, but that tsunami is bound to work in our favour in the upcoming state elections,” said a Congress party official.

Modi’s top aides have denied any involvement in the case.

The court hearing comes after BJP’s defeat in Bihar election last month raised doubt about Modi’s popularity and dimmed chances he would be able to win more states to consolidate power in the Rajya Sabha, where he lacks a majority.

The legal battle has also soured relations between the BJP and Congress in parliament and has apparently scuppered the chances of them working together to clear legislation for landmark tax reform critical for economic growth.

Two other Congress sources said they believed the Gandhis’ court appearance would help turn the public mood against Modi.

“Showing up in court and attempting to play victim, in a highly public way, is a way of rebuilding morale among the rank-and-file,” said Milan Vaishnav, a political expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Former prime minister and Sonia’s mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, chose to go to jail in a case brought by her rivals in 1977, using it to win sympathy and launch a comeback.

Subramanian Swamy accuses the two of setting up a shell company to illegally gain control of properties worth $300 million. The assets were owned by a firm that published a newspaper founded by Rahul’s great grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Congress workers are gearing up for protests. Sanjay Nirupam, the party’s chief in Mumbai, said workers were ready to face arrest on Saturday.

Swamy said he would not be cowed.

“I don’t like this mob behaviour, these Congress party demonstrations and all,” the 76-year-old told Reuters.

“If they launch massive protests, then I can say they are unfit to live in a civilized society and should be sent to jail.”

Read | BJP plans to counter Congress on National Herald issue