BJP, Congress square off over ED action
The Congress claimed Kharge, who deposed before the ED for more than six hours, was the first LoP who was summoned and interrogated by ED.
Protests against the alleged “misuse” of ED, which is probing into the National Herald case, led to a series of disruptions in both Houses of Parliament on Thursday. In the afternoon, ED’s summon to leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, triggered a fresh round of protest as the opposition party called it a ploy to scuttle its presence in the Upper House.
On Friday, the party plans to take out two marches to Prime Minister’s residence and Rashtrapati Bhavan over the issues of price rise and new Goods and Services Tax (GST) levies on certain food items.
The Congress claimed Kharge, who deposed before the ED for more than six hours, was the first LoP who was summoned and interrogated by ED. Senior Congress MP Digvijaya Singh said during the day, Kharge was present for questioning till 9:30 in the night. “Today there is a discussion in the Parliament, the question hour is going on, important issues were to be raised. Now, the Enforcement Directorate is calling him to give a statement — we have neither seen nor heard a bigger joke than this inside Indian democracy.”
Congress’s communications chief Jairam Ramesh dubbed ED’s marathon interrogation as “harassment” and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is expected to hold a press conference on the raging issues on Friday morning.
Earlier on Thursday, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha proceedings were adjourned for the day due to protests by Congress and some other Opposition parties against the alleged misuse of the Enforcement Directorate by the government as well as over price rise and other issues.
In Lok Sabha, a resolution, which sought to amend the eighth schedule to the Finance Act 2002, was passed by voice vote.
Lok Sabha proceedings were first adjourned till 2pm as soon as Congress members displayed placards to protest against the actions of the Enforcement Directorate and price rise.
Last week, four Congress MPs were suspended for displaying placards but their suspension was cut short on Monday.
Apart from the Congress, DMK, NCP and CPI-M too, protested against ED actions, price rise and GST rates.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha, Kharge said even though the Parliament session was underway, ED has asked him to appear in connection with the investigations into a money laundering case related to the National Herald newspaper.
“I want to follow the law… But is it appropriate to summon me at this time, in the middle of the Parliament session?” he said.
Amid protest by the government, the opposition leader alleged the government was “misusing” the law enforcement agencies to suppress them.
Kharge also raised the issue of police surrounding the homes of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, and her son, Wayanad MP, Rahul Gandhi and the party headquarters on Wednesday as ED sealed the premises of Young Indian Private Limited, the publisher of the National Herald.
“Will democracy survive in such a situation... Will we be able to work as per the Constitution? The government is trying to demoralise, intimidate and finish us. We will not be afraid. We will fight this,” he said.
Reacting to Kharge’s allegations, Leader of the House, Piyush Goyal said the government does not interfere with the law enforcement authorities and autonomous bodies. “They (Congress) might have done it (interfered in the functioning of the central agencies) during their government, our government doesn’t do it,” Goyal said, amid the uproar that led to adjournment of the House.
Outside parliament, addressing a press conference, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra too attacked the Congress.
“The public has witnessed Congress’s behaviour during the investigations in connection with the National Herald case. Their behaviour is proof of how they are trying to save a family by safeguarding only one family. Why are they so afraid if they haven’t done anything wrong,” he said.
“The Congress’s reaction after the Enforcement Directorate sealed the office of Young Indian Limited, in connection with the National Herald case was shocking for everyone as they said they will hold a protest against the central agency sealing the office’s building,” he added.