Govt sets up panel to probe 3 Gandhi family-run trusts
The Congress alleged this was an effort to intimidate the party leadership, which would not succeed, and asked the government to probe finances of organisations closely associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Updated: Jul 09, 2020, 02:39 IST
The Union government on Wednesday set up an interministerial committee headed by an Enforcement Directorate (ED) officer to investigate the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust (IGMT) — institutions closely associated with the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress — for possible money laundering, income tax violations and foreign funding irregularities.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is the chairperson of RGF while other trustees include former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former finance minister P Chidambaram, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Sonia Gandhi also heads RGCT and oversees the work of IGMT as well.
The Congress alleged this was an effort to intimidate the party leadership, which would not succeed, and asked the government to probe finances of organisations closely associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A home ministry spokesperson confirmed the creation of the committee in a tweet, adding that a special director rank officer in ED will supervise the probe. An official familiar with the development, who did want to be named, said officials of home and finance ministries as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will be part of the committee. CBI is empowered to investigate any violations under FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act), while ED and the income tax department, which come under the finance ministry, are responsible for investigations into money laundering and tax violations.
The interministerial committee will verify if the three trusts run by the Gandhi family and other Congress leaders manipulated any documents while filing income tax, and laundered money received from foreign countries. “If it is found that there were irregularities, the concerned agency — CBI, ED or I-T department — will go ahead with a formal probe,” said the official who did not want to be named.
RGCT was set up in 2002 to address the needs of the underprivileged, especially the poor, and primarily works in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is the chairperson of the foundation and its trustees include former PM Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, P Chidambaram, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Suman Dubey, Ashok Ganguly and Vijay Mahajan.
The decision comes in the backdrop of allegations by the BJP that RGF received donations from the Chinese government, which had influenced the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s economic and trade policy towards China to India’s detriment.
BJP president JP Nadda alleged that money from the PM relief fund was diverted to the family trust, and that it also received funds from fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi. The Congress claimed this was a diversionary ploy adopted by the ruling party to cover up its own association with the Chinese Communist Party, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deep relationship with the country from the time he was the chief minister of Gujarat.
The trading of charges came against the backdrop of the situation on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh where Indian and Chinese soldiers were involved in a violent altercation that resulted in 20 casualties on the Indian side and an unknown number of casualties on the Chinese side. The Congress has been critical of the government’s response to the June 15 clash, and also PM Modi’s comments during an all-party meeting on June 19 that were ambiguous about the border transgression by the Chinese and were clarified by the Prime Minister’s Office the following day. The party has continued to be critical of the government on this front.
On Wednesday, the Congress alleged there was a “new conspiracy” by the BJP, and the trusts had nothing to fear and would answer all questions and follow the law.
Without specifically referring to the creation of the committee and announcement of the investigation, former party chief and member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Mr Modi believes the world is like him. He thinks every one has a price or can be intimidated. He will never understand that those who fight for the truth have no price and cannot be intimidated.”
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi dared the government to deploy all its machinery in probing the financial sources of the trusts, and said that while they would answer all questions, the government needed to be “exposed” because it did not ask questions of its “many blue-eyed sanctified holy cows”. “You are harassing each opposition segment, individual and institutional, but not your holy cows. Whose special arc of protection they have?” he asked while referring to the Vivekananda Foundation, the India Foundation, Overseas Friends of BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the ruling party.
BJP general secretary Muralidhar Rao said: “Activities of the RGF is in the public domain. There are many aspects to it, related to FCRA, income tax audit, etc. The Modi government believes in transparency. We are committed to it, so it is natural to have investigation. No foundations are private, and the investigations are in public interest. If it (the investigation) was political (motivated) would we have waited six years?”
Political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay said the BJP wants to revive the 2013-14 narrative of the Congress and the Gandhi family being corrupt. “The move is completely on the expected lines because they have always been looking for an opportunity to target and establish that the Congress and the Gandhi family are corrupt. This is also to overcome whatever setback and discomfort the people may be facing due to the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and will give another reason to cheer and jeer to BJP supporters,” he said.