New Delhi: Former union minister and senior Congress Party leader P. Chidambaram on Friday said he could not understand the government’s oft-repeated stance and fixation with establishing a link between the National Herald Case and the ongoing disruption of proceedings in Parliament during the Winter Session.
In an exclusive interview given to ANI, Chidambaram, when asked what was the way out of the current political logjam, categorically said, “I don’t see any link between the National Herald case and what’s happening in Parliament. Parliament is disrupted for a variety of reasons. It depends on the dynamics of the day.”
He further stated, “But, I am quite clear, based on what information I get, that it is not because of the National Herald case. The National Herald case is in court, and the party, those who have been accused in that case, have got the strong suspicion that the motives of the BJP government are suspect.”
When asked to elaborate on his view that the BJP-led government has not remained neutral insofar as the case is concerned, the former cabinet minister said, “Because, the ED (Enforcement Director) opened an enquiry, he looks into the matter and said there’s nothing in this case, nothing in the charges, therefore, he closed the enquiry. Then, the private complainant writes a letter to the honourable Prime Minister, within a couple of days, the ED is transferred, virtually sacked, and the case is reopened.”
“Now a case which has been closed, has been reopened merely on a letter of a private complainant. Then obviously, the BJP government is not entirely neutral or indifferent. Apart from that, you know, there are so many statements made by the BJP leaders, including ministers, who have pronounced upon the case. They say prima facie the persons accused are guilty of this, guilty of that, this is a case of cheating members. If the BJP is strictly neutral, then, why do BJP leaders, especially ministers, have to pronounce upon the case? Therefore, there is a legitimate suspicion that the BJP government is not exactly indifferent or neutral in the case,” Chidambaram said.
When probed about reports appearing in the media that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is contemplating even going to jail over The National Herald controversy when it comes up for hearing again on December 19, which many see as an audacious gamble that could gain him public sympathy, or even trigger criticism, Chidambaram said, “I do not know. There are two very competent lawyers representing the persons before the court, the Congress president and the vice-president, I am sure they have examined all the options.”
It may be recalled that sources close to Mr. Gandhi have been quoted, as saying that after his return from Tamil Nadu, where he had gone to commiserate with flood-hit victims, he (Gandhi) had held a meeting with his “core” group in which he asked his lawyer and party member Abhishek Manu Singhvi to prepare two bail bonds — one for his mother, Sonia Gandhi, and another for party treasurer Motilal Vora, both of whom, along with Mr. Gandhi, stand accused in the case.
According to the sources, when Mr. Singhvi asked Gandhi whether he would like a bail bond for himself, he simply refused.
Chidambaram is on record as saying in an earlier interview that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are ready to face the law in the National Herald case.
He also termed as ‘erroneous’ the Delhi High Court’s judgement asking the top Congress leaders to be present in the court to face trial on December 19, and said there was no financial benefit to Gandhi family in the case.
When specifically asked to respond to this talk of Rahul Gandhi considering the possibility of going to jail, Chidambaram said, “I do not know and I cannot comment on that.”
When asked for his response to incumbent Finance Minister Arun Jaitley very vocal view on the National Herald case and the complicit involvement of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in it through various media platforms, be it on Facebook, or blogs, or talking to the media, and also maintaining that the case had been lodged in a private capacity, and that the government did not have a role to play in it, Chidambaram told ANI, “I have already answered it. Case is purely a private complainant’s case, why do the BJP leaders, especially ministers, pronounce on the merits on the case. Why do they comment on the merits of the case?
The National Herald newspaper was closely associated with India’s freedom struggle and the Indian National Congress till 2008. In January 2008, discussions about its closure began. On 1 April 2008, the paper’s editorial announced that it was temporarily suspending operations. Before its closure, the paper was being run by Associated Journals Limited (AJL).
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed the case in a local court in 2012. The trial court then issued summons to the two leaders among others in June 2014, but they approached the Delhi High Court seeking a stay. On Monday this week, the high court refused to stay the summons, and asked all of the accused to appear for a hearing on December 19.
The accused face allegations that they illegally acquired property worth Rs. 5,000 crore belonging to the National Herald newspaper.