New Delhi: A six-minute presence of Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul in a lower court in Delhi turned out to be a face-palm moment for the ruling BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.
When a television reporter asked Sonia Gandhi if she was tense, the Congress President, who was then stepping into court, replied, “I am not afraid at all.” The next court date is set for February 20, 2016. Pics/Abhishek Sharma
The court appearance of the two Gandhis in the case, which had at one stage become a hot potato for the country’s oldest political party, was as brief as it was eventful, after the judge granted them unconditional bail, rejecting demands from BJP’s Subramanian Swamy that the court detain the two’s passports and prevent them from travelling abroad.
Arun Jaitley who made an appearance at a cricket match on Saturday, might have a tough time on Sunday. MP Kirti Azad is expected to unveil evidence of corruption against the Union Finance Minister
“I am not afraid, not at all,” said a stern-faced Sonia Gandhi to a television reporter who asked if she was tense as she briskly walked into the Patiala House court, followed by her son and a battery of armed guards and party veterans.
Minutes later, the Gandhis, including Priyanka Vadra, walked out of the court with the bail order of R50,000 each, and hurriedly drove away without creating any hullabaloo. Congress leader A K Anthony stood surety for Sonia Gandhi while Rahul’s surety was provided by sister Priyanka.
As news channels exploded with breaking news, India’s seasoned political analyst Mohan Guruswamy cryptically remarked, “Six minutes of fame to a world of defame for BJP.”
The Gandhis, accused of illegally acquiring the assets of the parent company of the National Herald, a daily once run by their family, used the moment to push their members to hype their initial charge that the allegations were nothing but vendetta against them by the BJP.
“The government is deliberately targeting its opposition,” a confident-looking Sonia Gandhi told reporters after the hearing. “And it is using government agencies to do that.” Rahul then took over and, in much the same vein, continued with his recently-discovered aggressiveness, blaming PM Narendra Modi directly, accusing him of making false allegations against the opposition.
“Modiji makes false allegations and thinks India will bow down. I want to tell every citizen of India that neither I, nor the Congress Party will ever bow down. We will continue to play the role of opposition. Neither I, nor the Congress will back down even an inch," he told the reporters.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who had petitioned the court that the Gandhis and some of their supporters illegally used the party fund to acquire the assets of the newspaper by converting it into a real estate firm, however, refused to throw in the towel.
Swamy, who has become a sort of bete-noire for the Gandhi family, claimed that he had enough documents and evidence to secure a conviction. “I will win this case,” he told reporters, adding that it was “an open and shut case and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi will be sentenced to serve prison time.”
The next court date is on February 20, 2016, when the court is expected to start hearing Swamy’s evidence before possibly filing formal charges. With no formal charges being filed yet, it is not clear how much jail time, if any, the Gandhis and others involved in the case could face. Nonetheless, given the confidence of Congress workers seen nationwide on television channels, the chances are high that a similar scenario could be repeated two months down the line.
But the BJP felt the heat, both on the streets of the Indian capital and in the newsroom studios where its talking heads were totally exasperated in the face of some heavy Congress onslaught. Top BJP leaders, some of them who played a game of cricket at the playground of the capital’s plush Delhi Public School playground, constantly checked developments at the court on their cellphones.
Azad worries BJP
Party insiders said the top brass was also worried about a presser planned by Kirti Azad, MP, to highlight corruption in a cricket body that was once headed by the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley. Azad had the tacit support of the party leadership and had conveyed the same to the top brass of the right-wing RSS that called him for a detailed conversation on his charges.
A top BJP source said Azad will on Sunday at 4 pm, unveil what he claims is his own investigation into corruption at Delhi and District Cricket Association, the controlling body for the game in the National Capital Region. Azad’s men had collected documents and camera footage to prove a host of firms where payments were made by the DDCA were “suitcase companies”.
“Everything is fake, their addresses, their names, their works, everything,” claimed Surinder Khanna, a former Indian cricketer supporting Azad. If this was not all, the Aam Admi Party top brass said it is in receipt of a letter from former top cop and president of the defunct Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), KPS Gill, citing financial irregularities in Hockey India (HI), which is run by Narendra Batra, a close friend of the FM.
AAP leaders said that the Delhi state government has the power to probe HI, since it is registered with Registrar of Societies, which falls under the ambit of the Delhi government. The heat is on the BJP, and one of its most influential ministers.