How Modi's Congress-mukt Bharat dream is becoming a reality
Four cases, including the National Herald scam, are closing in on the principal opposition party.
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The Congress is suffering major setbacks with some of its tallest leaders in the dock and facing stiff challenges from the government agencies. This may force the party to harden its stand in Parliament. It may become more belligerent and block Centre's reform measures, particularly the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, which has been listed by the government for discussion in the Rajya Sabha this week. But the Congress has already adopted a strident posture. They stalled the proceedings of the upper house on December 7 over the "dog" remarks made by Union minister of state for external affairs Gen VK Singh in relation to atrocities on Dalits.
This, despite the matter being quite old and much happening since then. The government extended an olive branch to the Opposition at the start of the Winter session, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inviting Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh for tea last week, finance minister Arun Jaitley meeting Sonia and Rahul, and the PM categorically saying that the government favoured taking decisions by consensus. In fact, the Delhi High Court order may force the Congress to adopt a more confrontationist approach towards the ruling BJP. This non-cooperative stand of the Congress may only go against it. This will hurt it electorally, too.
After its worst-ever performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress showd some signs of resurgence in electoral politics in the last few weeks. As part of the Grand Alliance, it performed its best in the Bihar Assembly elections in the recent years, it decisively defeated the BJP in Lok Sabha by-election in Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh and it won in more number of seats than the BJP in the rural areas of the Gujarat civic polls. But the BJP could well be successful in fulfilling their promise of making a "Congress-mukt Bharat" if the courts and government agencies pass orders which are against the interest of the principal opposition party in the following cases:
1. National Herald case
On December 7, the Delhi high court quashed the petitions of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi challenging of summons issued to them, in a case of cheating and misappropriation of funds relating to ownership of the National Herald daily. The high court has also declined to grant Sonia and Rahul exemption from personal appearance before trial court in the matter filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. As a result, the mother-son duo will appear in the Patiala House courts on December 8 until Supreme Court accepts a petition of senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi and a battery of lawyers assisting him challenging the high court's order.
The Congress will face a major embarrassment if Singhvi fails to convince the apex court, forcing Sonia and Rahul to appear in the lower court. This will erode the image of the top leadership of the Congress and, in turn, will demoralise the party's rank and file. Whatever progress it has made on the electoral front in the recent weeks will get nullified.
2. Robert Vadra's Skylight Hospitality case
The Haryana and Rajasthan governments, though belatedly, have initiated probes in the dubious land deals of Sonia’s son-in-law and Priyanka's husband Robert Vadra. After nearly seven months of coming to power in Haryana, the ML Khattar government of the BJP set up a commission of inquiry in May 2015, headed by Justice SN Dhingra, to investigate into alleged irregularities in land deals in Sector 83, Gurgaon involving Vadra's firm, Skylight Hospitality. According to reports, the commission, probing alleged irregularities in grant of licences to developers in four villages of Gurgaon by the previous Congress government in Haryana, is set to summon Vadra, early next year. Rahul's brother-in-law will be given an opportunity to present his case over allegations that he made windfall gains from his company Skylight Hospitality’s deal with real estate major DLF after the then government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda granted change of land use (CLU) certificate to land owned by the company in Shikohpur village of Gurgaon.
The Rajasthan government, in early 2014 and in May 2015, has already asked the district collectors of Jodhpur, Barmer and Bikaner to collate information on Vadra's real estate dealings. As and when the case reaches the courts, it will have repercussions for the Gandhi family. Allegations will fly thick and fast as Vadra had bought hundreds of acres of land in Haryana and Rajasthan which were ruled by the Congress while the party was heading the UPA government at the Centre.
3. DA case against Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh
Enforcement Directorate (ED) has reportedly sent notice to Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh in a money laundering case and has sought his presence for questioning in the national capital. A case has already been registered in New Delhi against him and family members, including wife Pratibha Singh, a former MP. On June 18, the CBI initiated an enquiry against Singh and his family members for allegedly amassing wealth worth Rs 6.1 crore. The enquiry against Singh will reportedly probe from a disproportionate assets angle the alleged unexplained income of Rs 6.1 crore during the period 2009-11 when he was the minister of steel in the UPA government. The preliminary enquiry (PE) is against Singh, his wife Pratibha Singh, son Vikramaditya Singh, daughter Aparajita Singh and an LIC agent Anand Chauhan.
4. ED and IT raids on firms related to P Chidambaram's son
On December 1, a joint team of ED and Income Tax (IT) department had searched the premises of companies allegedly connected to Karti Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P Chidambaram, in Chennai. The searches were reportedly conducted in connection with a case of alleged money laundering in the Aircel-Maxis deal, apart from alleged tax evasion and forex violations related to investments made in an eye-care chain. Subsequent to the raids, Chidambaram issued a statement and described the official action as a “malicious onslaught” by the government and added that no member of his family had “any equity or economic interest in any of the firms that are being targeted”.