Congress’ troubles are about to grow threefold

The National Herald and Vadra cases will have a direct bearing on Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

By KUMAR SHAKTI SHEKHAR (@shaktishekhar)

After faring disastrously in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and subsequently losing power in states like Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir, darker days are ahead for the Congress, particularly its president Sonia Gandhi and Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi. The Congress leadership is already struggling to contain rebellion in states like Punjab and playing referee in tugs of war going on between the old guards and young turks in several other states, like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. There are three other cases which portend ill for the grand old party.

1. Netaji’s classified files

After 35 members of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s family met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 7, Race Course Road in the capital on October 14, the PM announced that the Centre would start declassifying the files related to the freedom fighter from January 23. The Congress is all set to face one of the biggest embarrassments in its political history as the classified files are believed to contain enough “explosive” information against it. For instance, India Today broke the story on how Bose’s family members were spied upon by the Jawaharlal Nehru’s government for two decades between 1948 and 1968, much to the discomfiture of the Congress. The Congress may be in for more embarrassing moments because the reasons behind the surveillance of Bose’s family members will be known after declassification of the secret files.

Besides, the reason behind Netaji’s death and several other facts related to his life will also be revealed once the files are declassified. The Congress may find it difficult to save its face if the party or Nehru’s hand is proved in Netaji’s disappearance or the reason behind the snooping on his family members thereafter. Subtle attempts to run down Nehru, Netaji’s co-worker for 25 years, will give way to full-blown onslaught on India’s first prime minister. History might be rewritten and those attacking Union HRD minister Smriti Irani over the issue will start looking for cover. It will be impossible for the Congress to justify or defend the revelations. Sonia and Rahul, being the inheritors of Congress and Nehru’s political legacy, will be the worst hit. A further weakened leadership will spell doom for the grand old party.

2. National Herald case

Damocles’ sword is already hanging over Sonia and Rahul after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) registered a case against them under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the National Herald controversy. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, in a complaint, has accused both of cheating and misappropriation of funds worth over Rs 2,000 crore during the acquisition of ownership of the National Herald English daily which was closed on April 1, 2008.

The case is being heard in Delhi High Court which, on October 15, termed as “infructuous” the applications moved by Sonia, Rahul and some other party leaders opposing its transfer from the court of Justice Sunil Gaur to another court of Justice P S Teji. An adverse judgment will dent the Congress leadership’s image in the eyes of not only the party workers but also of the people at large.

3. Robert Vadra’s land deals

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 long 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.

The Rajasthan government, in early 2014 and in May 2015, has asked the district collectors of Jodhpur, Barmer and Bikaner to collate information on Vadra’s real estate dealings. On July 21, just a day before the commencement of Parliament’s monsoon session, the Bikaner police arrested a “kingpin” involved in Vadra’s dubious land deals. The case is moving slowly and gradually as the BJP does not want to be accused of witch-hunting.

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.

The National Herald and Vadra cases will have a direct bearing on Sonia and Rahul. The two top Congress leaders will also be at the receiving end of the declassification of Netaji’s files. This, in turn, will have several ramifications for the party at the national level. Any adverse order in any of these two cases will weaken the Congress’ attack on the Modi government inside Parliament, it will also dim the chances of the party in the numerous Assembly elections, including Uttar Pradesh, the state where both Sonia and Rahul contest the Lok Sabha elections from, or Assam which it is ruling at present.


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