Congress insiders say that there was no financial impropriety in the National Herald case and that the party is waiting for Subramanian Swamy to play all his cards, reports Renu Mittal
The Congress is not unduly worried about the charges levelled by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul regarding the change of ownership of the company, which used to bring out the Congress mouthpiece National Herald.
A senior leader said they are not in a hurry to clarify the charges. The party wants Swamy to finish his ammunition and only after that will the Congress make its position clear. The party and its leadership have nothing to hide and in the entire episode it is Swamy who will have the egg on his face, the leader claimed.
According to available facts, a public limited company called Associated Journals Ltd was set up by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938. It used to bring out a daily newspaper, National Herald, an Urdu paper called Quami Awaz and a few other publications.
Over the last 30 years, the paper folded up and huge losses were incurred by the company, since it was paying a salary to over 300 employees for doing no work. But because of the involvement of the Congress with the paper, the party did not want to sack anyone and court any controversies.
Sources say that over the last many years, under the direction of Sonia Gandhi it was decided to give a golden handshake to all the employees to ensure that not a single one of them either went to court or raised a protest.
In other words, a large amount of money was doled out to employees as part of the voluntary retirement scheme and these funds came from the Congress. This is possibly the 'loan' being referred to by Swamy.
Because it was an old company, which had numerous liabilities, a decision was made to float another company and the shares were transferred to ensure that the liabilities of the company did not continue, say sources. It is also being said that all the shareholders of Associated Journals were no more and it was difficult to acquire the company's share certificates.
The board of governors of the new company, Young Indian, has Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and Congress heavyweights Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda.
While it is not clear what would be the aims and objectives of the new company and what it would do, Rahul Gandhi in an e-mail to The Pioneer some time back made it clear that the new company would not be bringing out a newspaper.
Sources say that the matter is totally legal and that no illegality has been committed and the party would make the facts public in the coming days. They say that the main concern was the welfare of its employees -- that they received the money that was due and were left satisfied.
While Rahul's office in a letter to Swamy has said that all legal options are open, Congress spokesman PC Chacko has said Swamy should go to court against the Gandhi scion and prove the charges. "It is for Swamy to prove that what he is saying is correct," said Chacko.
Swamy, however, while referring to the letter sent by Rahul's office has said he will respond only if he is dragged to court. He has challenged Rahul to file a case against him. "Either Rahul Gandhi writes a letter or his lawyers write a letter. Either of those letters I will throw in the waste paper basket without reading. My advice to Rahul Gandhi is grow up, go to court and file a defamation case. I will fight you there," he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party was also quick to jump in. It has demanded an independent probe, with Arun Jaitley saying the Congress violated the Income Tax law as well as the law for registration of political parties.
However, the Congress has said that those speaking of violations should go to court and prove them. The Congress will reply to all the charges in court, it maintained.
In the times of scams and scandals, every effort is being made by opponents of the Congress to pin charges of corruption against the Gandhis. For that purpose, first Robert Vadra, Sonia's son-in-law, was attacked and now the next salvo has been fired against Rahul and Sonia Gandhi.
Senior Congress leaders say that since the party takes too long to react and clarify issues, in the process only the version of the Opposition gets highlighted by the media. However, Rahul was prompt to attack back, but the Congress is still mulling and waiting for the right time to react to Swamy's allegations.
Image: Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy