THE Enforcement Directorate’s summons to Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge triggered a political row on Thursday, with the Congress accusing the government of trying to “intimidate” it. The government countered that “the law will take its own course”, and it does not interfere in the functioning of law enforcement agencies.
The ED had summoned Kharge in connection with its money laundering probe in the National Herald case. On Wednesday, it had sealed the office of Young Indian — a firm linked to the Gandhi family which had acquired Associated Journals Limited (AJL), the publisher of National Herald newspaper – at Herald House in Delhi, saying it could not search the premises in the absence of a representative of the firm.
With Kharge reaching Herald House on Thursday afternoon, the ED unsealed the Young Indian office and continued its search. “The principal officer, Mallikarjun Kharge, came on Tuesday but left the premises without getting the searches conducted. Summons had been sent to the principal officer (Kharge) to get the search concluded. In his absence, the offices were sealed to ensure no one tampers with potential evidence. Today he has arrived, so searches are being resumed,” an ED official told The Indian Express.
Earlier in the day, raising the issue in Rajya Sabha, Kharge said he had been summoned to the Young Indian office at 12.30 pm. “I am a Member of Parliament and Leader of the Opposition. When Parliament is in session, I have received a summons from the ED… I have to go at 12.30 pm. I don’t want to avoid the law. I want to follow the law. But is it appropriate for the ED to issue a summons to me when Parliament is in session… when Parliament is functioning,” he said.
Kharge also said that police had surrounded the residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi. “Will democracy survive like this? Will we function as per the Constitution? They are doing this to demoralise us, to finish us, to intimidate us…we will not be scared. We will fight,” he said.
Countering him, Leader of the House Piyush Goyal said the government does not believe in interfering with the functioning of law enforcement agencies. He termed Kharge’s charges as baseless and argued that “if somebody has done something wrong…the law will take its own course.”
“On this particular issue, this matter had even gone to the Supreme Court… and the Congress president… senior Congress leaders….they are out on bail,” he said, adding that the Congress and the Opposition should comply with the law.
ED sources said Kharge was summoned as the other two persons associated with Young Indian are Sonia and Rahul. “Young Indian currently has two shareholders — Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. We did not want to call them. The company has just one employee, Kharge, who is the CEO. We had no option but to call him,” said an ED official.
Both Sonia and Rahul have been questioned by the ED in connection with the case.
Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Rahul said: “It is an attempt to intimidate. They think they can silence us by putting pressure on us. It will not happen. What Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are doing against democracy…we will stand against that…whatever they do,” he said. “We will not be intimidated. We are not scared of Narendra Modi. Let them do whatever they want. We don’t care,” he said.
“Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, was summoned by the ED when Parliament was in session. He, of course, left around 12:20 pm and presented himself. This is Modishahi reaching new lows,” tweeted Jairam Ramesh, AICC general secretary in charge of communication.
He later tweeted that Kharge “has been undergoing interrogation by the ED for the last four and a half hours. His ordeal is continuing. The entire Congress party stands with him in solidarity.” Kharge remained at Herald House for nearly eight hours.
Young Indian is under ED probe on charges of acquiring Associate Journals Limited (AJL), the publisher of the National Herald newspaper, and all its assets for a “pittance” against an alleged loan extended by the Congress. The Herald House is owned by AJL. While three floors of the building have been rented to the passport seva kendra run by TCS, the fourth floor houses the Young Indian office.