THE CENTRE has set up an inter-ministerial committee to “coordinate investigations” into the funding of three trusts linked to the Nehru-Gandhi family — the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.
This comes a fortnight after the BJP alleged that the RGF had received funds from China to “conduct studies that are not in the interest of the country”.
Announcing the decision on Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs said the committee will “coordinate investigations into violation of various legal provisions of PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act), Income Tax Act, FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) etc” by these three organisations.
All the three organisations are headed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party leaders P Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are among the trustees at the RGF.
According to sources, the inter-ministerial committee will be headed by a Special Director from the Enforcement
Directorate (ED) and will include officials from the Income Tax department, CBI, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Home Affairs.
Sources said the committee will probe the source of all funds, including foreign contributions. It will call for all relevant documents, and then, if needed, call office-bearers for questioning. It will also look into allotment of land for construction of Jawahar Bhawan, where the RGF has its office.
The Congress termed the government’s move as “cowardly” and a “blind witch-hunt”. “Mr Modi believes the world is like him. He thinks everyone has a price or can be intimidated. He will never understand that those who fight for the truth have no price and cannot be intimidated,” Rahul tweeted.
“The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation has nothing to add, nothing to fear because you have all the machinery and you can ask every question in every inquiry… But you need to be exposed fully…you don’t ask these questions of many holy cows… You are harassing each opposition segment, individual or institutional,” said party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi.
“But the beauty is that these lovely questions like 9th schedule exemptions… don’t get asked of Vivekananda Foundation, Overseas Friends of BJP, India Foundation or for that matter they don’t get asked — for much larger quantums of money – of the RSS,” he said.
“Whose special arc of protection do they enjoy… Is there any level playing field in this country… We will send you truck-loads of documents, but if you have the courage… ask at least 5 per cent of the same questions to them and share the answers with the country,” he said.
“Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi gave their lives for India. Targeting the trusts dedicated to honour their rich legacy is unfortunate and vindictive,” said CWC member Anand Sharma.
“The illegal, arbitrary and mala fide action against RGF & other organisations is yet another example of how low they will go,” said senior Congress leader Manish Tewari.
The party’s communication department head, Randeep Surjewala, said the “vicious and vengeful investigation” was “devious hounding” of those exposing the government’s ineptitude.
Defending the government’s decision, BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said it was a “natural outcome” of the information that has come out about the RGF. He said if there was a “political motive”, the government “would not have waited for six years to order a probe”.
Last month, amid the India-China border row, as Rahul questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, BJP president J P Nadda said the Congress had no moral right to talk about the country’s security.
Addressing a virtual rally for Madhya Pradesh on June 25, Nadda said: “Today, I was shocked to watch on TV that in 2005-06, People’s Republic of China and the Chinese embassy gave a fat sum to RGF. This is a secret relationship between Congress and China. These people take funds from China and then conduct studies that are not in the interest of the country… The nation wants to know for what they were paid and what study they conducted… You take $300,000 donation and teach us nationalism.”
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also raised the issue at a press briefing the same day.
The Congress had accused the BJP of “disinformation and (a) sinister campaign” against the party and Rahul Gandhi.
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