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Thursday, Oct 06, 2022

As ED questions Sonia Gandhi, Cong alleges vendetta, rallies several Oppn parties

National Herald case: Party holds protests across country; several leaders and MPs detained

Congress President Sonia Gandhi with party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi arrives to appear before the Enforcement Directorate for questioning in connection with the National Herald case, in New Delhi. (PTI)

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) Thursday questioned Congress president Sonia Gandhi for two hours in connection with an alleged money laundering case related to the National Herald newspaper.

The Congress alleged that the ED action was a “vendetta” and managed to rally several Opposition parties to jointly attack the BJP government over the issue.

This is Sonia’s first such tryst with an investigating agency in her two-and-a-half-decade political career.

Last month, the agency had questioned Rahul Gandhi in the same case for nearly 50 hours over five days.

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Sonia, who is recovering from Covid-19, reached the ED office a little after noon along with her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Priyanka was allowed to stay in the ED headquarters so that she could be with her mother in case of any health issue. Rahul left soon after.

As Sonia proceeded for questioning, several senior Congress leaders and MPs protested outside the AICC headquarters at 24, Akbar Road and were taken to different police stations. Most of the MPs and senior leaders, including Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, were taken to the Kingsway Camp police station and allowed to leave after Sonia’s questioning was over. The party held protests in several states.

ED sources said Sonia was again summoned for questioning on Monday.

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On Thursday, she was questioned by the same assistant director-level investigation officer who interrogated Rahul in the case. A woman officer was part of the questioning team.

The ED questioning of the Congress president found an echo in Parliament as well, where the Congress and other Opposition parties raised the issue by disrupting proceedings.

Several Opposition parties — barring the Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party — came out in support of Gandhi by issuing a joint statement accusing the Modi government of carrying out “a relentless campaign of vendetta” against its political opponents and critics “through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies”. These parties were largely silent when Rahul was called for questioning repeatedly last month.

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The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) joined a meeting of Opposition parties called by the Congress at Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge’s Parliament chamber in the morning and was a signatory to the joint statement.

Sources in TRS said it was the party’s strategy to stump Telangana Congress leaders who have recently stepped up attacks on Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s government. Telangana Congress leaders led by state president A Revanth Reddy held protests in Hyderabad on Thursday.

“The Modi sarkar has unleashed a relentless campaign of vendetta against its political opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies. Prominent leaders of a number of political parties have been deliberately targeted and subjected to harassment in an unprecedented manner. We condemn this and resolve to continue and intensify our collective fight against the anti-people, anti-farmers and anti-Constitution policies of the Modi sarkar that is destroying the social fabric of our society,” the statement said.

The signatories include the leaders of the NCP, DMK, SP, CPM, CPI, RSP, TRS, Shiv Sena, RJD, IUML, NC and the MDMK.

Incidentally, the Congress G23 leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma, besides Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor, were at the AICC headquarters in solidarity with Sonia. Sharma and Azad were missing when the party waged street protests last month after Rahul was called for questioning.

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Addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters, Gehlot accused the government of treating every Opposition party as its enemy.

“There are no enemies in politics. There should not be. But they consider the Opposition as enemies. Recently in Hyderabad, Modi spoke about regional parties… he talked about dynasties. They had been talking about Congress-mukt Bharat all along. Now their mantra is Opposition-mukt Bharat so that there is dictatorship in India. The country is moving forward in that direction,” he said.

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“The ED should have gone to her residence to take her responses to their questions,” he said, citing precedent, and added that this is being done to “harass” her.

“All Congress MPs and CWC members have courted mass arrest outside our party headquarters in a show of collective solidarity with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, a target of ‘Vishguru’s’ political vendetta,” said Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh.
His colleague, P Chidambaram, said the ED is not higher than the Supreme Court. “What is it that the ED wants to ‘investigate’ that will not be examined by the SC?” he asked.

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The Congress also vehemently denied reports that ED officials concluded the questioning at Sonia’s request. “The ED had no more questions after 3 pm. Despite Mrs Sonia Gandhi offering to continue to be available for questioning, the ED concluded the questioning today,” said Chidambaram, a former Union minister.

-With inputs from Sreenivas Janyala in Hyderabad

First published on: 21-07-2022 at 11:34:05 am
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