NEW DELHI: Two days ahead of the Congress Kissan rally at Delhi’s Ramlila ground, trouble is brewing for party chief Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and her ‘businessman’ son-in-law Robert Vadra. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday reopened the National Herald ‘misappropriation of property’ and ‘breach of trust’ case against Sonia and Rahul. On Vadra, they slapped a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, in what is popularly known as the Bikaner land scam case.
For the Congress, which is organising a farmers’ rally to celebrate the roll-back of the Land Acquisition Ordinance — deemed by it and other opposition parties as ‘anti-farmer’ — the cases against Vadra in Haryana and Rajasthan could not have come at a worse time.
The fact that the BJP sought to highlight the cases against the Congress president’s son-in-law to pooh-pooh its ‘pro-poor farmer’ political positioning only amplified the Congress discomfort. Party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed saw ‘political vendetta’ behind the ED move.
Though constantly in the news since 2013-14 for his land deals with real estate major DLF in Gurgaon, Haryana and in Bikanar, Rajasthan — when both the states were under Congress rule — this is first time that the ED has registered a case against Vadra. In the Bikaner case, reportedly around 1,400 acres of land was acquired and sold off to seven different companies illegally. Out of the seven companies, one was Sky Light Hospitality, a firm owned by Vadra. While he may have bought several hundreds of acres before the then Congress government in Rajasthan amended the Land Ceiling Act, putting a limit on sale-holding of land, he reportedly violated the law in four transactions totaling 321.78 acres, almost double the permissible limit of 175 acres.
In the National Herald case, there’s a bureaucratic twist. Rajan Katoch was summarily removed as ED Director, a post he was holding in additional capacity, after he recommended closure of the case. Now the agency has reopened the case filed against Sonia-Rahul by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
According to the ED case, a private non-profit company, Young Indian, was formed in March, 2011 with Sonia and Rahul holding 38 per cent shares each, allegedly with the aim of taking over Associated Journals Ltd, parent company which owned National Herald and its Urdu version Qaumi Awaz. This was carried out with funds and loans from Congress. Swamy alleged it was misappropriation of NH by the Gandhis.