ED’s Questioning of Sonia & Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald Case

We reproduce below an interview of Prof. Nalapat conducted by Madhu Kishwar for Manushi India on June 1, 2022. The video version of the interview is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyV1Upk_dTg

Prof. M. D. Nalapat

Madhav Das Nalapat is India’s first Professor of Geopolitics, Vice-Chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group and UNESCO Peace Chair at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal University, India. Prof. Nalapat is an expert on religious extremism, national security, counter terrorism, foreign policy and political strategy. His mantra is “India First”. He is the author of seven books, the latest being, “The Practice of Geopolitics”.

The National Herald is an Indian newspaper published by The Associated Journals Ltd and owned by Young India Limited, a company by Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. It was founded by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938 as a tool to win independence. The Enforcement Directorate summoned Sonia Gandhi & son in the National Herald case.

The National Herald corruption case is the ongoing case in a Delhi court filed by Indian economist and politician Subramanian Swamy against politicians Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, their companies and associated persons. As per the complaint filed in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, Associated Journals Limited (AJL) took an interest-free loan of ₹90.25 crore (US$11 million) from Indian National Congress. It is alleged that the loan was not repaid. A closely held company, Young Indian, was incorporated in November 2010 with a paid up capital of 5 Lac and it acquired almost all the shareholding of AJL and all its properties (alleged to be worth ₹5,000 crore (US$630 million).

On 1 November 2012, Subramanian Swamy filed a private complaint in a court in Delhi alleging that both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have committed fraud and land grabbing worth ₹16 billion (US$200 million) by acquiring a publicly limited company called Associated Journals Limited (AJL) through their owned private company, Young Indian.

On 26 June 2014, Metropolitan Magistrate Ms. Gomati Manocha summoned Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda to appear in the court on 7 August 2014. She said that according to the evidence so far, “it appears that YIL was in fact created as a sham or a cloak to convert public money to personal use” to acquire control over ₹20 billion (US$250 million) worth of AJL assets. The court noted that all accused persons had allegedly acted “in consortium with each other to achieve the said nefarious purpose/design”. In this interview, Prof Nalapat provides an insight into the scam.

Madhu Kishwar: Is it a big day or just the pretense of a big step? The court gave an order and the ED had to promise the court that it’ll do something about the National Herald case. Do you think something is likely to change or will the case just drag on endlessly?

Prof. Nalapat: There is a problem in India that cases keep dragging on. And in fact, a lot of litigation gets filed precisely to ensure that disputes get dragged down indefinitely, so that the other side is forced to do some kind of a compromise. There are cases where the grandfather starts a case and the grandson is still fighting the case, and is nowhere near resolution. I don’t agree with many of the views of Subramanian Swamy, but he has a good relationship with him going back to the 1980s. There are so many issues involving the UPA, import export, and purchases by the government, by public sector companies, etc. Subramanian Swamy informed Prof. Nalapat that the National Herald case began because this is the one case where he could locate an actual signature of Sonia Gandhi.

Subramanian Swamy is very good at the law, but I’m not. But the way he explained it to me was very simple. The National Herald company had a considerable amount of property, at one point in time. The paper also was running quite well. When I was in my teens, I used to write for the National Herald. If you go back to the old records, you will find articles of mine, on matters economic and political. People soon seemed to lose interest in it. Motilal Vora cannot be really expected to have run a company very efficiently. The paper ran to the ground. But the company has been sitting on assets, which are extremely valuable

Now, the interesting thing is that another company called Young India, according to Swamy, is about 95% owned by Rahul and Sonia with a few shares here and there. The total capital of this small company, Young India was 5 lakhs, and it was able to buy National Herald, which is a much bigger company. Swamy realized there was no point in filing a case while Manmohan Singh was in charge. Going back to 2014, when Prime Minister Modi had taken charge, he decided to file the case. We had a five lakh rupee company buying a 90 crore rupee company, which must have been worth at least 1500 crores considering the value of the assets.

Motilal Vora could have sold those assets and made a lot of money for the party. But fortunately, he didn’t do that. Those assets were ready and waiting for Subramanian Swamy. Sonia Gandhi had signed the relevant papers as being a fiduciary holder of shares etc, in Young India and therefore, basically getting control of Associated Journals Limited. Sonia had a direct fiduciary interest in young Indian and a direct pecuniary interest in taking over Associated Journals Limited, because a five lakh company suddenly becomes a 95.5 Crore company. To my untutored eye, this was an open and shut case, and according to Swamy too, it was an open and shut case. I’m not going to make any comments about the enforcement directorate, and its way of functioning. I’m just a little surprised that it has taken them this long; it’s now 2022. The facts of the case, even in 2014 seemed to be pretty clear. The records are clear. The Congress side was forced to give the records to Swamy, which he showed to me back in 2014. There was an arrest warrant issued against Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. That is no big deal, because in our country, FIRs can be issued against almost anybody.

The courts have to go by the evidence presented to them. Very often that evidence is manufactured. It is very likely we may have somebody maliciously hacking into the hard drive of our laptops. It doesn’t take very much to hack into it, and to plant all kinds of data and fake evidence into it. This is a sad fact of cyber security in India, regrettably. It is a fairly simple task for organized hacker gangs. It can be from a country that doesn’t like your views about that country. It can be from politicians who don’t like what you say about them. But the reality is planting fake information is the easiest thing in the world. The Congress side basically shot itself in the foot by presenting their evidence, which completely matched with Swamy’s evidence. The judicial system in India still works reasonably well. In six months, the case can be wrapped up, if the ED works normally.

Madhu Kishwar: Swamy thinks that the case was being politically obstructed. And it’s restarted only because the court has cracked the whip. What do you say to that?

Prof. Nalapat: Too many officers in the setup were retained who were very close to people in the 10, Janpath. Chidambaram has a huge network in the financial world and industry world. If we searched into a certain stock exchange, he made it a private stock exchange. And millions of small investors will tell us exactly what happened to them, as a consequence of that. The fact is, I don’t blame the people at the top because the one thing we can say about the Congress Party, and the Gandhi family is they look after people who do their work for them. Especially the work which is a little outside the call of duty. There are people in the system who have been well looked after. These people will continue to try and clean up the act. So as a consequence, it must have been extremely difficult to enforce accountability.

Perhaps Prime Minister Modi was right in not creating a firestorm of opposition within the bureaucracy. The National Herald case, had it not been for the fact that at the top, there would have been no consent to that, it would have been dead and very long ago. This case was kept in a legal ED cryogenic case. I never thought it would come out of that case. It’s now come out of that case. And lo and behold, it has started breathing again. So this is a miracle. If the ED works at its normal speed, it should not take more than six months to conclude this case. If they are serious about doing it, it will be over in six months.

Madhu Kishwar: I think one of the reasons for the case being resurrected is the Hindu vote bank getting rather disillusioned with issues being neglected and marginalized, which are close to their heart and necessary for the civilizational survival. Now that the 2024 election is coming, I think unless a few such high profile strikes are executed, the Modi government could be on thin ice.

Prof. Nalapat: There are multiple vote banks. The Shia community is a very high potential vote bank. I have long felt that unless Kashi Mathura and Ayodhya, the three holy sites of the Hindus, are restored, the wound in the Hindu psyche will not be healed. The point about the 1947 Nehruvian Secularism is it ignored the reality of partition. We are a partition country. And we were partitioned on the basis of religion. And on the other side, you have a country which is completely dominated by dogma. The minority population of Pakistan is almost non-existent. In Bangladesh and Afghanistan, it is diminishing. It should not have been CAA, it should have been a Minority Protection Act.

Going after Sonia Gandhi is a diminishing asset. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi today are nowhere near what they were in 2014. The worst case scenario is for them going to jail for a week or two. In 2014 or even 2018, this would have had a resonance which it doesn’t have in 2022. But the reality is, if wrong has been done, something has to happen. And here we have the case of a five lakh rupee company gobbling up a 95 Crore company, which is really worth about 5000 crores. Something is wrong somewhere and the signatures are all there.

Madhu Kishwar: The loot of this family is gigantic, which is what has made her the fourth richest woman in the world. Modi Ji had promised that all this money would be recovered. It can’t be that they don’t know how to track it. So it can’t just be around the National Herald. Imagine if all that money came back then really it would be called a victory.

Prof. Nalapat: In 2019 Narendra Modi was, by default, the best candidate. Fortunately for Modi, Rahul Gandhi was declared to be the Congress party’s candidate for the prime ministership, and the Congress Party at that point in time was going to be the leader of any opposition framework. In 2024, it would be suicidal if we underestimate the Kejriwal phenomenon. Because the powers that are backing him are global corporations of multiple kinds. Islamic Corporation, the missionaries and the Americans are backing him.

Madhu Kishwar: I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s able to unite the entire opposition in the country. And also with these global power networks behind him, he could give Modi Ji a tough time. So, Modiji really needs to put his act together. It will be a disaster.

Prof. Nalapat: I have interacted with Arvind in this anti corruption thing. I like Arvind, but I think Arvind made a huge mistake in going after Narendra Modi after 2014. I think the chap is exceptionally smart. My reasoning is that his trajectory is very simple – Join in the destruction of the Congress Party by 2024. Because with Congress siphoning off a lot of votes, and in a very strong leadership position, there will never really be a coherent opposition. In my view, he is concentrating on destroying the Congress party by 2024. In 2029, when it is likely that Narendra Modi will not be the BJP candidate for Prime Minister, Kejriwal will then exert himself to come to power as Prime Minister in 2029. In my view, in 2024 he is going to focus quietly and sometimes openly, on destroying the Congress. He has to ensure that Sonia Gandhi survives because she is the best thing for anybody who wants to destroy the Congress Party.

Kejriwal is targeting the BJP Vote bank and he succeeded in Punjab, winning over the Hindu vote substantially. In the earlier Punjab election, even Sikhs rejected the Aam Aadmi Party because they brought in Khalistanis from Canada to campaign. Later on, Modiji allowed banned Sikhs to enter back into India and proved weak in dealing with the Singhu border and fake Kisaan agitations. This is something that the BJP should worry about. If the Hindu Vote bank is slipping from under their feet, then it’s a bad sign.

Madhu Kishwar: The Jihadi mafias are supporting Kejriwal, and that doesn’t make him a safe bet.

Prof. Nalapat: Over the last four or five years, the middle class has had a very rough time. But the lower class and the underprivileged have actually done extremely well under Narendra Modi’s law. The digital economy, the use of digital methods, concentration of effort on underprivileged sections, all this is actually happening. And the reality is the middle class is still suffering, taxes are still high, and inflation is rising.

Kejriwal is facing the test of his life. His test number one was going after Modi, he took his lessons very clearly. Modi is definitely going to come back in 2024. Kejriwal has got a problem, and that is national security. One of the key pillars behind the success of Narendra Modi is that he is a man who can assure security. In Punjab, the Jihadis seem to be disliking Kejriwal. Punjab is descending into a problem. And believe me, that will destroy the Aam Aadmi Party across the whole of India, including Delhi. Arvind will lose Delhi, if Punjab gets into a security nightmare. He is facing the biggest test of his life.

Madhu Kishwar: Is ED likely to move the National Herald case and will this be the beginning of a whole new process or is it going to be a standalone case?

Prof. Nalapat: The reality is that several senior people at the administrative level were compromised. What Modi did was focus on the under secretaries, the joint secretaries and now a fair amount of them have become additional secretaries. Slowly up the ladder competence is moving. The same process is taking place in the ED as well. Nirmala Sitharaman has been a way better minister than what we saw in the finance ministry before. I’m hopeful that under Nirmala Sitharaman and the new officers, the ED is not going to put this case into a cryogenic box again. This is now a test for the ED, because a dead body has been brought back to life. And if it dies again, they’re only going to blame the ED.

Long back, something was started called the Action Committee Against Corruption in India. Swamy was the chairman and he used to get data on corrupt officials. It will be a miracle for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, if the case goes silent again.

Madhu Kishwar: Will PM Modi resign after he turns 75?

Prof. Nalapat: In my view, he should not resign until he has finished the third term. I don’t believe he will resign after 2024 and even after 2029. It was not a good idea to place a numerical limit on competence. You can have a 35 year old who’s a hopeless incompetent. You can have an eight year old who does a great job. So frankly, the 75 year old thing makes no sense to me.

I have optimism in the Indian people. I have hope for my country, and that is what drives my energy.

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