NEW DELHI, Aug 2: The Enforcement Directorate raids at the head office of the Congress-owned National Herald newspaper here and other locations evoked a sharp reaction from the Opposition party which condemned the action as “vendetta politics”, even as the ruling BJP asserted that law would take its own course.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided the head office of the National Herald newspaper here and 11 other locations as part of an ongoing money laundering investigation, officials said, a week after it questioned Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
The searches were carried out under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to “gather additional evidence with regard to the trail of funds and they are against those entities who were involved in the National Herald-linked transactions”, the officials said.
Reacting sharply, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, “The raids on Herald House, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg are a part of the continued attack against India’s principal opposition — Indian National Congress.”
“We strongly condemn this vendetta politics against those who speak up against the Modi Govt. You cannot silence us!” he said.
Reacting to Ramesh’s allegation, BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla asked if the denial of any relief to the Gandhi family by courts in this matter was also “vendetta”.
BJP general secretary C T Ravi also responded to Ramesh’s charge, saying there is nothing “Indian nor National about the INC”.
“Corrupt Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi are facing action from the ED for the only reason that they looted the Congress in the National Herald case. Slaves can call it vendetta, but the law will take its own course,” Ravi said.
At a Congress party press conference here, party spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said the raids on National Herald is a ploy to divert attention from price rise and unemployment.
“In Independent India, there is perhaps no other governmental and no other place, where politics has sunk to this rock bottom. To settle petty personal scores, to intimidate India’s opposition, the Modi government is doing exactly what the British did during the freedom struggle. During the freedom struggle, the British had banned and had raided National Herald, that’s exactly what the Modi government is doing,” Shrinate said.
“You have questioned the Congress President for three days, you have questioned the former Congress President for 50 hours. Either the ED is completely incompetent and has not been able to gather enough (evidence) or the ED has actually become the Election Department of the BJP and that seems to be exactly what the ED has reduced itself to,” she alleged.
The reality of the day is there are only two issues that matter in this country — price rise and unemployment — and no matter how hard the government tries, the Congress will continue to raise these relevant issues, Shrinate said.
“There may be some people who may be intimidated by what your agencies can do, the Indian National Congress is certainly not one of those. We condemn it, we will fight it, but we will continue to expose the failures of this government because the future of our youth is at stake due to unemployment and every Indian is suffering and reeling under high prices,” she said.
Congress MP Karti Chidambaram claimed that the ED has become a “weapon of mass destruction” and would be known as the “hatchet agency” of the government. He made these remarks while hitting out at the BJP Government for the ED raids.
Comparing the ED with Stasi of East Germany and Schutzstaffel of Nazi Germany, Chidambaram said, “During Second World W ar, Stasi was used as hatchet agency for East Germany and Schutzstaffel by Nazi Germany. When the history of this country is written, the ED will be known as the hatchet agency of the BJP.”
“The ED has now become a weapon of mass destruction. And the entire exercise of the ED is only to embarrass or humiliate political opponents,” he alleged.
He further said they are being harassed for the transactions which have been captured in the books of accounts and income tax returns filed.
“I can’t see any reason why an agency would want to raid premises after 12 years. Even by law, you’re not required to keep financial records beyond eight years. So this is only for the voyeuristic pleasure of certain people who want to see the opposition being crushed, humiliated and harassed,” Chidambaram told reporters.
The raids come after the probe agency questioned Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her MP son Rahul Gandhi at its headquarters here. While Sonia Gandhi was questioned for more than 11 hours, spread over three rounds, last month, Rahul Gandhi was probed by the ED for five days, at intervals, clocking over 50 hours in June.
Senior Congress politicians like Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal were also questioned by the ED in April.
The National Herald is published by the Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL), and its holding company is Young Indian.
Officers of the federal agency searched the office of the National Herald located in the ‘Herald House’ building at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg near ITO in central Delhi. The office is registered in the name of AJL. (PTI)