NEW DELHI: Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the Rs 90 crore National Herald money laundering case as the party put up a show of strength here on Monday.
After three and half hours of questioning, the ED allowed Rahul Gandhi a lunch break. During the break, he visited his mother and Congress’ interim president Sonia Gandhi, who was admitted to a hospital after suffering from COVID-19.
Despite the Delhi police refusing to give permission for Congress’ planned ‘Satyagrah March’, in solidarity with their leader, top party politicians as well as hundreds of party workers joined Rahul Gandhi, who walked to the ED office from the party office at Akbar Road.
Rahul Gandhi left the ED office and reached his home at Tughlaq Lane and from there he along with his sister and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra went to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, where their mother has been admitted since Sunday. The former Congress president then returned to the ED headquarters for the next round of questioning.
As per ED officials, a team of three officials, including a women officer, are questioning Rahul Gandhi in connection with the case in the B Block third floor area of its office.
Speaking to the media ahead of their solidarity march, Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot said, “The people who do not follow BJP’s ideologies or have different ideologies are being targeted by the government and the government is misusing CBI, ED or Income Tax and the public should get to know about this.”
Even Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot slammed the BJP government and said, “If the March was happening peacefully to symbolise how the government is misusing CBI and ED then what was the issue here? They have put barricades everywhere. What will the public think about this?”
He also said that all allegations of money laundering are baseless. “All the allegations are baseless. The case was going on in the court then what was the necessity to involve ED,” he said.
Karti Chidambaram, Congress Lok Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu told The New Indian, “The fact that we all congregated here is a protest by itself. We are here to highlight to the country the blatant misuse of agencies. I am only surprised that the government has just imposed 144 and not parked five bulldozers here.”
“This is the style of this government, the fact that all of us have congregated here is a protest by itself,” Karti Chidambaram, who himself is facing several cases of the CBI and ED, said.
Meanwhile, the Congress workers raised slogans in support of the party leader and slammed the government. The police blocked vehicular movements on several roads in Central Delhi to stop the demonstrators.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, senior party members P Chidambaram, Mallikarjun Kharge, KC Venugopal, Surjewala and others gathered at the party headquarters to protest what they call “harassment of Opposition leaders”.
Earlier in the day, Surjewala said, “Modi government has imposed an undeclared emergency in the whole Central Delhi area. Hundreds of barricades have come up and thousands of Congress workers have been arrested overnight.”
Rejecting charges of money laundering, the Congress spokesperson said that out of Rs 90 crore, Rs 67 crore was paid for salaries and VRS of people working with the National Herald. “Unlike the Modi government, we have not sold the assets of the country in the last 70 years. Still today National Herald is owned by AJL (Associated Journals Limited),” Surjewala said.
Sonia Gandhi has been summoned to appear before the ED in the same case on July 23. She was asked to appear on June 8 but could not turn up as she was with COVID-19.
On Sunday, she was admitted to Sir Ganga Ram hospital for some COVID-related issues. She is stable and under observation.