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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Why has the Govt widened its probe into Nehru-Gandhi family linked trusts?

While repeated attempts at making the PM CARES Fund public has been denied by the government, now it has launched a probe into the Nehru-Gandhi family linked trusts, including the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF). As the Congress termed the investigation to be driven by ‘insidious hate’ against the party and the dire need to distract from the alleged failures to protect national security, territorial integrity, the handling of the Coronavirus crisis and the economy, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party seems to have a one-track mind.

But why has the government widened its probe into Nehru-Gandhi family linked trusts? Let’s see what we have been able to decipher until now.

Why investigation now?

The Central government recently set up an inter-ministerial committee in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to look into the alleged violations of the law by the three Nehru-Gandhi family linked trusts in cases of money laundering and in terms of foreign contributions. The decision to set up the investigation committee, which includes members of the Income Tax Department and the home ministry, comes after the BJP alleged that one of the three trusts, the RGF had received funds from the Chinese embassy after the opposition party accused the NDA government of hiding details from the public of border conflict between the Indian Army and the Chinese army in Ladakh. On June 16, the Congress spoke out against the ruling government after 20 Indian soldiers were brutally killed amid violent clashes with Chinese soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. The committee will be headed by the Special Director of the Enforcement Directorate, who will spearhead the investigation and looked into the violations by the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.
The RGF annual report of 2005-06 had mentioned that the Embassy of The People’s Republic of China was a “partner organisations and donors”. In other linked trusts or organisations also feature China’s name in their donor’s lists. BJP Chief JP Nadda had recently alleged that a donation of $300,000 was received by the RGF and the donors were the Chinese Embassy and the People’s Republic of China. This donation was apparently used for studies in the country that was not in line with the national interest. Nadda had also alleged that the funds collected in the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund had also been transferred to the ‘family-run’ RGF during the UPA’s regime.

The Congress’ reaction

Calling the allegations baseless, the opposition party has said that this is just a way to divert attention from larger, more concerning issues like the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the faltering economy. “Mr Modi believes the world is like him. He thinks everyone has a price or can be intimidated. He will never understand that those who fight for the truth have no price and cannot be intimidated,” Rahul Gandhi had tweeted in response.

The Congress too echoed the same kind of reaction after the news of the probe came into light. “The wild and insidious hatred of the BJP of Congress leadership unfolds every day in an embarrassing and uglier fashion. Facing a barrage of questions on (i) blatant compromise of India’s security interests and territorial integrity, (ii) a shocking mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis which continues to devour lives and livelihood on a daily basis and (iii) unable to arrest the economic recession wreaking havoc on the life of every Indian citizen; a desperate Modi-Shah Government has fallen back on a devious hounding of those exposing its ineptitude by ordering a wholly vicious and vengeful investigation of the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, “ said an official statement signed by AICC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

Indira Gandhi Memorial, Delhi, India
Indira Gandhi Memorial, Delhi, India. Picuture – Wiki Commons.

The official statement released by the AICC spokesperson said that the trusts or organisations that have come under the scanner for the probe have in the past always stood out for their enormous humanitarian work and other distinguished services. “The humanitarian work and distinguished service provided by these charitable organisations has always stood out and will withstand any vengeful and roving enquiry. Every day, a new conspiracy is crafted by the delusional BJP leadership so as to spread disinformation, distraction and diversion to bury the apparent incompetence and complete failure of the Modi Government,” the statement added.
Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi has also added that questions are not being asked of “Vivekananda Foundation, they don’t get asked of Overseas friends of the BJP, India Foundation or for that matter, they don’t get asked for the much larger quantum of money from RSS.

Politics and how?

Out of the three trusts that have been asked to be probed, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation was set up in June 1991, while the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust was set up in 2002. Congress president Sonia Gandhi heads them both since their inception. Home Ministry officials have stated that the decision to set up an investigation was taken to assess if there were any financial discrepancies or any other irregularities in the working of these organisations, and there was “no question of any politics in it”. Responding to that, the Congress said the “party and its leadership will not be intimidated by the cowardly acts and blind witch-hunt by a panicked Narendra Modi government”. The opposition has counter-attacked by saying, “Will the Modi Government hold an enquiry into the donations worth hundreds of crores received from Chinese entities into the PM-Cares fund?”
However, the BJP definitely doesn’t seem to care about what the opposition thinks or says. Some people inside the ruling party view the decision as “taking the bull by the horns”, which they see as the signature of Home Minister Amit Shah, the “new Iron Man of India” as some might even call him. “The decision amounts to nothing less than declaring war on Congress’s powerful dynasty. Any other political leader would have dithered,” a BJP politician told The Telegraph. The politician anonymously added, “Rahul Gandhi has crossed all limits in the way he has been attacking the Prime Minister of the country. He and his mother have been displaying pathological hatred for Modiji and also Shah. In such a situation, they can’t expect the two leaders (Modi and Shah) to engage in political civilities.”

While this political tussle might never be over in the future, we hope the pandemic does. Amid the fight at the Centre and blatant mud-slinging, the public shouldn’t suffer. The ruling party and the opposition also need to perform their democratic duties and steer a way out of the crisis that the country is facing. Only time will tell what happens next.

Do not have time to read? No problem. Every week, we produce a new episode in the Indian policy podcast series “In The Interest Of India”. Listen here.   

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