Congress president Sonia Gandhi is likely to appear before the Enforcement Directorate on June 23 for questioning in the National Herald case. The new date of summons has been issued after she sought more time from the agency as she had contracted Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi is expected to appear before the agency on Monday. The Congress is planning to stage a protest march to Pravartan Bhawan, headquarters of the ED, with Rahul leading party workers, senior leaders and members of working committee as he proceeds for questioning. The idea is to highlight the BJP government's “vendetta politics “ and alleged misuse of central agencies.
The ED headquarters in Lutyen’s Delhi is guarded by CISF personnel and is a high security zone with limited access.
The opposition parties are already crying foul after several leaders of various parties in states are under scanner in different cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
While the BJP has strongly refuted the allegation, the Congress is unrelenting in its charge, with party leader Randeep Surjewala calling it “politics of revenge”. “This is politics or vendetta and revenge by the BJP to target opposition leaders as they have done to other opponents in the country,” he said.
It now remains to be seen whether parties like the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi joins the Congress protest.
Incidentally, senior AAP leader and Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain is presently in the ED lockup at its headquarters in a money laundering case. Despite Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal coming out in support of his minister, Jain has got no relief so far, as sleuths claim there is mounting evidence against him after recent searches at the offices and residences of his associates led to recovery of Rs 2.82 crore in cash and 133 gold coins weighing 1.8 kg.
On June 9, a Delhi court extended custody of Jain till June 13 after the ED sought more time to confront him with the evidence and documents recovered during the custody period. The ED is also likely to share the findings with the CBI which had registered a disproportionate assets case against him in 2017 and filed a chargesheet in 2018. In April this year, the CBI clarified that it had not filed a closure report in the matter. With the fresh ED findings, the CBI case may get a fillip , according to investigators .
Meanwhile, the ED probe in the National Herald case has resulted in a political battle with the Congress claiming it is a fake case and there is no offence of money laundering in the first place. Under the ED lens is the alleged illegal benefit of Rs 414.40 crore in the form of property obtained by the Gandhi family, which the Central agency claims was acquired through “fraud and conspiracy”, making it a fit case for investigation under PMLA.
However, the Congress said even though the case is closed, Sonia will face the sleuths if she is called for questioning. However, she tested positive for Covid on June 2, before she was to appear at the ED headquarters on June 8. On June 7 night, she informed that she could not be present as she was still unwell.
All eyes are on the likely appearance of Rahul Gandhi, his party's march to ED office as well as AAP’s next move in Jain’s case.