New Delhi: Taking on Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, the Congress party on Friday said that the onus was on him to prove the allegations of wrongdoings against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and stressed that the party is ready for a legal battle.
It may be noted that Swamy had targeted Rahul and Sonia Gandhi over acquisition of a company that published the now-defunct National Herald newspaper to which Congress gave a loan of over Rs 90 crore and challenged the Gandhis to sue him for defamation.
Swamy had alleged that the loan to Associated Journals was in violation of tax and election laws.
The Congress, in its response, said that Swamy should go to court if he felt that there was merit in the case.
Rejecting the allegations, the Congress maintained that its support to National Herald newspaper was interest free loans yielding no commercial profit to the party.
In a late night press release, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that the Congress has done its duty in supporting The Associated Journals Limited to help initiate a process to bring the newspaper back to health in compliance with the law of the land.
"This support was extended by the Indian National Congress in the form of interest-free loans from which no commercial profit has accrued to INC," the release said.
Earlier, addressing a press conference, senior Congress leader PC Chacko said, “We are now ready, the person (Swamy) who made this allegations should prove it. We have sent a letter from Rahulji’s office and that amounts to legal notice.”
“Swamy should have the guts to go to court. This is very strange, he wants us to file case against him… it is insensible. If there is a violation of rules, we challenge him to prove it. There is no commercial transaction here, people are trying to create confusion,” he stressed.
Taking the challenge further, Chacko said, “We want to see whether he will sue us. We have reminded him that what he has said is defamatory. We will not succumb to such blackmailing tactics. When we deny that then we say that there is no violation.”
Chacko said "now the bluff master (Swamy) will face the music" but refrained from giving a categorical reply whether Congress would sue the Janata Party chief as suggested by Rahul yesterday.
Yesterday, Rahul Gandhi’s office had sent a letter to Swamy. "Our attention has been drawn to your purported press conference of the afternoon of November 1. The allegations made by you are utterly false, entirely baseless and defamatory," the letter said.
It said, "Your action of calling a press conference is a motivated attempt for reasons, which one can easily discern."
"We are committed to pursuing all legal actions against the scandalous abuse evident in your so-called press conference. Please be informed that we shall pursue the legal remedies open to us against the utterly motivated and irresponsible contents of your press conference.”
‘Sue me, Rahul’
Hitting back, Swamy said, "Rahul should sue me instead of writing dirty letters. I am going to court as I have done in 2G and other cases.
"The court will ask me whether I have exhausted all options. That is why I have written to the Prime Minister and the Election Commission for action. I will give them sometime, wait for their responses. After that I will go to court".
The BJP too waded into the controversy seeking a specific answer whether money was transferred from AICC.
The opposition party asked Congress to clarify whether it gave a loan of Rs 90 crore to Associated Journals, which ran the now-defunct National Herald daily, saying, if true it was violation of tax and electoral laws.
In Shimla, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha BJP Arun Jaitley said he merely wanted a specific answer from Congress and not adjectives like `baseless and untrue` as was used in a communication issued by Rahul Gandhi`s office.
Raising questions on the basis of details provided by Swamy yesterday, Jaitley said if it was true that such a transfer of funds had taken place, then it could lead to various consequences for Congress, including withdrawal of tax exemption and registration by the Election Commission.
He said if Congress were to say that what Swamy has alleged was wrong, then the matter ends. If not, then the whole issue is one of "gross impropriety and gross illegality".
The former Law Minister maintained a political party can use its funds only for political purposes and not any business or financial activity.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who was earlier in-charge of Corporate Affairs, expressed surprise over the allegations.
"I am absolutely clear in mind that there is absolutely no reason for anybody to put a question mark on this. If anything, this should be treated as an example of good governance, transparency and accountability rather than treated as example of the opposite," he said.
Khurshid reasoned that in this case, a non-profit company has been created. "It is a Section 25 company and hence a non-profit company. A non-profit company means that no dividends are paid. So, I am little bit surprised that any issue should have been made of this."
He said that having been a Corporate Affairs Minister, he knows there are amendments made to structures of institutions, "where sometimes for greater clarity and accountability, you try to move from a system of Trust to Society, from Society to a company".
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari lamented the "culture of shoot and scoot" saying it has far- reaching implications. He said the allegations were "completely absurd and hold no truth".
(With PTI inputs)