TPCC chief A. revanth Reddy, CLP leader Mallu Batti Vikramarka and other senior leaders stage a protest outside the ED office in Hyderabad (S. Surender Reddy/DC)
Hyderabad: Amidst a massive police presence and nationwide protests by party activists, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in New Delhi on Monday. The questioning took almost nine hours in two shifts. He has been summoned again on Tuesday at 11 am.
Senior leaders and party workers denied permission to march with Rahul Gandhi. He reached the ED office, accompanied by Priyanka Gandhi, at 11.08 am and left at 2.08 pm for lunch during which he visited his mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is admitted in a private hospital for Covid related complications. He returned to the ED office at 3.35 pm and the questioning continued til 9.25 pm.
In Hyderabad, alleging that the BJP-led NDA government was using central law enforcement agencies as if they were BJP-affiliated associations to target Opposition parties, TPCC chief A. Revanth Reddy claimed that the Centre had humiliated the Gandhi family by directing them to appear before Enforcement Directorate (ED).
He was speaking at a massive protest in front of the ED office at Basheerbagh. Prior to the protest, the activists marched from Indira Gandhi statue on PVNR Marg to Basheerbagh.
Congress leaders including Revanth Reddy, CLP leader Mallu Batti Vikramarka MLA D. Sridhar Babu and wore black scarves to protest against the ED serving notices on Congress president Sonia Gandhi and senior leader Rahul Gandhi in connection with the National Herald publications case.
Revanth Reddy said that the BJP had targeted the Gandhis. "Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union minister Amit Shah are mudslinging by having false cases registered against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The TPCC will protect the Gandhi family members," the TPCC chief said.
"In 1977, false cases were registered against Indira Gandhi and she was arrested. In 1980, people taught the Janata Party government a lesson and elected the Congress. A similar situation will arise in the country if the ED takes action on Sonia Gandhi," Revanth Reddy said.
Sources say that the ED was looking into the manner in which Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi were made directors in a new company Young Indian and how the loan of Associated Journals Limited (AJL) worth Rs 90.21 crore was written off for a paltry Rs 50 lakh once Young Indian came into existence.
Earlier, party leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal were questioned. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been called for questioning. and will appear before the ED once she recuperates.
Sources added that Rahul Gandhi has written down his answers under Section 50 of the PMLA Act. The ED is also looking into how the AJL equity shares were taken over by Young Indian.
In Delhi, where the Congress march was scheduled for 10 am, the Delhi Police started rounding up party workers and leaders. Speaking to reporters, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said, "For the last eight years, central agencies are continuously registered cases against leaders in Opposition...there is a continuous misuse of Central agencies to suppress us. This cannot happen under democracy which is getting strangled; we oppose this."
Kharge said, "This is nothing but politics. Had there been a legal point in this case, it would not have taken eight years for action. This is their [BJP] method of harassing people, but we will not be scared. We will continue to fight,"
Congress communications chief Randeep Singh Surjewala said, "A deadly attack was launched on Congress General Secretary Venugopal by the police. MP Shakti Sinh Gohil was attacked. Congress workers were beaten up. Thousands are in jail. Democracy has been trampled on. The country will not forgive the Modi government."
He added that glasses of former Union home minister and Rajya Sabha MP P. Chidambaram were thrown and he suffered a hairline fracture in his ribs. Rajya Sabha MP Pramod Tewari was thrown on the road and has a head injury as well as a broken rib.