News about the RGF taking funds from China has stirred a hornet’s nest, raising questions about the sanctity of the transaction and its impact on India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity
With so much coming into the public domain about donations to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) headed by Sonia Gandhi, the Congress has launched a counter-attack on the BJP but its attempts to turn this into a slugfest between the two main political parties is unlikely to bury some basic, worrying questions that have cropped up in the public mind.
To begin with, the Congress must explain why the RGF, which like the party is an enterprise of the Nehru-Gandhi family, took a donation from China — a nation that has spurned India’s hand of friendship and repeatedly challenged its territorial integrity for over seven decades. Even more shocking is the Congress’ reluctance to disclose the contents of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it entered into with the Communist Party of China (CCP) in 2008. The document was signed on behalf of the party by Rahul Gandhi, its general secretary, and by a CCP official in the presence of his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi and the then Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping. Despite mounting public demand, the Nehru-Gandhis are chary of releasing this MoU. What are they afraid of?
Posting a picture of the MoU signing ceremony, the noted lawyer, Mahesh Jethmalani, tweeted recently and said that it was imperative for the party to disclose the details “and get the guessing and insinuations over with.” More ominously (for the Congress), the lawyer noted that “China was and is in Indian law, an enemy country. The CCP is an enemy association. It supports the occupation of the Indian territory and lays claim to other areas. Any agreement/MoU with the CCP validates its stand and is an unlawful activity punishable under the UAPA.” He also suggested that a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe be ordered into possible offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Acts of 1976 and 2010.
This question becomes all the more relevant at a time when 20 Indian soldiers have laid down their lives while countering yet another attempted incursion by the Chinese in Ladakh recently. There is also a domestic angle to the scandal involving funds flowing into this family’s trust, which is even more appalling. This relates to the diversion of funds from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF), which is primarily meant to lend succour to the people in times of natural calamities to the RGF when the party headed the coalition that ran the Union Government from 2004 to 2014.
Apart from the Nehru-Gandhis, Manmohan Singh, who was the Prime Minister at that time, must explain how he allowed such gross misuse of public fund directly under his charge. He must also explain why so many Union Ministries, Government departments and public sector undertakings gave grants to the RGF when he was the Prime Minister.
The news about the donation from the Government of China to the Congress has stirred a hornet’s nest as it has raised questions about the sanctity of the transaction and its possible impact on India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity. The Congress, which was at the vanguard of the freedom movement, has for long enjoyed the trust and love of the people for the enormous sacrifices made by its leaders to secure the country’s freedom.
The sacrifices of Mahatma Gandhi, who was the party’s guiding light, Jawaharlal Nehru, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Vallabhbhai Patel, BR Ambedkar and thousands of others across the land were remembered with utmost reverence by the people in the initial decades after independence. However, this reverence began to fade away when, after the advent of Indira Gandhi, the party became a clone of a private limited company, which was tightly held by the Nehru-Gandhis and which allowed the family’s insecurities and pettiness to permeate its activities.
Consequently, they made India a de facto monarchy and with the help of courtiers in the media and academia, worked overtime to obliterate the contribution of great leaders outside this family.
This reached such vulgar proportions that every major Government scheme, public building, national institution, university, scholarship and sports event was named after members of this family. This exercise went to such shameful lengths that even Pygmalion Point, the southern-most point of India, was re-named Indira Point and a peak in the Himalayas was named Rajiv Peak. Union Ministers and State Chief Ministers vied with each other to please the family and went to such ridiculous lengths as to name a calf-rearing scheme in Haryana after India Gandhi and a breakfast scheme in Pondicherry and a jhopadpatti (slum) football tournament in Maharashtra after Rajiv Gandhi.
All this shows the smallmindedness of the family but since this exercise went unchecked for decades, the family has become so brazen as to take donations from an enemy country for the family-run trust.
The sense of entitlement of the family is such that Sonia Gandhi and not Manmohan Singh attended the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese played host to her, her son Rahul Gandhi, her daughter Priyanka and son-in-law Robert Vadra. Tweeting about this, Shobha Karandjale, MP, said, “This wasn’t just a mockery of the office of the Prime Minister but a subversion of India’s democratic system and ethos.”
Therefore, the unwillingness of the Congress to criticise China even after 20 Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives defending the country at Galwan must be seen in the light of this donation, the MoU and the red carpet laid out by the Chinese to the Nehru-Gandhis. Then, the jigsaw puzzle will fall in place.
There is seething anger in the country regarding the hegemonistic attitude of China and its perfidy after the signing of agreements vis-à-vis patrolling and other arrangements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) for maintenance of peace. The strong public sentiment will compel the Narendra Modi Government to take firm measures to defend the country’s territorial integrity, which the Prime Minister has firmly declared is “non-negotiable.” Unfortunately, the Congress is not lending him support. Why is it at odds with this national sentiment? Every Indian must ask this question and search for answers.
(The writer is an author specialising in democracy studies. Views expressed are personal.)