Sonia Gandhi appears before ED

Congress, Opposition parties express solidarity through march, joint statement

July 21, 2022 05:10 pm | Updated July 22, 2022 09:55 am IST - New Delhi:

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra leave the Enforcement Directorate office in New Delhi on July 21, 2022.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra leave the Enforcement Directorate office in New Delhi on July 21, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday, to be questioned in connection with a money laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper, turned into a show of strength with party leaders and workers hitting the streets and courting arrests as part of the country-wide protests.

In Delhi, Congress MPs took out a symbolic march from Parliament to highlight the ‘political vendetta’ and ‘misuse’ of central agencies against political rivals. “All Congress MPs and Congress Working Committee members have courted mass arrest outside our party headquarters in a show of collective solidarity with Sonia Gandhi, a target of ‘Vishguru’s’ political vendetta,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said after the march.

Supporters of Congress party shout slogans as they protest outside the party headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday.

Supporters of Congress party shout slogans as they protest outside the party headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Expressing solidarity with the Congress chief, leaders of 12 political parties (including the DMK, Shiv Sena and RJD) met at Parliament House and issued a joint statement accusing the Narendra Modi government of unleashing a “relentless campaign of vendetta against its political opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies”.

Trinamool Congress and Aam Admi Party leaders, however, skipped the floor leader’s meeting and were not signatories to the joint statement.

After an inquiry that lasted little more than two hours, Ms. Gandhi is set to appear before them again on July 25, for a second round of questioning.

Security personnel detain Assam Pradesh Youth Congress president Ankita Dutta during a nationwide protest in Guwahati on Thursday.

Security personnel detain Assam Pradesh Youth Congress president Ankita Dutta during a nationwide protest in Guwahati on Thursday. | Photo Credit: PTI

Accompanied by her children, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Congress chief arrived at the ED headquarters a little after noon. The questioning began around 12:30 p.m. and Ms. Gandhi left the ED office along with her daughter around 2.30 p.m.

The questioning was conducted following strict COVID protocol, with every participant carrying a COVID-negative certificate. An ambulance and two doctors from All India Institute of Medical Sciences were also stationed on the premises and Ms. Vadra was allowed to stay back at the headquarters to attend to any of her mother’s medical needs.

Ms Gandhi was questioned by the same assistant director-level investigation officer who interrogated her son in the case related to alleged financial irregularities in the Congress-promoted Young Indian Private Limited, which owns National Herald. A female officer was also part of the questioning team.

Congress party workers protesting against the Enforcement Directorate questioning their leader Sonia Gandhi in a money laundering case in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

Congress party workers protesting against the Enforcement Directorate questioning their leader Sonia Gandhi in a money laundering case in Ahmedabad on Thursday. | Photo Credit: AP

There are different theories as to why the inquiry with Ms. Gandhi’s was much shorter than the meetings with her son, which went on for 9-10 hours every day for five days. While news reports quoting ED sources suggested that the agency wound up the questioning early at Ms. Gandhi’s request as she had to take medicines at home after recently recovering from COVID-19, the Congress brushed it off as “fake news plant” and asserted that she was allowed to leave as the agency had no more questions for her.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Mr. Ramesh said that ED officials had earlier told Ms. Gandhi to return after lunch; however, when she was preparing to leave for lunch at 2.20 p.m., she was told there was no need to come back. Though Ms. Gandhi offered to return and continue with the inquiry for as long as it took, officials said that their doctor was not available in the afternoon and the ED would be busy with a court issue the next day, he added.

Congress leaders and supporters took out a huge rally obstructing traffic on the busy P.V. Narasimha Rao Marg in Hyderabad on Thursday.

Congress leaders and supporters took out a huge rally obstructing traffic on the busy P.V. Narasimha Rao Marg in Hyderabad on Thursday. | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

Trouble reaches Parliament

Parliament sessions were disrupted after Congress MPs staged a walkout from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, alleging political vendetta and misuse of agencies.

With tempers running high, Union minister Pralhad Joshi asked whether the Opposition party believes everyone is equal before the law or not. “Is she (Ms. Gandhi) some ‘super human’ because she is the Congress president?” he asked.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the ED is not higher than the Supreme Court, asking “What is that the ED wants to ‘investigate’ that will not be examined by the SC?”

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