‘Treated like terrorists’, says Cong as cops surround party HQ, Sonia, Rahul residences

Earlier, the ED sealed the office of Young Indian Ltd at the Herald House, which also houses the editorial office of the National Herald newspaper

Congress ED
As Delhi police was deployed around the party headquarters and residences of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, the Congress said the Centre was indulging in the “worst form of political vendetta and intimidation”. Pic: Twitter

As Delhi police deployed a huge detachment of personnel outside the Congress party headquarters at Delhi’s 24, Akbar Road, and the residences of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday (August 3), the Grand Old Party accused the Centre of indulging in the “worst form of political vendetta and intimidation”.

The huge deployment of cops began shortly before 5 pm, after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) sealed the office of Young Indian Ltd (YIL) at the Herald House, situated on Delhi Bahadur Shah Zafar Road, which also houses the editorial office of the National Herald newspaper.

Also read: A step-by-step explanation of the National Herald case

YIL, a company that has among its directors and office bearers Sonia and Rahul Gandhi along with other senior party leaders, has been under the ED’s lens in what has come to be known popularly as the National Herald case. It is the ED’s case that YIL took over Associated Journals Ltd, which runs the National Herald newspaper, as part of a plan by the Gandhis to seize control of AJL-owned assets worth over Rs 800 crore while evading payment of tax on income accrued from these assets.

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The ED had visited the YIL office at Herald House on Tuesday and Wednesday to carry out search and seizure in the National Herald case, in which both Sonia and Rahul have appeared before the agency for several rounds of questioning. Sources in the ED, however, claimed that the agency’s search and seizure team could not carry out its operation at the YIL office in Herald House because Congress veteran Mallikarjun Kharge, the principal officer authorised to have the search and seizure conducted, had refused to be present for the operation on both days.

Also read: Under siege, says Cong after ED seals Young Indian office in Herald House

Kharge, who was attending the Rajya Sabha proceedings in his capacity as Leader of Opposition when the YIL office was “temporarily sealed”, told The Federal that he had not prevented the ED from conducting any operation. “These are all lies. If they ask me to be present for the operation, I will be present. I, along with my colleague Pawan Bansal (Congress Treasurer), had gone to the Herald House yesterday when the search was being conducted… our party president and former party president had also submitted themselves for several days of unnecessary questioning when they were summoned. There is no question of not cooperating. I was in the Rajya Sabha today and got to know that they have sealed the office,” Kharge told The Federal.

Watch: The Federal News Sense Episode 3 | National Herald under 30 mins

As police teams began barricading the area and surrounding the Congress office and residences of Sonia and Rahul, there were speculations that the ED could send a team to the party headquarters too. Congress leaders said that the police deployment was unrelated to the National Herald case and was being done with the “sole purpose to intimidate us and prevent us from carrying out our scheduled protest outside the Prime Minister’s residence and the planned protest march from Parliament to the Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 5 on issues of rising prices, unemployment and the recent hike in GST rates.”

The Congress had, last week, declared that it would conduct a nationwide protest on the issues of price rise, unemployment and the recent hike/application of GST rates on essential items such as curd, rice and milk. As part of the drive, Congress MPs and AICC office bearers in Delhi had planned to protest outside the Prime Minister’s 7, Lok Kalyan Marg residence and conduct a protest march from Parliament to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In the states, the Congress has planned to gherao Raj Bhavans.

Congress general secretary Ajay Maken told reporters that on Wednesday morning the party received a letter from the Delhi police informing that permission for the August 5 protests had been denied. Delhi police sources confirmed to The Federal that such a letter was indeed sent to the “concerned office bearer of the Congress party because Section 144 had been imposed across the different parts of Lutyen’s Delhi in view of the ongoing session of Parliament”.

Maken, however, asserted that the clampdown at the party headquarters and the residences of Sonia and Rahul was “only to prevent us from exercising our democratic right to protest on issues of national and public interest such as rising prices, unemployment and GST on food items”. The Congress general secretary said: “We want to tell this government, you can put whatever pressure you want, intimidate us as much as you want, but we will carry out our protests… if you want, you can arrest us, jail us for speaking up on issues of the people.”

Congress communication department chief Jairam Ramesh, who had tweeted that the party was “under siege” shortly after the police deployment began outside 24, Akbar Road, told reporters, “the entire country is watching the way the Delhi police has surrounded the Congress headquarters and the residences of our president Sonia Gandhi and former president Rahul Gandhi… This is politics of vendetta, intimidation.”

Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the Congress’s pointsman for all legal issues, hit out at the BJP-led Centre, saying there was on display “a siege mentality in the heart of the capital of the world’s largest democracy… there are platoons everywhere and for what – the sole object of this exercise is humiliation, insult and intimidation at one level and diversion, digression and sensationalism at the other… They (the BJP) don’t want the nation, the media to talk about price rise, unemployment and GST hike but about how police gheraoed (the Congress office) or stopped demonstrations.”

Singhvi accused the Centre of treating the Congress and its leadership “as terrorists” and said this was the “worst form of petty politics” being applied by the Modi regime. “These are the actions of a frustrated political regime… you can try and suppress as much as you like but you will receive a resilience and a reaction which is completely democratic and for the world to see… all law, sense of decency, sense of democratic balance has been thrown to the winds,” he  added.

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