There was a fierce fight between the Congress and the BJP in Parliament on Thursday over the National Herald case. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi termed the interrogation and searches by the ED as part of an “intimidation” strategy and said his party is not afraid of Narendra Modi. Congress leaders alleged that ED officials had sealed the part of the Herald House in Delhi from where the newspaper was being taken out, but ED sources said that as no person associated with the company was present. Only the office of Young Indian was locked.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge asked how the ED can issue summons to him when Parliament is in session. He alleged that the Center was trying to suppress the voice of the opposition. Commerce Minister and Leader of the House Piyush Goyal replied that the government does not interfere in the work of law enforcement officers. “Perhaps under their (Congress) regime, this used to happen,” Goyal said. Now if someone does something wrong then agencies will do their job. If a leader has been summoned, he should go. Law is equal for all.’
Kharge did not tell in the Rajya Sabha that he was not called for questioning by the ED. Since he was the CEO of Young Indian Limited, which owns Associated Journals Limited, he was summoned to the Herald House so that ED officials could continue their search in his presence.
Secondly, the office of Young Indian was not sealed. In fact, no person associated with the company was present in the Herald House at that time, so the ED had locked the office to keep the records and documents safe. Being the CEO of Young Indian Company, Kharge was called by the ED to the Herald House. Kharge went straight to the Herald House from Parliament, the lock was opened and searches continued for about 7 hours in his presence. After that Kharge came back. The ED officials showed him the documents seized during the search.
Rahul Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament, ‘This is an attempt to intimidate. They think that they will silence us by putting a little pressure, but we are not going to be silent. We will stand against what Narendra Modi ji, Amit Shah ji are doing against democracy in this country, no matter what they do. We don’t mind, we’re not going to be afraid. We are not afraid of Narendra Modi. Do what has to be done. Doesn’t matter. My job is to protect the country, protect democracy, maintain harmony in the country, that I will continue to do.
Whatever the occasion, whatever the issue, whatever the place, one of Rahul Gandhi’s fixed dialogues is, ‘I am not afraid of Modi, Modi cannot scare me’. But I think the way Rahul Gandhi left his Karnataka tour midway to reach Delhi, it tells a different story. Congress leaders are looking troubled and their fear is clearly visible.
I spoke to several officers, politicians and experts on the Companies Act and financial issues. I sent reporters to different cities to investigate the properties of Young Indian Company, owned by Rahul and Sonia Gandhi.
This gave me answers to many questions. A big question is that the National Herald newspaper belonged to the Congress, the company Associated Journals Limited belonged to the Congress, the party gave a loan to its own company, but what was the need to form another company to recover that debt?
The second question is whether the condition of the National Herald was really such that it had to take a loan, that too at a time when it had properties worth crores in all the cities? Was the condition of National Herald really not such that it was capable of repaying the loan of Rs 90 crore?
I sent my reporters to Lucknow, Bhopal, Mumbai and Panchkula to check the condition of properties owned by the National Herald. He found that the National Herald still had properties worth hundreds of crores.
Our correspondent Anurag Amitabh told that the land which was allotted to AJL in the name of National Herald in Bhopal, shops were sold by making shopping complex on that land. In fact, in 1981, in Bhopal’s MP Nagar Press Complex, more than one acre of land was given to the National Herald on a 30-year lease at the rate of Re 1 per square feet.
The lease was to end in 2011, but before that, a commercial complex was built on this plot and shops were sold. When the process of taking possession of the property by canceling the lease started, along with the National Herald, those shopkeepers who have bought shops here also went to the court, and the matter is currently in the court. The publications of National Herald, Navjeevan and Qaumi Awaaz in Bhopal were closed in 1992 itself. The newspaper was not printed for the last 30 years, but AJL’s possession of the property meant for printing the newspaper remained intact.
Madhya Pradesh minister Kailash Sarang alleged that the Congress has misled both the state government and the common people. State Urban Development Minister Bhupendra Singh said, Congress has violated the terms of the lease agreement and action will be taken. He said the role of the officials involved would also be probed.
Congress MP Vivek Tankha said that there would hardly be any media house which would not have given the property built on the land acquired from the government on rent, would not have used it commercially. “There is nothing wrong in that,” he said. National Herald is being targeted because the government unnecessarily wants to harass Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, nothing else.
It is true that the newspapers build buildings on the land they get from the state governments and give some part of it on rent. There is nothing wrong with this because it is not easy to take out a newspaper, it is difficult to carry it. So if the commercial use of the property helps in running the newspaper, then there is nothing wrong with it. But the first condition is that the newspaper should come out, the newspaper should be published, it should reach the people. In Bhopal, the publication of National Herald and Navjeevan was closed in 1992 itself. In such a situation, the question arises that for whose benefit the property was sold as a shopping complex? Where did the money I got go to?
It is not that the property was sold only in Bhopal, let me show you the picture of Mumbai. The land was given in Bandra East, the prime location for the National Herald newspaper in Mumbai. This land is near Western Expressway. In 1983, there was a Congress government in Maharashtra, and this land was allotted by the Chief Minister of the state, Abdul Rehman Antulay. As of today, the value of this land is more than Rs 300 crore. Now a big building is ready on this land and the cost of this entire property is more than Rs 500 crore. This property has been let out on 2 floors, and tenants are being sought for the rest of the floors.
This land in Bandra East was found in the name of National Herald, but there is no name of the newspaper here too. On the other hand, the company is getting rent of about Rs 15 lakh per month. The rent is calculated at Rs 5,000 per square foot, and the carpet area of each floor is 6,500 square feet. AJL Company has awarded contract to a multinational company JLL Real Estate to take up this building on rent. There was this ‘Available for Rent’ board outside the building, but as soon as India TV’s camera team approached the building, some people came and removed the board.
The company which has a property of Rs 500 crore only in Mumbai, in lieu of non-payment of loan of Rs 90 crore, all the property of that company should be handed over to another company in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have 76 percent shares, So what would you call it?
There is Herald House in Lucknow, in which a large shopping complex was also built, but the matter got worse before all its shops could be sold or rented. In 1938, Jawaharlal Nehru started the publication of National Herald, Navjeevan and Qaumi Awaaz newspapers from the Kaiserbagh area of Lucknow. The newspapers continued to come out till 1999, but after that these three newspapers stopped printing. That is, the newspaper has not been published for almost 23 years. Our correspondent Ruchi Kumar went to the Herald House complex in Lucknow, where the administration had stopped work. Now the condition of this shopping complex is bad. A beer shop has also been opened in the complex along with 6 other shops.
Our reporter spoke to the shop owners. The shopkeepers said that they had bought shops from AJL in 2007 and the chairman of the company was Motilal Vora. The shop was registered with his authorization letter. There were also some shopkeepers who had taken shops on rent. He has also said that the rent of the shop goes directly to the bank account of AJL. Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said, ‘Which company is it today which brings out only newspapers from its building? Running a newspaper is a very expensive job. If there are no additional sources of income, it will be difficult to get a newspaper.
These three newspapers have not been published for the last 23 years, but how can it be justified to make shops and sell them on rent to run the newspaper? The newspaper ceased to be printed in 1999, and the shops were sold in 2007. In whose pocket did the money go?
In 2005, when Bhupinder Singh Hooda was the Chief Minister of Haryana, he gave a plot of about 3,500 square meters to The Associate Journal Limited in Sector-6, Panchkula. It is a posh location, opposite the police headquarters. A magnificent building has been built here, but not a single newspaper is published here. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that his government will get the matter investigated.
Now let us try to understand step by step how the assets of AJL were given to Young Indian owned by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Associated Journals Limited ie AJL was formed in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru to run a newspaper named National Herald. From 1999 to 2008, all publications of the National Herald were closed due to huge losses. The Congress, which was then in power at the Centre, started trying to run it. It was learned that Congress had given a loan of Rs 90 crore to AJL, and it could not repay it. After this AJL sold all its shares to Young Indian Company for Rs 50 lakh. Young Indian became the owner of properties worth over Rs 3,000 crore belonging to AJL.
When the Congress leaders were asked questions, they gave a very straightforward answer. Only Motilal Vora knew about the dealings between AJL and Young Indian, whatever transactions took place. Now if Motilal Vora is no more in the world, then who will tell what to whom? The second thing was said from the Congress side that Young Indian is a no profit company under section 25, it did not benefit Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi even a single rupee.
The question arose that if there was no profit then why did Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi form the company? Even if it was created, why did it take the ownership of National Herald? If National Herald has properties worth Rs 3,000 crore in different cities, then who will benefit from this transaction? Experts say that those who have shares, they will also have control of the property. If the control is with Young Indian and 76 per cent of its shares are with Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, then who will benefit? All these things are subject to investigation.
Personally I feel that being the major political party fighting the freedom struggle, and ruling the country for 60 years, there was no need for Congress to do things like buying companies, lending. All this is not the work of one political party. Now neither Motilal Vora nor Oscar Fernandez is there, that is why so many questions were raised on Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, which Congress has to answer. (Rajat Sharma)
Watch: Full Episode of ‘Aaj Ki Baat With Rajat Sharma’ on August 04, 2022
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