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Satya Pal Singh. August 8. 2014. Sonia: Heralding Greed

Editorial. Satya Pal Singh. VIII. V. XIV


Sonia: Heralding Greed After Death?


Satya Pal Singh-fnbworld  By Satya Pal Singh




Corruption at highest-level in Congress party-fnbworld


        Sonia Gandhi: Haunted by Herald HouseSubramanian Swamy: A tormenter? - fnbworld


If the National Herald case involving the Gandhis is probed under the stringent Prevention of Money Laundering Act, they will be hauled up for abusing political power as the escape routes for them would be too narrow for any respectable exit this time. The Gandhi family, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Sonia Gandhi, had run National Herald and its sister publications, Navjivan and Quami Awaz, as family fiefdoms. All famous, succeeding family scions facilitated their truncated publications, far removed from standard journalistic offerings.  

Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are now visibly tense as they have failed to get stay order from Delhi High Court against a lower court's decision to summon them on a complaint filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who alleged that the Gandhis and four others fraudulently acquired assets worth 2,000 crore. He complained that the Gandhis formed a company, called Young Indian, in 2010 with 38% share each to take control of the assets of Associated Journals Private Ltd (AJPL), the publishers of National Herald and its sister publications. 

The Gandhis petitioned the High Court against the lower court's order, saying Swamy's private criminal complaint against them was a political vendetta. But Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha found a prime facie case vis-a-vis Swamy's complaint, in which he accused the six of cheating, criminal breach of trust, dishonest misappropriation of property and criminal conspiracy in allegedly acquiring properties of the Herald group. Following the Gandhis' petition, the High Court also sent notice to the BJP leader and hearing has been fixed for today. Swamy was served with notice hours after the Enforcement Directorate began a preliminary inquiry to establish whether or not a case stands.

Swamy's complaint mentions that the two Gandhis hold 76 per cent of the total equity (38% shares each) in the company, while Congress treasurer Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandez hold the remaining 24%. The fact is that if any person or group holds more than 74 per cent of a company’s equity, the company can be virtually administered without caring for other shareholders. So, Young Indian becomes a private enterprise of the Gandhis that is directly controlled by the mother-son duo. Then, possibly in dubious manner, they acquired and controlled APJL, a well-endowed entity in terms of assets, which was set up by eminent Congress leaders in 1938 with the object of publishing class newspapers and Nehru was appointed its president.

And how was AJPL acquired?  On February 26, 2011, the board of AJPL passed a resolution, approving unsecured loans from All India Congress Committee (AICC) for zero interest rate to write off the liability of the company of more than Rs 90 crore. Here the question arises: Can a political party give loans to any company? Then, quite surprisingly, the board also thought it fit to decide that in lieu of the deal with AICC, all nine crore AJPL shares of Rs 10 each would go to the Gandhis' private company, Young Indian.

The factual position here is that by 2008 Rahul Gandhi became a shareholder in AJPL, but one is perplexed to note why as a responsible politician, who stood nominated for prime ministership, he did not disclose this in his sworn affidavit filed as a Lok Sabha nominee for the 2009 poll. Instead, he chose to declare as ‘Nil’ his shares in AJPL against his actual holding of three lakh shares. Is it not a clear case of perjury ?

By virtue of its professed object, APJL acquired long back, from Central and state governments, high-value real estate properties in Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, Indore, Haryana, and several places in Uttar Pradesh. The company built massive offices, mainly from public donations, for publication of newspapers. So the company, it's alleged, was treated by the Gandhis as "public enterprise.” But soon, AJPL’s mission of publishing newspapers ended in fiasco. All the three newspapers ran in terrible losses by the 1970s. There was no money even to pay wages to the staff. Worker strikes forced the owners to close the operations in a lock-out. 

The shareholders’ list too got depleted by "death, alienation, or sale, and thus AJPL came fully into the grip of the Nehru dynasty, with Motilal Vora remaining its president... Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Feroze Gandhi, G D Birla and other noted deceased persons were shown as "current" shareholders. In fact, 80% of the original shareholders are dead now. So too many of the defunct firms, including several companies having dubious addresses in Kolkata, are shown as AJPL's shareholders."


Then, if the offence was committed, was it not due to the Gandhis' "crony control" over the Congress and the company ? Closing AJPL due to financial crisis and stopping printing of the three newspapers due to heavy unpaid debts,  could be understood, but how could the share equity be transferred to Young Indian by a mere payment of Rs 50 lakhs without the shareholders' consent ? Why was it made so convenient for the owners of Young Indian to acquire complete ownership also of AJPL and its assets, including a multi-storey building in a prime location of the Capital ? These, and perhaps many more questions, that would crop up during court proceedings, would have to be answered by the Gandhis... Quite reminiscent of Robert Vadra's massive hunt for easy money, facilitated through the beneficence of Congress rulers in Haryana and Rajasthan, which a gutsy babu like Ashok Khemka chose to expose and, in the process, suffered public disgrace and internal torture.

When Yashpal Kapoor was National Herald's managing director in early eighties, and incidentally I was the news editor, salaries to staff used to be disbursed only after bagfuls of notes bounteously checked into the Herald House, courtesy AICC and possibly, also the chief ministers of Congress-ruled states. The irony is that the newspaper, which Nehru thought would greatly help keep public mood in good humour from the Congress point of view through its pro-party writings, ever remained in ICU under the supervision of politicians who never cared even for its regularity, what to talk of excellence, something that comes with objectivity, strict professional standards and discipline. 

Except for the short period under eminent editor late Chalapathi Rao, National Herald remained under suspended animation. Surprisingly, even the Congress leaders didn't find time to go through its columns. The result was an ignominious life-after-death existence for the newspaper and a sharply noticeable discredit visible on the broad faces of the driving politicos. It's a miserable saga of the fall of an ill-conceived institution and also of a voluntary fall of a top leadership that chose to downgrade itself for the sake of greed and arrogated opulence!


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