How Swamy uses the court system in his crusade against Sonia, Rahul
Dr Subramanian Swamy was not always dead set against the Nehru-Gandhi family. Indira Gandhi might have gone to great lengths to put him in prison during the Emergency, but he would end up representing her in border talks with China and later becoming very close to her son, Rajiv. Yet today he has become the great crusader against India’s first family, a pesky and determined litigant who somehow seems to be aware of all the skeletons rattling around their cupboards.
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On Thursday, a metropolitan magistrate in New Delhi summoned Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi in connection with a land-grabbing case that Swamy filed. Yet this is by no means the first case he has filed against them.
In 1999, when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was insistent that he did not want Swamy in his government, the IIT and Harvard-educated economist decided he was going to take on the National Democratic Alliance.
Swamy hosted a tea party at the Ashok hotel in New Delhi, inviting both All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief J Jayalalithaa and Sonia Gandhi. The two worked out a deal, and Jayalalithaa brought down the Vajpayee government. But Gandhi’s attempts at cobbling a government together then failed. Soon after this, Swamy fell out with both the Congress chief and Amma.
Since then, Swamy has placed his bets firmly on the right, leading the crusade against the perceived corruption of the Nehru-Gandhis. Some of his allegations have been rather wild: he’s claimed Sonia has tried to have him killed, that she blackmailed Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and that she had connections to the Soviet intelligence agency KGB. He does seem to believe them himself though; some of the wilder allegations have even made their way to into the legal petitions that Swamy has filed against the family.
National Herald Case
In 2011, Swamy filed a case alleging that the Congress party extended a loan by way of another company towards Associated Journals Pvt Limited, a company that had been set up by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937 that ran several newspapers, including the National Herald, once one of India’s better newspapers but defunct since 2008. Swamy argued that AJPL had been given a loan just so that the Congress party, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, could grab Herald House, a property that he claimed was worth Rs 1,600 crore.
The magistrate considered the “prima facie” evidence sufficient to establish a case against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others. They have now been summoned to appear in court on August 7.
Sonia’s False Degree
Sonia Gandhi’s background has always excited interest, because it is so atypical, but also because she rarely addresses it herself. The people of India know little about her life before she arrived on these shores. But questions about her educational qualifications have dogged her ever since she decided to assume public office.
In the early 2000s, Swamy attempted to prove in court that Sonia had lied in her election affidavit about her educational qualifications. He argued that Gandhi hadn’t received a diploma from Cambridge University, the prestigious university in the United Kingdom, as she claimed in her election affidavit, but from a school in the town of Cambridge. The Supreme Court decided in 2005 that Swamy’s petition to cancel her candidacy did not stand, but he did manage to get 10 Janpath to acknowledge that the word “university” was a typographical error.
Swamy later argued that Sonia Gandhi’s son, Rahul, also made errors about his education from the University of Cambridge on his election affidavit, including getting the course and dates wrong.
The Kataria Defamation
When Sonia Gandhi visited the United States in 2007, a trio of Hindu activists placed an advertisement in the New York Times criticising the Congress president for representing Mahatma Gandhi on International Non-Violence Day. The Indian National Overseas Congress filed a defamation suit against the activists, which was eventually dismissed by the US court.
The suit, however, prompted Swamy to deliver a lecture explaining to people how this was a fight for free speech and encouraged him to list out all of his allegations against Sonia Gandhi, in a lecture titled: “Do You Know Your Sonia Gandhi?”
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The Sanction Application
In 2011, Swamy filed an application to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him for permission to prosecute Sonia Gandhi under the Prevention of Corruption Act for a number of issues, including the Bofors scam, the Iraq Oil-for-food scandal, alleged tax havens and even being a benami insurance agent.
Although little came of his request, it was classic Swamy chutzpah, using an official channel – asking the prime minister to sanction the prosecution of his own party chief – as a way of bringing on record a number of allegations that would have otherwise remained just rumour.