NEW DELHI, Dec 8 - The National Herald case today created a political storm with the Congress paralysing Parliament, accusing the Government of �political vendetta� against its leaders, a charge strongly denied by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who asked Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to face the trial.
Asserting that the Congress party and its leaders have a lot to answer for, Jaitley dared them for a debate on the matter in Parliament instead of disrupting it tomorrow.
A day after the Delhi High Court dismissed the plea of the Gandhis and others for the quashing of summons in the Herald case, Congress members forced repeated adjournments in both Houses of Parliament, shouting slogans against the Government. No business could be transacted before the final adjournment a little after 3 pm.
Meanwhile, a local court today gave the Gandhis and four other accused exemption from personal appearance today, but asked them to be present on December 19 when the case will be heard.
After a strategy meeting at the Parliament House before the start of proceedings, Sonia Gandhi said, �I am the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. I am not scared of anyone. I am not disturbed.�
She invoked the legacy of the late Prime Minister when she was asked to comment on a Union minister�s comment �why is she afraid of facing the court.�
Speaking in Cuddalore, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said he �absolutely� saw �political vendetta,� alleging that the Centre thinks it can stop him from asking questions. �That is not going to happen. This is the way the Central Government functions. I absolutely see a political vendetta,� he said.
Later, speaking to reporters in Chennai, Rahul Gandhi dared the Government to do �whatever they want to do,� but he would not back off an inch. �I have said before they will do what they will. I will do my job in the Opposition job which is to ask questions from the Government. I am not afraid of these things. I will not back off even an inch. Let them do whatever they want to do,� he said.
In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said it is painful to see the �atmosphere of political vendetta� in the country where the ruling party seems all out to make an �Opposition-free India� for the last over one-and-a-half-years.
Rejecting Azad�s allegation, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, �This Government has not done any illegal action against anyone... In case of Congress leaders, it is not the action of the Government but that of the judiciary...Court has summoned them and not the Government. Give your reply to them.�
Contending that there was �misrepresentation of facts,� he said, �The Government is ready for any discussion... There are serious allegations on Congress leaders.�
Jaitley said such practices were done by the Congress earlier and the Government was ready to discuss this issue immediately as it wanted to place the facts before Parliament and before the country.
Soon after the Houses were adjourned for the day, Jaitley spoke to the media, attacking the Congress for its tactics of stalling. He asked Sonia and Rahul to face the courts, saying India is not a banana republic in which the Parliament or media can decide the guilt or innocence in such matters.
�No political vendetta. A private complaint was lodged. Government had nothing to do with it. The High Court has dismissed their case and asked them to go and face trial. Nobody in this country has immunity from law. They can challenge the orders in a higher court or face proceedings,� he said.
Jaitley said the substance of the court proceedings is that a political party, Congress, collects funds for political purpose, gets tax exemption but by a series of transactions those funds have been transferred to a trust and then to a company, which is closely held.
That company today is owner of real estate, getting lot of rents. Funds collected for a political activity were used for a commercial purpose. Tax exemptions are for political activity, he said.
A number of other ministers including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Jitender Singh, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Nirmala Sitharaman attacked the Congress leadership over disrupting of Parliament, while the Congress fielded three of its senior leaders and lawyers � Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Singhvi and Randeep Surjewala � who insisted that the government and the BJP wanted a �Congress-mukt Bharat�, and hence, such cases against Congress leaders were being pushed. � PTI