Delhi court grants Gandhis bail in corruption case

Mrs Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul are accused of illegally using party funds to acquire assets of the National Herald newspaper.
Mrs Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul are accused of illegally using party funds to acquire assets of the National Herald newspaper.PHOTO: REUTERS

Top Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul were granted bail by a Delhi court yesterday in a corruption case that has become the latest source of trouble for the opposition party.

Mrs Gandhi and her son, party president and vice-president respectively, are accused by Mr Subramanian Swamy, leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), of illegally using party funds to acquire assets of the National Herald newspaper. The paper was set up in 1938 by India's first premier Jawaharlal Nehru, Mr Gandhi's great- grandfather, and folded in 2008.

Yesterday, the Gandhis - who were on the board of Young Indian which acquired the paper in 2010 - appeared in court along with four other accused amid tight security. They were granted bail of 50,000 rupees (S$1,065) each.

"I went (to court) with a clean heart like any law-abiding citizen. This is an assault by the opposition," said Mrs Gandhi after the hearing. The Gandhis belong to the Gandhi-Nehru clan that has given India three prime ministers and is considered India's top political dynasty.

This is the first time that Mrs Gandhi and her son have been charged over impropriety or corruption although several graft scandals had surfaced during the last government run by the Congress, which was ousted from power last year.

The case has hit the party at a time when it is trying to revive its political fortunes. It was recently part of an alliance of regional parties that defeated the BJP in Bihar state.

The Congress strategy, however, has been to accuse the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had promised a "Gandhi-free India", of political vendetta.

"I respect the law. Modiji is making a false allegation and thinks the opposition will bend. I want to tell everyone I - and the Congress party - will not bend, we will fight," said Mr Gandhi yesterday.

But the BJP dismissed the allegation, saying the case was a legal matter that had nothing to do with it.

Political analysts said the case would remain a problem for the Gandhi family. "In the short term, they are going through a bad phase and they are losing the battle of perception," said Rashid Kidwai, journalist and author of books on the Congress party . "I think in the long term, it will not hurt the Gandhis because it is a case that is difficult to prove and it is technical in nature."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'Delhi court grants Gandhis bail in corruption case'. Print Edition | Subscribe