New Delhi: The Congress Thursday said Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge’s summoning by Enforcement Directorate during the working hours of Parliament was an “insult” to the legislature and alleged that “Modishahi” is reaching a new low.
The opposition party also said its MPs will march to the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Friday at 11 am to meet President Droupadi Murmu and raise the issue of the prevailing economic situation in the country. The Congress has planned a mass protest against price rise, unemployment and the GST hike on essential items on August 5, wherein it will take out a march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and ‘gherao’ the prime minister’s residence.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh raised the issue of summoning of Kharge by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), saying he was called by the probe agency when Parliament is in session and he left around 12:20 pm and presented himself.
“This is Modishahi reaching new lows,” Ramesh tweeted.
Later in the day, Ramesh said Kharge had been undergoing interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for the last four-and-a-half hours. “His ordeal is continuing. The Congress party stands with him in solidarity,” he said.
“Mallikarjun Kharge was supposed to be hosting a dinner for common Opposition candidate for Vice President Smt Margaret Alva at 7:30 pm today. And he is still with ED. This is height of political vendetta by Modi Sarkar!,” he said in another tweet.
Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “Hats off to Kharge ji. ED people you must know that the party stalwart Kharge ji can not be frightened into submission. It will be your futile exercise. We are all expressing steadfastly our solidarity with him, come what may!”
Speaking with the media, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said that summoning of the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha by a probe agency during parliamentary proceedings had never happened in the history of democracy.
The attack by the opposition party came after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) resumed its raids at the office of Young Indian (YI), the holding company of Congress owned newspaper National Herald, following Kharge presenting himself before agency officials at the Herald House building here.
Kharge, 80, reached the building at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg near ITO around 12:40 pm and met ED officials on the summons of the agency, which sought his attendance during the raids at YI in his capacity of being the principal officer of the company.
“There is no such example in the history of democracy. If they had to call Mallikarjun Kharge ji, they could have called him before 11 am or after 5 pm. The Question Hour was going on and before that Zero Hour was there and then ED is calling him to appear before it,” Singh said.
“Why is Modi ji scared? Inflation has increased, you can see for yourself. We are fighting your battle. Tomorrow at 11 am all MPs will meet the President to say that the finance minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) is not acquainted with the economic condition of the country,” he said.
Another Rajya Sabha MP Pramod Tiwari said Kharge was summoned when he was to speak in Rajya Sabha.
“Two days before vice presidential polls, he was called and the ED was misused. This is not just insult of the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha but of the Constitution, traditions on which Rajya Sabha functions and of the entire legislature,” Tiwari said.
Congress MP Rajiv Shukla termed as “highly condemnable” the summoning of Kharge while he was in the House.
“When he was about to speak in Rajya Sabha, he got the notice for summoning. This is uncalled for, undemocratic and it has never happened when the House is functioning,” Shukla said.
Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan said the manner in which Kharge was summoned during Parliament proceedings was “unprecedented in democracy”.
“This shows they want to shut the voice of the Opposition. This is an insult not just to the Leader of Opposition but to Parliament. Only a dictator can run the government like this,” she said.
Congress leader Jebi Mather said what happened with Kharge should be marked as a “black chapter of democracy”.
The federal agency had put a temporary seal at the single-room office of the YI, located on the ground floor of the four-storey Herald House building, to “preserve evidence” as it could not search it during the last two days because it was locked and authorised representatives were not available.
The searches at YI office which were on hold will be carried out now and any possible evidence available will be collected, officials said.
The office of the National Herald newspaper and web portal, where the editorial and administrative staff work, is located on the fourth floor of the Herald House building. The newspaper is published by Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) and YI is its holding company. The newspaper office is registered in the name of AJL.
The ED had on Tuesday launched raids at a dozen locations, including at the Herald House, as part of its ongoing money laundering probe in the National Herald-AJL-Young Indian deal.
The agency also had carried out the high-profile questioning of Congress president Sonia Gandhi (in July) and her MP son Rahul Gandhi (in June) in this case at its headquarters in Delhi, apart from that of Kharge and Pawan Bansal in April.