New Delhi: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been named in an Enforcement Directorate chargesheet—for the first time—over the alleged purchase and sale of five acres of land in Haryana. Her husband, businessman Robert Vadra, is also named, but neither is listed as an “accused,” sources told NDTV Thursday morning.
The chargesheet was filed against CC Thampi, an NRI businessman, and Sumit Chadha, a British national of Indian origin. The ED believes they helped fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, who is accused of violating the Official Secrets Act, among other laws, hide the proceeds of his crimes.
The agency, often accused of acting against opposition leaders on orders from the centre – has referred to Ms Gandhi Vadra’s transactions with HL Pahwa, a Delhi-based real estate agent who sold her agricultural land in Faridabad in 2006 and, four years later, re-purchased the same tract.
In addition, ED sources told NDTV that a house was allegedly purchased in Ms. Gandhi Vadra’s name in Faridabad’s Amipur village in April 2006 and sold back to Mr. Pahwa at the same time as the land.
Mr. Pahwa is the same agent from whom Robert Vadra allegedly bought 40.8 acres of land in Amipur between 2005 and 2006 and sold it all back to him in December 2010. A similar deal – for 486 acres was executed by Mr Thampi, out on bail after his arrest in 2020. The ED had named Mr. Vadra, who the agency claims have a “long and thick relationship”, with Mr Thampi – in earlier chargesheets.
Mr. Vadra has been previously questioned by the ED in other cases and has denied all wrongdoing, but this is the first time the Congress leader’s husband has been named in this particular case.
Ms Gandhi Vadra has not reacted so far, but senior Congress leaders have, including Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and the party’s Maharashtra boss, Nana Patole.
In a swipe at the ruling BJP, which is accused of using central agencies like the ED to target opposition leaders, Mr Sukhu said “names of several leaders are attached with ED right before Lok Sabha elections.”. Mr Patole said the ED naming Ms Gandhi Vadra showed “BJP is… scared of Congress”.
“The British were scared of Gandhi then and, even today, the central government is scared of the Gandhi family… BJP is trying to divert people from the real issues,” he told news agency ANI.
The Congress’ Pawan Khera, in Nagpur – where the party will launch its campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha election – accused the BJP of creating “conspiracies when elections approach.”.
“Look at what they do ahead of elections.. this is just the beginning. They are not doing it for the first time… they do such conspiracies when elections approach. Let them do conspiracies,” he said.
The Aam Aadmi Party, a member of the Congress-led INDIA opposition bloc, hit out at the ED for “continuously taking action against opposition leaders”. AAP spokesperson Priyanka Kakkar said, “The law is ‘guilty until proven innocent’ for opposition and ‘innocent until proven guilty’ for the country…”
Congress’ Big Changes Before 2024 Lok Sabha Polls
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was at the center of a major organizational reshuffle in the Congress last week; she was replaced by Avinash Pandey, as the General Secretary in-Charge of Uttar Pradesh, a politically significant state as the party preps for the Lok Sabha election due in less than four months.
Ms Gandhi Vadra remains the Congress’ General Secretary but “without any assigned portfolio”, fueling speculation she will finally make her electoral debut.
Earlier this month sources told NDTV that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is on a very short list of political heavyweights—the others are Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal—who may be fielded against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in UP’s Varanasi, seen as a particularly impregnable BJP stronghold.
With inputs from NDTV
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)