Sibal: Duty of Treasury Benches to run Parliament

Neelu Vyas

In an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV, senior Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal accused the BJP of floating myths about the Gandhi family in the National Herald case.

Hinting at a direct political vendetta Sibal says that Subramanian Swamy and the NDA government were working in tandem with the sole objective of maligning the Gandhi family.

He completely dismissed the allegation that Associated Journal Limited (AJL) owned property worth crores. Sibal has said that the only asset owned by AJL is the property in Lucknow hence there is no question of criminality, or conflict of interest involved in the case.

On the political front he regretted the attitude of the government which was firm on harassing Congressmen across the nation.

On being asked why the Opposition was not allowing the House to function, he said that it was the job of the Treasury Benches to take the agenda forward and create an environment of cooperation.

Here are some excerpts from the interview

On the issue of National Herald, why was the subsidiary Young India Ltd formed? And was there a breach of conspiracy as one of the complainants Subramanian Swamy has alleged? 

What’s the conspiracy? There are three myths in this case on the basis of which an act of criminality has been alleged. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and even Mr Swamy have not been able to tell the country how Congress giving a loan to Associated Journals Limited (which was running National Herald) amounts to criminality. They have not been able to tell under what law it is said to be criminal.

Is there a criminality?

AJL is like a subsidiary of Young Indian. But Young Indian does not own AJL’s assets. If some income comes to AJL, it will be in the account of AJL and the shareholders of YIL will not get any benefits from it. Not a single paisa has been taken by the YIL shareholders. It’s just that the aims and objects of the National Herald were similar to that of the Congress party. Naturally, then when AJL went into bad days, the Congress gave it a loan to revive the National Herald.

Are you hinting that Mr Swamy and the Centre are working in tandem as far as this case is concerned?

Do you think there’s any doubt in that! Mr Swamy tweets and states in public before anything official has happened, that Young Indian will get notices from the Income Tax Department. How does he know all this? Obviously, all of them are working in tandem.

kapil sibal with neelu

There is also another view which is, if AJL was running in losses they could have sold off their assets

Which assets? AJL owns only one asset and that is the property in Lucknow. Other than that, all the other properties are leased properties with a condition attached that they cannot be sold. Thus, the whole valuation of 2000 crores is another myth by Dr Swamy because in the balance sheet of AJL, its net worth was negative. All this is politics – Dr Swamy’s and BJP’s visceral hatred for the Congress and part of the agenda of a Congress-mukt Bharat.

Is there a plan to revive the National Herald?

Yes, we will. We are committed to reviving it.

Congress stalling the Parliament because of a legal case…Is that justified?

As far as legal battles are concerned we will fight them legally. But there is also a political battle to be fought, which we will fight in the Parliament. This political battle is the result of the attitude of the present government towards the Congress party.

There is a perception that the Congress is trying to seek some kind of martyrdom or victimhood because of the National Herald Case?

Why should we seek martyrdom through this case. We know that ultimately we will succeed in the case, we have absolutely no doubt about it.  But the attitude of the government towards the Congress party is terrible. Look what they did to Virbhadra Singh in Himachal. On a day when his daughter was getting married, they sent a CBI team to raid the house. Look what they did to Kejriwal, look what they’ve done to Hardik Patel. The CBI will not even file an appeal against Amit Shah when he gets acquitted but CBI will trouble non-BJP chief ministers.

Are issues like National Herald, Oommen Chandy’s invitation being recalled and Rahul Gandhi not being allowed inside the Assam temple bigger than the larger economic interest of the country?

Not at all. The legislative agenda is very important but it is responsibility of the government in Parliament to take this agenda forward. The Treasury benches promote an agenda and they have to take everyone along and not start quarrelling.

You have doubts about the government’s intent? 

BJP had plans to topple the Arunachal government. On one hand they are plotting such things and on the other hand they want to collaborate with us to pass an agenda!

Are we staring at another washout of the Parliament session?

No we are not. It is the responsibility of the Treasury Benches to create an environment of cooperation and collaboration. Vitiating the atmosphere does not take the agenda forward.

On GST, your allies have also said that you can’t continue to stall the House for a very long time.

We are not stalling the House. We have given our 3 recommendations and they have to come back to us. We’ve put our concerns on the table, they have to give us in writing. We don’t want a flawed GST. We have serious doubts about the current GST bill.

What do you want from the government?

We want an open and transparent approach. The government should give consent in writing.

You have important state elections coming up, how will the Congress strategise?

Let’s look at what’s happening in India. As of now, the writ of one man is ruling India, even his ministers are not consulted. The BJP has got isolated in national politics despite the mandate they have got. Thus, the Opposition is bound to come together in the coming elections. BJP is scoring self-goal now. Let’s look at history, the people rejected the Congress because of the Emergency but we bounced back in just 2 years because people realized that we are better than them. Congress has bounced back in the past, and will bounce back again.