New Delhi: The Congress and the BJP engaged in a war of words on Sunday over Yes Bank co-founder Rana Kapoor’s allegation that he was ”forced” to buy an M F Husain painting from party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, with the Opposition party calling it ”political vendetta” and the ruling party accusing the Gandhi family of being ”extortionists”.
Kapoor has told the Enforcement Directorate that he was ”forced” to buy the M F Husain painting from Priyanka Gandhi and the sale proceeds were utilized by the Gandhi family for the medical treatment of Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New York, according to the charge sheet filed by the federal anti-money laundering agency in a special court in Mumbai.
He told the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that he was told by the then petroleum minister Murli Deora that the refusal to buy the painting will not only prevent him from building a relationship with the Gandhi family but also prevent him from getting the ‘Padma Bhushan’ award.
Kapoor also told the agency that Ahmed Patel, a close confidante of Sonia Gandhi, had told him that by supporting the Gandhi family at an opportune time for medical treatment of Sonia Gandhi, ”I (Kapoor) had performed a good deed for the family and it would be duly considered for the ‘Padma Bhushan’ award”.
Asked about the allegations at a press conference, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, ”This is absolutely astonishing. I don’t want to use a strong word, it is absolutely disgusting that a 2010 transaction, a person who is behind bars for years, whose 20-30 bail applications have been rejected, who is called a crook and a fraudster, makes allegations about dead people and the government is jumping with joy only because it suits their political angle.” The government wants to keep the pot boiling for 2022, for a transaction in 2010, when neither Murli Deora is here to deny it nor Ahmed Patel is here to deny, Singhvi said.
”What is the objective of this, is it the result of your (government) pressure tactics and coercion on a person behind bars eager to get his freedom to record statements against political opponents and to keep a 12-year-old thing boiling just for convenience of politics,” the Rajya Sabha MP said, hitting out at the government.
The BJP alleged that the Congress and the Gandhis are ”extortionists” and were also selling the Padma Bhushan.
Referring to the Congress election symbol of ‘hand’, BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said, ”The Congress hand is with corruption…while common people were suffering, the Congress and the Gandhi family were enjoying.
Addressing a press conference at the BJP headquarters here, Bhatia said that ”…when the Congress was in power, members of the Gandhi family used to put pressure on party leaders to ensure the painting is bought”.
”Priyanka Gandhi put pressure to ensure that the painting worth Rs 2 crore is bought by Kapoor,” he said.
BJP’s IT Cell head Amit Malviya said it is quite clear from Kapoor’s confession to the ED that the ”Gandhis and Congress are not just extortionist but were also selling the country’s highest civilian honour to the highest bidder or durbaris, who did their bidding. It was an instrument to buy loyalty or silence”.
Bhatia claimed that Kapoor did not want to give Rs 2 crore for the painting, but the ministers of the Congress government put pressure on him that if he does not buy the painting from Priyanka Gandhi, then the Gandhi family will wreak havoc on him.
In his response to the allegations, Singhvi cited that in March 2014, the Yes Bank loan book stood at Rs 55,000 crore and in March 2019, it had increased nearly five times to Rs 2.41 lakh crore.
”The loan book of Yes Bank also showed a very dramatic increase between two other dates which are very inconvenient for the Modi government about which neither the government nor the prime minister talk about anymore. In March 2016, it was Rs 98,000 crore and in March 2018, it became 2.03 lakh crore, about more than double. Remember when demonetisation happened, November 2016,” he said.
Singhvi also pointed out that the BJP-led Haryana government invested Rs 2,500 crore as government money into accounts of a ”sinking” Yes Bank.
”They are trying to create a fear psychosis to scare people to do political vendetta, they should know better than that. At least spare the dead. At least don’t defame people like Deora and Ahmed Patel,” he said.
”We all know the credibility of the ED and more than that the credibility of the person accused in this case who is supposed to have made this statement,” he added.
The statements of Rana Kapoor are part of the second supplementary charge sheet (overall third) filed in the special court recently against the Yes Bank co-founder, his family, Dewan Housing Finance Limited (DHFL) promoters Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhawan, and others in a money laundering case.
Stating that he had paid a cheque of Rs 2 crore, Kapoor claimed that ”Milind Deora (son of the late Murli Deora and former Congress MP) later conveyed to him confidentially that the sale proceeds were utilized by the Gandhi family for the medical treatment of Sonia Gandhi in New York”.
Kapoor is currently in judicial custody following his arrest in the case in March 2020. The Wadhwans too are in jail custody after their arrest in another case.