The Congress on Thursday continued to defend embattled senior leader P. Chidambaram and attacked the Narendra Modi government for allegedly using the investigative agencies to settle personal scores.
The party’s communications chief, Randeep Surjewala, held a news conference early in the morning to accuse the Modi government of being drunk on power and of using the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate as personal revenge-seeking departments.
Describing the events relating to Chidambaram over the past two days as “broad-day-light murder of democracy and rule of law”, Surjewala said: “The government was being vindictive, selective and malicious in persecuting Chidambaram.”
The Congress spokesperson added: “With the narrative on a sinking economy spiralling out of their control, massive and unprecedented job losses, shocking devaluation of the rupee as Asia’s worst-performing currency and unfathomable crisis in other sectors, the desperate government stooped to divert the attention of the country through these gimmicks. The BJP propaganda machinery, in cahoots with some puppet news channels, works desperately to churn out falsehood, fake news and outright lies.”
Instead of restricting his responses to the alleged policy of witch-hunt, Surjewala went into the merits of the case to defend Chidambaram, indicating that the Congress leadership was willing to defend the former finance minister despite the CBI presenting what the agency has claimed as incriminating evidence. Surjewala wondered why a case dating back to 2007 led to a dramatic arrest in 2019, and six years after the BJP came to power.
“Neither have those who gave the so-called FEPB (Foreign Exchange Promotion Board) permission, nor the company that has committed the crime or its officials have been arrested, but a seasoned man with 40 years of dedication to public life has been hounded on the statement of a jailed woman, who has been charged of murdering her own daughter,” Surjewala said.
The case relates to the FEPB granting Rs 305 crore worth of FDI clearance to INX Media in 2007 when Chidambaram was finance minister. By “jailed woman”, Surjewala was referring to Indrani Mukherjea, a co-founder of INX Media.
Surjewala repeated what Chidambaram had said on Wednesday — that no offence had so far been registered against him in the FIR, nor a chargesheet filed.
“Except for the blatant intent to humiliate and tarnish the reputation of the former minister, there was neither any occasion nor any hurry to arrest him in the middle of the night. Chidambaram is one of India’s most respected economists and politicians. He has cooperated fully with the investigating authorities on every occasion. A senior advocate of the Supreme Court, he has the highest regard for the Constitution and law,” Surjewala said.
The Congress spokesperson made an appeal: “We, as a nation, must rise and refuse to be silent spectators to the death of democracy. We stand with Chidambaram and reiterate our unwavering belief in his innocence. The officers who scaled the walls of his house in their eagerness to please their political masters, as also select sections of the media, will they have the courage to tell the Prime Minister that there is zero evidence against Chidambaram?”
Surjewala explained in detail how many Opposition leaders were being hounded through misuse of the CBI and other agencies and how many leaders were being forced to join the BJP in the face of charges of misconduct.
He said the government could not throw the rulebook and the Constitution into the dustbin in its pursuit of the politics of vendetta and expansion.