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Regular-article-logo Sunday, 16 June 2024

Rahul Gandhi's citizenship: The government's question, its timing and history

Rahul is accused of declaring his nationality as British in papers linked to a company, Backops Ltd, in which he was a director

TT Bureau New Delhi Published 01.05.19, 01:37 AM
Rahul Gandhi in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday.

Rahul Gandhi in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday. PTI

The Union home ministry has asked Congress president Rahul Gandhi to clarify whether he is a British citizen or an Indian citizen.

An Indian national cannot hold dual citizenships. Rahul is accused of declaring his nationality as British in papers linked to a company, Backops Ltd, in which he was a director.

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The home ministry’s notice seeking the “factual position” on the citizenship marked a surrealistic, if not incredulous, moment in Indian politics, largely because of the timing and the possible triggers.

  • One, the notice was issued just when the general election is entering areas where the BJP is pitted in direct contests with the Congress.
  • Two, the notice is based on a complaint filed by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy as far back as in 2017. Apparently, Swamy had recently sent a reminder and the home ministry snapped out of the slumber.
  • Three, in November 2015, the Supreme Court had dismissed a petition making similar allegations.
  • Four, in 2016, the parliamentary ethics committee, headed by BJP veteran L.K. Advani, had looked into Swamy’s complaint and Rahul had replied that he had never “sought or acquired British citizenship” and that his “identity is that of an Indian”. The committee did not proceed with the matter since 2016.
  • Five, for 15 years, Rahul has been a Lok Sabha member. Five of these years were during the tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If a government led by a Prime Minister who describes himself as an ever-vigilant “chowkidar” allowed a politician of questionable nationality to be a member of the august House for so long, it does not speak well of the guardian angel to the nation.
  • Six, it will also mean that the government, ruled by a party whose president Amit Shah describes ghuspetia (infiltrators) as “termites”, was napping all these years instead of catching a suspected un-Indian and deporting him.
  • Seven, the Lok Sabha website also mentions Rahul’s place of birth as “Delhi”. According to the Citizenship Act, every person born in India between January 26, 1950, and July 1, 1987, is an Indian citizen. Yet, the Indian home ministry and the BJP are spending considerable energy and time on resurrecting the controversy.

When the initial allegations were levelled several years ago, the Congress had made public the certificate of incorporation of Backops, which shows Rahul’s nationality as Indian. The entry Swamy is referring to appears to be one made by mistake while filing annual tax returns.

The BJP sought to breathe fresh life into the allegations by asking “which Rahul is original, Rahul of London or Rahul of Lutyens?”

Home minister Rajnath Singh said the notice was a normal process and not a big development.

The Congress feels the notice is part of a diversionary tactic that betrays the desperation in the BJP.

But some are not ruling out the possibility of the ground being laid to block Rahul post-poll, just in case. Off the record, one BJP leader came close to hinting as much: “We want to tell the voters that he is actually a British citizen who can’t be trusted to run the country.”

Rahul Gandhi himself appeared unperturbed by the old controversy as he tweeted on a report about a fire in Krishi Bhavan which houses several ministries. “Modi ji burning files is not going to save you. Your day of judgement is coming.”

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra dismissed the issue. “What rubbish! The notice is out of fear that they might be losing,” she said.

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