Mumbai, October 15 : A day after the country’s articulate and suave Law Minister Salman Khurshid’s feeble efforts to “come clean” through over 100-minute long press conference, more evidence of the alleged fraud committed by the Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust run by Khurshid and his wife Louise have been presented to the people of the nation. But, at the same time Congress seems to be all geared up to protect Khurshid. This, it is being said, is out of the fear that if the Khurshid case moves off prime time, the focus would return to the Robert Vadra issue.
Even as Kejriwal suspended his protests against Khurshid, Congress completely rejected calls for his resignation. The party fears that if Khurshid is made to resign now, it would unwittingly be giving credit to Arvind Kejriwal and a media house against whom Khurshid has filed a Rs 100 crore defamation suit. Moreover, if the Khurshid case moves off prime time, the focus would return to the Robert Vadra issue and open the flood gates to similar demands against other ministers.
A vocal Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh strongly defended Khurshid, declaring him “innocent”, and the allegations as “baseless.” He demanded a probe against the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for leaking the trust’s inspection report to the media. “Why is it that every time there is an expose against the Congress, the CAG leaks out a report to the media before it is presented to Parliament?” asked Singh.
The Congress fears that if the Khurshid case moves off prime time, the focus would return to the Robert Vadra issue and open the flood gates to similar demands against other ministers. PTI
Even as holes were being punched in Khurshid’s defence from various quarters, the Congress is under pressure on all fronts. Senior leaders may publicly be putting up a brave front, but internally, the “expose” comes at a time when the results of two Lok Sabha bypolls have already rattled the Congress. In the Jangipur parliamentary seat in West Bengal, President Pranab Mukherjee‘s son Abhijit barely scraped through with a narrow victory margin of 2,536 votes, and in the Tehri seat in Uttarakhnd, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna’s son lost to the BJP.
In the Khurshid trust case, even though the amounts involved run into just a few lakhs — hardly worth a national brouhaha — there is public outrage over the charge of robbing people at the lowest rung of society, the physically handicapped poor, by someone as high as the Law Minister. This is causing serious concern among Congress workers.
During the day, Khurshid didn’t say a word to the media, but he is expected to clarify to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh his stand on the trust. He had said yesterday that he would come up with a “reverse sting” to expose the media house (the India Today group) and the motives of those who indulged in the said “expose” against him, but he did not do so. The display of more “evidence” against him by India Against Corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal and other media publications may have forced him to hold his hand.
Kejriwal produced a Pankaj from district Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh, whose name figured in the check-list as someone given a hearing aid. That he had no hearing problem was evident from his public appearance, but he did have a disability in his foot. He said that he did not receive any aid from the trust. Kejriwal also read out the names of a number of people — Santosh Kumari, Sashi Mohan, Dayaram and others — whose names were there in the list of beneficiaries. But they did not exist physically in the villages mentioned in the trust’s list.
The Khurshids had no credible response on the forged letters — one in the form of an affidavit signed by a UP government official, JB Singh, and another by an official who retired in January but whose signature appeared in a letter dated 24 March for purposes of further grants. His defence, that these letters were given to the Union ministry of social justice by the state government, raises a more pertinent question: why was the then Mayawati government sending forged letters to the Union government to benefit a trust run by the law minister and his wife? For now, one thing is sure: the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh is moving at a snail’s pace to act on its own report of forged letters and other instances of wrongdoing by the Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust.
Kejriwal says this is a clear case of quid pro quo where Khurshid, as head of the prosecution wing of the CBI, may go soft against Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s disproportionate assets case and, in turn, Akhilesh Yadav‘s government would stall further probe and prosecution of the Khurshid couple.
Khurshid may not resign for now but the alleged cheating of disabled people has caused a serious dent in the Congress’s pro-poor plank.