The Congress on Saturday sought to know from Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he will dismiss some of his senior ministers for allegedly holding the posts of directors in India Foundation, a think-tank run by NSA Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya Doval. The party also demanded that the Prime Minister should act against them by initiating an inquiry by the CBI against them for allegedly holding office-of-profit, conflict of interest and violating FCRA norms. The ministers in question include Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu and two junior ministers — Jayant Sinha of Civil Aviation Ministry and MJ Akbar of External Affairs Ministry.
The party also said the ministers should resign as members of whichever House of they belong to and fight elections again. It also questioned the Prime Minister’s silence on the matter. The attack by the Congress came after The Wire news website published an article on the issue. The party alleged that BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav and A. Surya Prakash, Chairman of the Prasar Bharti board, are also directors of India Foundation and investigation should be initiated against them as well.
“FCRA says that no foreign contribution shall be accepted by any political party or office bearer. Ram Madhavji is an office- bearer and he is a general secretary of the BJP, how can he be a director in India Foundation? “It is a violation. It will result in prosecution and imprisonment. How can these ministers be directors? This is a direct conflict of interest,” said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal. Sibal said if no action was taken against the ministers, then the party would approach the court or could resort to other possible mechanisms to prosecute them.
The Congress also pointed out that in March 2006, party President Sonia Gandhi announced her resignation from the Lok Sabha and also as Chairperson of the National Advisory Council following the office-of-profit controversy. “Nothing can be a bigger case of crony capitalism, violation of law and corruption than this. Can a minister become director of an NGO,” asked Sibal. “It is a cocktail of government, who are directors in the foundation, and private business of billions of dollars and sponsorship by the very companies who seek favours from the departments in which the ministers are directors,” he added.
“So, it is Civil Aviation, Commerce, Defence and External Affairs. Over and above, this is supposed to be a charitable organisation — a public interest organisation. “How can there be public interest when government and business are on the same platform and they are talking to each other for the benefit of business?” Sibal asked. Sibal also said had any Congress minister during UPA rule been the director of Teesta Setalvad or Indira Jaisingh’s NGO, then there would have been disruptions in the Parliament, FIR by the CBI and preliminary investigations.
He said: “Doval’s son used to run a company named Zeus, whose turnover was close to $1billion. This company was later absorbed into Gemini Enterprises. He (Shaurya) is now a partner and shareholder in the company. So, he runs both India Foundation and Gemini Enterprises.” “This cocktail of interests has never been seen before in this country. The mix of the ministers along with business and public interest,” said Sibal. He further said: “Now, who sponsors them? Defence companies…Boeing, Israeli companies. So, Defence Minister is the director. There are Indian companies who have to deal with Commerce Ministry. So, Commerce Minister is the director. “Now, since Boeing is involved, so Civil Aviation Minister is the director. Since foreign companies deal with Ministry of External Affairs, so the External Affairs Minister is the director. Along with them both India Foundation and Gemini Enterprises are also there,” he added.