Forced on the defensive in the face of charges of diverting Rs90 crore to an ailing Associated Journals Ltd founded by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress party has hit back by asserting that it does indeed have plans to launch a newspaper. However, it refused to set a deadline or comment on whether this will be a new publication or the re-launch of the defunct National Herald.
“For us, furthering the ideals of Gandhi and Nehru is a political activity,” said a combative Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, while conceding that the party had indeed loaned Rs90 crore to the company that ran now-defunct newspapers National Herald and Quami Awaz. Referring to the party’s emotional links with Jawaharlal Nehru, Dwivedi stressed that commerce was never the motive for the Congress in these matters. “That is why the money was loaned without any interest.”
Dwivedi also said that the sum of Rs90 crore had been offered over a span of four years, and one of the purposes was to settle the outstanding dues of more than 700 employees in New Delhi and Lucknow.
“There are cases of newspapers closing down, and employees are left in the lurch. But in this case all outstanding amounts were paid off,” he said, emphasizing that the loan from the Congress was not a commercial deal.
Questions have been raised about the loan to a company that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul now have a majority stake in through another not-for-profit company.
When asked about the readiness of the party to face the Election Commission on the issue of the party being de-recognised, Dwivedi said, “We shall contest it at every forum.”