The Congress, accused of accepting Chinese funds for the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, on Sunday hit back in kind, saying donations from Chinese firms have poured into PM CARES fund also. Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having a "soft spot" for China, the party said hundreds of crores have been funnelled into PM CARES by a group of well-known Chinese firms including Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei, adding that it is "most worrying and alarming for national security".
The BJP has not said anything on record yet. Party sources, however, told NDTV, "Donation to the PM CARES fund for COVID-19 is not the same as donations for a private organisation like the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation controlled by Sonia Gandhi and her family."
In a statement, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: "Reports suggest that as on May 20, 2020 PM Modi has received Rs 9,678 crores in the controversial Fund. The shocking part is that though Chinese forces have transgressed into our territory, Prime Minister has received money in the Fund from Chinese companies".
Mr Singhvi also listed eight questions he said the Prime Minister should answer.
"Has PM received Rs 7 Crore from the controversial company HUAWEI? Does HUAWEI have a direct connection with People's Liberation Army, China? Has the Chinese company owning Tik Tok facilitated a donation of Rs 30 crores to the controversial PM CARES Fund? Has Paytm, which has a 38% Chinese ownership given 100 crores in the controversial Fund? Has XIAOMI, the Chinese company, committed Rs 15 Crore to the controversial Fund? Has the Chinese company OPPO, donated Rs 1 crore to this controversial Fund?" the statement read.
In a recent statement, Xiaomi has said it would donate Rs 10 core to the Prime Minister's relief fund and the Chief Minister's relief funds across states to battle coronavirus. Oppo said it is contributing Rs 1 crore "in aggregate towards Prime Minister's National Relief Fund and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund. OnePlus has also made a public commitment to contribute Rs 1 crore.
The Congress also alleged that the PM CARES Fund is run like a "seemingly personal" fund of the Prime Minister which is not even subjected to audit by any public authority, or the Right To Information Act.
"All in all, the Fund appears to be solely run by the Prime Minister in an opaque and secret fashion with zero transparency and zero accountability," alleged the party, which was accused of receiving funds from the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in 2005-2006.
"Did the then UPA government take a bribe from the Chinese? Is it not true that after taking this donation, the foundation recommended a free trade agreement with China, which was heavily tilted in favour of the Chinese," Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said earlier this week amid Congress accusations of the government "surrendering" Indian territory in Ladakh to the Chinese.
The political battle between the Congress and the BJP has been bitter since the clashes of June 15 in which 20 Indian soldiers have died in action at Ladakh's Galwan Valley. Each party has accused the other of being soft on the Chinese.
While the BJP has accused the Congress of playing into the hands of China and Pakistan with their "surrender" statements, the Congress has pointed to the Prime Minister's statement at an all-party meet earlier this month -- where he said China has not captured any Indian territory or crossed the border -- and said it amounted to a clean chit to the Chinese. The Prime Minister's Office has dismissed the Congress claims as "mischievous interpretation" of PM Modi's comments.
The Congress's earlier accusations against PM Modi's personal integrity were seen to have fallen flat.
Leaders within the party had admitted that Rahul Gandhi's "Chowkidar Chor Hain" (watchman is a thief) campaign -- alleging irregularities in the Rafale fighter aircraft deal -- had contributed to the Congress's decimation in last year's general elections.
After the election, Rahul Gandhi had stepped down from the post of the party chief. While his mother Sonia Gandhi has been placed as the party's interim president, there has been speculation about a return of Mr Gandhi to take up the reins of the party again.