The Congress on Tuesday hit back at Union Minister Smriti Irani saying she is levelling allegations against party chief Rahul Gandhi in the Associated Journals Limited case to regain her "lost" political relevance.
The Congress also claimed that Ms Irani is "misinformed" as the party gave a loan to AJL to retain Jawaharlal Nehru's legacy, the National Herald, which played a role in the freedom struggle, and said that the Enforcement Directorate under Prime Minister Narendra Modi had closed the National Herald case in 2015 as they found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Taking a swipe at the BJP leader, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that Ms Irani has been "out of favour" with the present prime minister for too long and she is levelling charges against Rahul Gandhi to become relevant.
"She is trying to seek lost political relevance as she has become quite irrelevant and is about to go and be relegated to the annals of history...."
"So by abusing Congress leadership she is trying to find relevance. We saw yesterday and today as to how an unnerved PM is scared of the impending defeat in the four election-going states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram and almost certain of his decimated fate in the 2019 general election is now hiding behind authorities like Income Tax, ED, CBI etc. to seek personal vendetta and revenge against the Congress leadership," he told reporters.
The Congress leader said the manner in which "stupid and foolish" allegations are being hurled makes a mockery of the thought process of Modi Government.
He said over a period of ten years in the 1990s, the Congress gave National Herald Rs. 90 crore so that National Herald and Navjivan could pay salary of employees "for these are symbols of our national freedom with which BJP has no connection".
"They are saying we are going to reopen after eight years the 2010 Income Tax return which was duly scrutinized in the year 2018. This itself proves your malafide Mr Prime Minister.... It is a preposterous, stupid and foolish assertion that how a bad loan can become income of shareholder of a company?," he asked.
"People who do not have a graduation degree because they say that their qualifications are three different qualifications should at least take an opinion from very learned people of BJP before levelling preposterous, stupid and foolish allegation," he alleged.
The Congress also said on its Twitter handle that Ms Irani is "obviously misinformed" and stated that the party wanted to retain Pandit Nehru's legacy, the National Herald, by relieving the debt held by AJL.
"There is no restriction in law preventing political parties from giving loans. In fact the Election Commission issued a clear order in this regard in November 2012.
"Young Indian is a Section 25 not-for-profit company. This prevents directors and shareholders of Young Indian from deriving any benefit whatsoever. Majority of AJL's properties are on lease from the government and cannot be sold," it said.
The party said Congress President Rahul Gandhi sought a direction from the court to media houses to prevent them from misrepresenting the facts.
Attacking Congress president Rahul Gandhi for challenging the IT department's decision to reopen his 2011-12 tax assessments, Ms Irani said Tuesday he was quick to hug Prime Minister Narendra Modi but would run a mile from an income tax officer.
Rahul Gandhi needs to answer many questions, the minister said after the Delhi High Court dismissed the pleas filed by him and his mother, UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, against the decision to reopen their tax assessments in connection with a case related to the National Herald newspaper.
"Why is it that Mr Rahul Gandhi, who is too quick to hug the prime minister, would run a mile when it comes to an Income Tax officer," Ms Irani asked, referring to the Congress president hugging PM Modi in the Lok Sabha during the no-confidence debate in July.
She accused Rahul Gandhi of setting up a not-for-profit company, Young Indians, which then bought a commercial company, Associated Journals Ltd, and its debts worth Rs 90 crore for Rs 50 lakh.