Gandhis Get Bail in Tussle Imperiling Modi’s India Economic Plan

  • Fraud charges filed by member of Modi's ruling party
  • Gandhis allege vendetta; Congress party stalling parliament

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

Photographer: Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India’s powerful Gandhi family were granted bail by a court in a high-profile legal tussle that threatens to derail Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to make it easier to do business in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi -- top leaders of the main opposition Congress party -- appeared at the hearing in a New Delhi court on Saturday as hundreds of supporters waved banners and chanted slogans outside. Both denied any wrongdoing and accused Modi of conducting a “political vendetta" through allegations of fraud in a case involving a transfer of assets.

“The government is deliberately using its investigative agencies to target political opponents,” Congress President Sonia Gandhi told reporters after leaving the court. “The case is part of political vendetta.”

Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said it has nothing to do with the case. However, it needs the support of the Congress party to revive key economic bills -- such as one proposing a national sales tax -- that have been stalled in parliament partly as Congress lawmakers protest the charges.

National Herald

The petitioner, BJP member Subramanian Swamy, has accused the Gandhis of acquiring 20 billion rupees ($300 million) of real estate assets by paying 5 million rupees to take over 900 million rupees of debt from a defunct newspaper and converting it to equity. The National Herald,  which presented the Congress party’s views for eight decades, is now owned by Young Indian Co. in which the Gandhis hold a 76 percent stake, according to a criminal complaint filed by Swamy.

The next hearing on the case is set for Feb. 20, according to Hiren Raval, one of the lawyers representing the Gandhis. Both were granted bail on a surety of 50,000 rupees each, Raval said. The bail was without any conditions, according to Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

The Congress party has said the Gandhis didn’t benefit financially as no assets were transferred to Young Indian.

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