(Updates to add new details)
By Aditya Kalra
NEW DELHI, July 9 Sonia Gandhi, president of
India's ousted Congress party, on Wednesday accused the new
Narendra Modi-led government of a "political witch hunt" after
tax authorities began probing her party as she and her son face
allegations over misusing funds.
The Gandhis are the torchbearers of a dynasty that has led
India for most of its post-independence era since 1947 but that
was dealt its worst ever election defeat by Modi in the general
election that ended in May.
Last month an Indian court summoned Sonia and her son Rahul
to answer allegations that they used $15 million of party funds
to pay off debts accrued by a now defunct newspaper publishing
business several years ago. The Gandhis were directed to appear
in court on Aug. 7.
A Congress official said the party had received "notices"
from India's tax authority, a communication in which the
recipient is asked to explain apparent irregularities in his tax
The official said the notices pertained to income tax and
were related to the court case involving Gandhi and her son,
although he did not give further details.
"This kind of political witch hunt will only help us and
help us to come back faster," Gandhi was quoted as saying by
NDTV news channel.
The May election saw the Congress party win just 44 of the
543 seats in the lower house of parliament, compared to 206 in
2009, raising the prospect that the Gandhi family, which has
given the country a long line of leaders since independence,
will gradually lose its political influence.
Before becoming prime minister, Modi said he would not
resort to vindictive politics, especially in reference to Sonia
Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra who has been accused of corrupt
land transactions, allegations he denies.
Media reports said Vadra had written to India's corporate
affairs ministry about closing six of his companies. Officials
at the ministry were not immediately available for comment, but
the ministry website listed the firms as "under process of
"We are not into vindictive politics ... But the proceedings
as per law are going on and will take its own course," BJP
minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters when asked about Sonia
The court case against Sonia and Rahul Gandhi involves
Associated Journals Limited, the publisher of three newspapers,
including the National Herald, an English daily founded and
edited by Rahul's great-grandfather Nehru.
In 2008, the company shut down with an unpaid debt of
about$15 million, according to allegations in a copy of the
The case accuses the Gandhis of setting up a firm called the
Young Indian Company to buy the debt using party funds.
Associated Journals allegedly had real estate assets worth at
least $335 million.
"The legal team will study the (income tax) notices and a
befitting reply will be given," said the Congress party
official, who did not wish to be named.
The defeated Congress party faces its first big test in the
new government's maiden parliament session this week. Sonia
Gandhi is pushing for Congress to be declared the leader of the
opposition, as the second largest grouping in the house.
(Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Raissa Kasolowsky)