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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Public money diverted from PMNRF to Sonia Gandhi-led Rajiv Gandhi Foundation

When PM Modi set up the PM Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) fund earlier this year to deal with the pandemic situation, several Congress leaders had questioned the need for such a fund when the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was already in existence.

Shashi Tharoor had asked for an explanation from the PM for this ‘highly unusual’ step while his party colleague Salman Soz wanted to know why no one from the opposition or civil society was a part of this trust which has the PM and three ministers as members. Sonia Gandhi had demanded transferring all the funds collected by PM CARES to PMNRF stating that the latter was more transparent. Then there were unofficial Congress spokespersons like alleged historian Ramchandra Guha who took pot-shots at the PM.

It turns out that it was not without reason that such a step was taken by PM Modi. It has now come to light that the Nehru-Gandhi family led by Sonia Gandhi were treating the PMNRF set up by Jawaharlal Nehru as their personal fund. Reports indicate that funds were diverted from PMNRF to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) chaired by none other than Sonia Gandhi herself.

RGF is chaired by Sonia Gandhi and has Chidambaram, Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra as its trustees. A report by OpIndia suggests that the foundation received ‘donations’ from PMNRF at least thrice during the UPA tenure when PM Manmohan Singh was believed to be acting as a proxy while the real control of the government was in the hands of Sonia Gandhi and her NAC (National Advisory Council).

RGF received ‘donations’ from PMNRF in 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08 although there is no clarity regarding the amount of donation received by the family-run foundation. What makes the entire deal dubious is the fact that disbursement of the fund was to be carried out as per the PM’s discretion.

It is also pertinent to mention that it was in 1985 during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as PM that the entire management of the fund was entrusted in the hands of the PM. As already mentioned, even though Manmohan Singh was the PM it was Sonia Gandhi who was acting as the ‘Super PM’ and hence this donation becomes even murkier.

It naturally follows that since Sonia Gandhi had total decision-making powers as the ‘Super PM’ it was she who diverted the fund to the foundation chaired by her from the PMNRF. It is also important to note that PMNRF did not have any budgetary allocation and was entirely funded by Bharatiya citizens. This amounts to blatant misuse of public money and defrauding the people of the country.

As details keep emerging the story only gets dirtier. It has also come to light that during his tenure as the Finance Minister in 1991 Manmohan Singh, besides setting aside a sum of 100 crores rupees from the 1991-92 Union Budget to be donated to RGF, had also made a provision of Rs 250 crores to be given to the foundation in case the initial amount proved to be insufficient. It was only after uproar by the opposition in the parliament was this move was shunned although Manmohan Singh had rushed to produce a letter by RGF declining the donation.

Even though RGF did not receive any funds from the Congress government in 1991-92, 7 ministries and government departments ‘donated’ money to RGF in the period 2005-13 when the UPA was in power with Manmohan Singh as the PM.

Besides getting funds from the Chinese Embassy and the Chinese Government thrice between 2005 and 2009 and from PMNRF thrice, RGF also got donations from government departments, ministries, and PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings). Donors include Ministries of Home Affairs, Health and Family Welfare, Environment and Forest, Small-Scale Industries, Women and Child Development, National Self-employment Mission which comes under the Rural Development Ministry and Directorate of Adult Education (Human Resource Ministry).

A total of 10 PSUs have donated to RGF in the period from 2005-2013 which includes LIC, SAIL, GAIL, Oil India Limited, Oriental Bank of Commerce, SBI, Bank of Maharashtra, HUDCO (Housing and Urban Development Corporation Limited), ONGC and IDBI Bank.

Public money being donated to a privately owned Foundation chaired by Sonia Gandhi with her children and other Congress members as trustees surely raises a lot of questions that the party needs to come clean on if it actually believes in transparency like Sonia had demanded of the PM CARES Fund.

Speaking of transparency, an impartial analysis of PM CARES and PMNRF reveals that the latter is less transparent and the former scores when it comes to managing and utilizing public funds in crisis situations as well.

While releasing PMNRF funds was solely at the discretion of the PM, PM CARES distributes the decision-making and deliberation powers to three other ministers namely Defence, Home, and Finance. PM CARES being relatively new, its operational details are yet to be known. However, PMNRF has always been audited by third-party auditors and not CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General).

Far from being opaque as alleged by Shashi Tharoor, PM CARES emerges as a more democratic and transparent body than PMNRF.

From Chinese donations to diverting public funds into their family-run Foundation, the Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi family surely has a lot of explanation to do

(Featured Image Source: Republic World)

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