Congress rubbishes notice over Rahul’s nationality

Rahul Gandhi, President of India's main opposition Congress party. (Reuters)
Updated 30 April 2019

Congress rubbishes notice over Rahul’s nationality

  • Controversial MP Subramanian Swamy leads anti-Gandhi campaign
  • Rahul is the third generation of the Gandhi family to lead the Congress party

DELHI: India’s main opposition Congress Party rubbished a notice sent by the government to its leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday, asking him to answer questions about his citizenship.

The notice comes at the peak of the general election campaign, with both the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fighting bitterly for the remaining 169 seats in the next three phases of the polls.

The notice, sent by the Ministry of Home Affairs following complaints from controversial BJP parliamentarian Subramanian Swamy, poses questions about Gandhi’s citizenship status over a listing as a director of a company registered in the UK. Swamy alleges that Gandhi had declared his nationality as “British” in the company’s annual returns, filed in 2005 and 2006.

“What rubbish,” said Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the younger sister of Gandhi and the Congress Party general-secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh. “The whole of India knows that Rahul Gandhi is Indian. People have seen him being born and grow up in India.”

A similar complaint was also filed last month, when a political rival of Gandhi in the Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh asked the local electoral officer to verify the Congress leader’s citizenship before accepting his nomination to stand. It was eventually dismissed.

On Tuesday, the party’s media manager, Rachit Seth, tweeted the certificate of incorporation issued by authorities in London, stating Gandhi’s citizenship as Indian.

“BJP did the same in 2015. Modi is clutching at straws after the 4 phase elections,” Seth tweeted.

Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh said issuing such a notice was normal. “When a member of Parliament writes to any ministry, action required by their query is taken. It is not a big development, it is a normal process,” he stated.

Swamy has a history of anti-Gandhi family rhetoric. He has raised the issue of the Congress leader’s citizenship before, and has also claimed that his real name is “Raul de Vinci,” that he is Italian by birth, and that he adopted his Indian name to participate in politics.

“This is an old campaign against the Gandhi family,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a Delhi-based political analyst. “Obviously, it shows that there is some worry in the BJP — it shows a deep-seated anxiety that the election is not going the way they expected, so this is an attempt to create a new narrative.

“These last seats are where the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance is in direct conflict with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, but people might get tired of the dirty tricks of the BJP. It is becoming too much.”

Bhopal-based biographer of the Gandhi family, Rashid Kidwai, stated: “Such a notice does not have any legal basis and will not stand up to scrutiny. Rahul Gandhi has been winning elections since 2004. His citizenship has never come under suspicion.”

“Being accused of being a foreign national contesting an Indian election is a grave charge. The government was in possession of his documents for the last five years. If something was there they would have acted earlier.”

Before entering politics, 49-year-old Gandhi worked in London after finishing his studies at Harvard University. His great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first prime minister of India, while his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi also held the office. He is the third generation of the Gandhi family to lead the Congress party.

Lithuania confirms first case of coronavirus

Updated 21 min 22 sec ago

Lithuania confirms first case of coronavirus

  • Lithuania reported on Friday its first confirmed case of coronavirus
  • Nigeria on Friday announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa

VILNIUS: Lithuania reported on Friday its first confirmed case of coronavirus, the government said, as the disease spreads rapidly worldwide.
Hopes that the virus would be contained to China vanished, with countries beginning to stockpile medical equipment and investors taking flight in expectation of a global recession.

New Zealand's health ministry on Friday also confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus in a person who recently returned from Iran.

Belarus registered the first case of coronavirus infection in the country, Russian news agency TASS reported, citing the Belarussian Ministry of Healthcare.
"We would like to inform you that February 27 tests conducted at the Republican Scientific and Practical Center of epidemiology and microbiology showed the presence of coronavirus 2019-nCoV in one of the students from Iran," TASS quoted the ministry.

In Greece, two new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three.
The health ministry said one of the cases concerned a relative of a 38 year old woman in the northern town of Thessaloniki, the first confirmed case reported in Greece. The woman had recently returned from Milan in northern Italy.
Meanwhile, Nigeria announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa.
The case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan earlier this week, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in a statement on Twitter.
“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” Ehanire said.
Italy has become a hotbed of infection in recent days, with the largest outbreak in Europe.
But the low number of cases across Africa, which has close economic ties with China, the epicenter of the deadly outbreak, has puzzled health specialists.