> Annexation Through Technicalities
> *Arun Shourie*
> The day I entered Indiraji's household I became an Indian, the rest is just
> technical -- that is Sonia Gandhi's latest explanation for not having
> acquired Indian citizenship till fourteen years after her marriage to Rajiv
> First the facts. Surya Prakash, the Consulting Editor of The Pioneer, has
> documented these in detail. Sonia married Rajiv on 25 February, 1968. Under
> section 5(c) of the Indian Citizenship Act she became eligible to register
> herself as a citizen of India on 25 February, 1973. She chose to continue as
> a citizen of Italy. She applied for Indian citizenship only ten years later,
> on 7 April, 1983.
> A foreigner seeking Indian citizenship has to state on oath that he or she
> has relinquished his or her citizenship of the original country. This
> requirement was all the more necessary in the case of an Italian citizen:
> under Italian law, an Italian taking citizenship of another country
> continues to retain his or her Italian citizenship. Sonia Gandhi's
> application did not have the requisite statement, nor did it have any
> official document from the appropriate authorities in Italy. The omission
> was made up in a curious way: the Ambassador of Italy stepped in, and wrote
> to the Government saying that Sonia Gandhi had indeed given up her
> citizenship of Italy. He did so on 27 April, 1983. Sonia got her citizenship
> forthwith -- on 30 April, 1983.
> Another nugget Surya Prakash has unearthed is that while Sonia became a
> citizen on 30 April, 1983, her name made its way to the electoral rolls as
> of 1 January, 1980! In response to an objection, it had to be deleted in
> late 1982. But sure enough, it was put back on the electoral roll as of 1
> January, 1983. She hadn't even applied for citizenship till then.
> All technicalities! If any ordinary person were to proceed in the same way,
> he would be up for stern prosecution.
> Maruti was one of the most odious scandals connected with Mrs Indira Gandhi
> and her family. The Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice A C Gupta
> recorded that, though she was at the time a foreigner, Sonia Gandhi secured
> shares in two of their family concerns: Maruti Technical Services Pvt. Ltd.
> (in 1970 and again in 1974), and Maruti Heavy Vehicles (in 1974). The
> acquisition of these shares was in contravention of the very Act that Mrs
> Gandhi used to such diabolic effect in persecuting her political opponents,
> the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973. Just another technicality!
> But the Mother of Technicalities, so to say, is to be found in the way Sonia
> Gandhi, without having any known sources of income, has become the
> controller of one of the largest empires of property and patronage in Delhi.
> The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Library and Museum is one of the principal
> institutions for research on contemporary Indian history. It is situated in
> and controls real estate which, because of its historical importance, cannot
> even be valued. The institution runs entirely on grants from the Government
> of India. Sonia Gandhi has absolutely no qualification that could by any
> stretch of imagination entitle her to head the institution: has she secured
> even an elementary university degree, to say nothing of having done anything
> that would even suggest some specialization in subjects which the
> institution has been set up to study. But by mysterious technicalities she
> is today the head of this institution. So much so that she even decides
> which scholar may have access to papers -- even official papers -- of Pandit
> Nehru and others of that family, including, if I may stretch the term, Lady
> Real estate, only slightly less valuable, has been acquired on Raisina Road.
> The land was meant to house offices of the Congress. A large, ultra-modern
> building was built -- the finance being provided by another bunch of
> technical devices which remain a mystery. The building had but to get
> completed, and Sonia appropriated it for the other Foundation she completely
> controls -- the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. The Congress(I) did not just oblige
> by keeping silent about the takeover of its building, in the very first
> budget its Government presented upon returning to power, it provided Rs 100
> crores to this Foundation. The furore that give-away caused was so great
> that the largesse had to be canceled. No problem. Business house after
> business house, even public sector enterprises incurring huge losses,
> coughed up crores.
> The Foundation has performed two principal functions. The projection of
> Sonia Gandhi. And enticing an array of leaders, intellectuals, journalists
> etc. into nets of patronage and pelf.
> But the audacity with which the land and building were usurped and funds
> raised for this Foundation falls into the second order of smalls when they
> are set alongside what has been done in regard to the Indira Gandhi National
> Centre for Arts.
> This Centre was set up as a trust in 1987 by a resolution of the Cabinet.
> The Government of India gave Rs. 50 crores out of the Consolidated Fund of
> India as a corpus fund to this Centre. It transferred 23 acres of land along
> what is surely one of the costliest sites in the world -- Central Vista, the
> stretch that runs between Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate -- to this
> Trust. Furthermore, it granted another Rs. 84 crores for the Trust to
> construct its building.
> The land was government land. The funds were government funds. Accordingly,
> care was taken to ensure that the Trust would remain under the overall
> control of the Government of India. Therefore, the Deed of the Trust
> provided, inter alia,
> - Every ten years two-thirds of the trustees would retire. One half of
> the vacancies caused would be filled by the Government. One half would be
> filled by nominations made by the retiring trustees.
> - The Member Secretary of the Trust would be nominated by the Government
> on such terms and conditions as the Government may decide.
> - The President of India would appoint a committee from time to time to
> review the working of the Trust, and the recommendations of the committee
> would be binding on the Trust.
> - No changes would be made in the deed of the Trust except by prior
> written sanction of the Government, and even then the changes may be adopted
> only by three-quarters of the Trustees agreeing to them at a meeting
> specially convened for the purpose.
> Now, just see what technical wonders were performed one fine afternoon.
> A meeting like any other meeting of the trustees was convened on 18 May,
> 1995. The minutes of this meeting which I have before me list all the
> subjects which were discussed -- the minutes were circulated officially by
> Dr Kapila Vatsyayan in her capacity as the Director of the Centre with the
> observation, "The Minutes of this meeting have been approved by Smt Sonia
> Gandhi, President of the IGNCA Trust."
> What did the assembled personages discuss and approve? Even if the topics
> seem mundane, do read them carefully -- for they contain a vital clue, the
> Sherlock Holmes clue so to say, about what did not happen.
> The minutes report that the following subjects were discussed:
> 1: Indira Gandhi Memorial Fellowship Scheme and the Research Grant Scheme.
> 2: Commemoration volume in the memory of Stella Kramrisch.
> 3: Sale of publications of the IGNCA.
> 4: Manuscripts on music and dance belonging to the former ruling house of
> Raigarh in M P
> 5: Report on the 10th and 11th meetings of the Executive Committee.
> 6: Approval and adoption of the Annual Report and Annual Accounts, 1993-94.
> 7: Bilateral and multilateral programmes of IGNCA, and aid from U N
> agencies, Ford Foundation, Japan Foundation, etc.
> 8: Brief report on implementation of programmes from April 1994 to March
> 9: Brief of initiatives taken by IGNCA to strengthen dialogue between Indian
> and Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, China.
> 10: Documentation of cultural heritage of Indo-Christian, Indo-Islamic and
> Indo-Zoroastrian communities.
> 11: Gita Govinda project.
> 12: IGNCA newsletter.
> 13: Annual Action Plan, 1995-96.
> 14: Calendar of events. 15: Publications of IGNCA.
> 15: Matters relating to building project.
> 16: Allocations/release of funds for the IGNCA building project.
> There is not one word in the minutes that the deed of the Trust was even
> This meeting took place on 18 May, 1995. On 30 May, 1995 Sonia Gandhi
> performed one of technical miracles. She wrote a letter to the Minister of
> Human Resources informing him of what she said were alterations in the Trust
> Deed which the trustees had unanimously approved. Pronto, the Minister wrote
> back, on 2 June, 1995: "I have great pleasure in communicating to you the
> Government of India's approval to the alterations."
> The Minister? The ever-helpful, Madhav Rao Scindia. And wonder of wonders,
> in his other capacity he had attended the meeting on 18 May as a trustee of
> the IGNCA, the meeting which had not, according to the minutes approved by
> Sonia Gandhi, even discussed, far less "unanimously approved" changes in the
> Trust Deed.
> And what were the changes that Sonia Gandhi managed to get through by this
> collusive exchange of two letters?
> - She became President for life.
> - The other trustees -- two-thirds of whom were to retire every ten years
> -- became trustees for life. The power of the Government to fill half the
> vacancies was snuffed out.
> - The power of the Government to appoint the Member Secretary of the
> Trust was snuffed out; henceforth the Trust would appoint its own Member
> - The power of the President of India to appoint a committee to
> periodically review the functioning of the Trust was snuffed out; neither he
> nor Government would have any power to inquire into the working of the
> A Government Trust, a Trust which had received over Rs. 134 crores of the
> tax-payers' money, a Trust which had received twenty three acres of
> invaluable land was, by a simple collusive exchange of a letter each between
> Sonia Gandhi and one of her gilded attendants became property within her
> total control.
> The usurpation was an absolute fraud. The Trust Deed itself provided that no
> amendment to it could come into force -- on any reasonable reading could not
> even be initiated and adopted -- without prior written permission of the
> Government. Far from any permission being taken, even information to the
> effect that changes were being contemplated was not sent to Government. An
> ex post "approval" was obtained from an obliging trustee.
> That "approval" was in itself wholly without warrant. Such sanctions are
> governed by Rule 4 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business)
> Rules, 1961. This Rule prescribes that when a subject concerns more than one
> department, "no order be issued until all such departments have concurred,
> or failing such concurrence, a decision thereon has been taken by or under
> the authority of the Cabinet." Other departments were manifestly concerned,
> concurrence from them was not even sought. The Cabinet was never apprised.
> The rule proceeds to provide, "Unless the case is fully covered by powers to
> sanction expenditure or to appropriate or re-appropriate funds, conferred by
> any general or special orders made by the Ministry of Finance, no department
> shall, without the previous concurrence of the Ministry of Finance, issue
> any orders which may... (b) involve any grant of land or assignment of
> revenue or concession, grant... (d) otherwise have a financial bearing
> whether involving expenditure or not..."
> And yet, just as concurrence of other departments had been dispensed with,
> no approval was taken from the Finance Ministry.
> The Indian Express and other papers published details about the fraud by
> which what was a Government Trust had been converted into a private fief.
> Two members of Parliament -- Justice Ghuman Mal Lodha and Mr. E. Balanandan
> -- began seeking details, and raising objections.
> For a full two and a half years, governments -- of the Congress(I), and the
> two that were kept alive by the Congress(I), those of Mr. Deve Gowda and of
> Mr. I. K. Gujral -- made sure that full facts would not be disclosed to the
> MPs, and that the concerned file would keep shuttling between the Ministry
> of Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Law.
> As a result, Sonia Gandhi continues to have complete control over
> governmental assets of incalculable value -- through technicalities
> collusively arranged.
> A latter-day Dalhousie -- annexation of Indian principalities through