At what point can a political party be legitimately accused of compromising the sovereignty of a nation? At what point can a political party democratically elected to govern the country be legitimately accused of committing treason? At what point should a political party be disbarred from contesting elections on grounds of threat to national security? These are the questions that our country has to find answers to collectively in light of the latest scandal to have struct the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.
It has now been revealed that the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation received over Rs. 1 crore from the Communist Government of China during the UPA regime. Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders were the top functionaries in the Foundation. However, that it not the only problematic aspect to the whole affair and China is not the only foreign government that has donated to the Foundation.
Not Just China: RGF received funds from other foreign governments too
Over the years, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation has received donations from the Governments of Ireland, Luxembourg and the European Union as well. From the perspective of national security and sovereignty, it does not make sense why Indians should be concerned only when China makes donations to the RGF. Donations from other governments is a cause for concern as well.
Apart from that, the RGF has also received donations from numerous other dubious sources. One of the sources it received a great deal of funds from is the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung. FNS is a liberal organisation based in Germany that is closely associated with the liberal political establishment in the country and is a major donor for the RGF.
Donations from foreign governments to the RGF when the foundation was managed by top functionaries of the Indian government poses a grave threat to national security and sovereignty. We are now aware that the Congress party signed an MoU with the Chinese Communist Party and the African National Congress in 2008 for greater ties. Were similar MoUs signed with parties in western countries which then made a donation to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation as part of the arrangement?
If the answer is in the affirmative, then it begs the question what did they receive in turn? Even in the absence of such MoUs, it is extremely difficult to see such donations as anything other than investment by foreign governments in order to achieve certain foreign policy objectives. It can hardly be described as anything other than Quid Pro Quo in exchange for favours from the Indian government which was then controlled by the Congress party.
Ministries of Indian Government donated to RGF during UPA rule
In addition to such organisations, the RGF has also received huge donations from multiple government institutions. The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund is one of them but their annual reports reveal that RGF received funds from multiple government ministries when the UPA was in power. The Ministries who were partners with RGF and donated to them include the Ministries of Environment and Forest, Health and Family Welfare, Small Scale Industries and even the Ministry of Home Affairs. All of this is greatly disturbing.
It is unclear how this could be seen as anything other than the appropriation of public funds by the senior leaders of the Congress party through the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. They might not have broken any law but it is certainly extremely unethical for a government to transfer its funds to an NGO which is controlled by the same people. It is corruption, plain and simple.
The Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust
And it is not just the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation which is a cause for concern here, the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust operates in a similar manner. It is also pertinent to note that the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust does not show up in Home Ministry’s FCRA database until the year 2011-12. And in that very year, the FCRA donations to RGF fall to zero while RGCT records over Rs. 23 crores in donations.
Th trend remained similar in the years to follow. The RGF registered zero foreign donations mostly while the RGCT recorded funds to the tune of crores. The RGCT has Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in its Board of Trustees. Thus, on the face of it, it appears that it was decided that RGCT would be the primary receiver of funds going forward.
The RGCT has its own fair share of scandals. It has received a great deal of donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Another of its major donors is the Rural India Supporting Trust based in the United Kingdom. In this respect, a certain American donor raises great concern. Sreedhar Potarazu donated Rs. 11.7 lakhs to the RGCT in 2013.
Sreedhar Potarazu is a prominent Democrat donor in the United States who was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2017 for committing a fraud worth $49 million. He was a major fundraiser for the Democratic Party as well as its leaders Hillary Clinton and former US President Barack Obama. Potarazu was nominated to the important credentials committee at the Democratic Convention in 2016.
Sonia Gandhi’s links with the Clinton Foundation
The RGCT’s ties to the Democratic Party run far deeper than mere common donors. One of its technical partners is the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), which was floated by the scandalous Clinton Foundation (CF). The CF was founded by former US president Bill Clinton and the corruption in its management was one of the primary reasons why voters found Hillary Clinton so untrustworthy during her failed presidential run in 2016.
In this complicated series of events, another organisation marks its entry, the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna (RGMVP). The RGCT’s website states, “RGMVP had entered into a non-financial partnership with CHAI to train community members on managing diarrhoea in 31 blocks within the Raebareli and Amethi districts.”
Even if it is a “non-financial partnership”, we have a Clinton organisation working in partnership with a Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi backed organisation in constituencies where they have contested elections for years. Needless to say, any positive impact in the lives of the constituents in Rae Baereli and Amethi as a consequence of the partnership would directly translate into more votes for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi respectively in those two particular constituencies and for the Congress party across India as a whole.
Thus, if this is not an example of blatant election interference by foreign entities, then what is? Moreover, the Clinton Foundation is the hotbed of financial corruption and ethical malpractice. In this regard, a certain salient point has to be mentioned. The kind of conduct that the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation indulged in is exactly the kind of soup that plagued Hillary Clinton’s presidential run.
It was found that multiple foreign governments which were pursuing foreign policy objectives with the United States Government had also donated significant amounts of money at around the same time to the CF. It created a huge controversy which undoubtedly benefit Donald Trump a lot. Nevertheless, while no evidence of any “wrongdoing” has been established as per law, anyone who looked at the whole affair realises it was ethical corruption at a monumental scale. This is precisely what the RGF appears to have engaged in as well.
RGF received donations from Private Business
There is even more cause for concern here. The annual reports of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation shows that numerous private businesses made donations to it. It appears unlikely that any private business would donate such huge sums of money to a foundation run by top functionaries within the Indian Government out of the goodness of their hearts. It appears far more likely that these donations were investments these business institutions made in order to secure a lucrative deal.
One particular private company that pops up in this context is Unitech Ltd. In 2010, Rahul Gandhi had purchased two properties worth Rs. 6.80 crores combined. At the time, Unitech was one of the accused in the 2G scam. It is also to be noted that at the time of purchase, the two properties were valued at 3 times the total assets Rahul Gandhi had declared in his election affidavit only 18 months ago. OpIndia had published an exclusive report on the matter, which ought to be read in its entirety. It can be read here.
Now as it turns out, Unitech had made donations to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation during the fiscal year 2007-2008. And in early 2008, Unitech Wireless, a subsidiary of Unitech, was granted a pan-India telecom license by the government for Rs. 1,658 crore under the infamous first-come, first-serve policy. To say that this is suspicious would be a mild understatement.
RGF and the pervasive ethical malpractice within civil society
The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation is evidence of the corruption and ethical malpractice that festers at the heart of ‘civil society’. And it is only to be expected that they have also formed partnerships and have among their donors the Ford Foundation and the Aman Biradari Trust. The former is of course an extremely controversial NGO that has funded political activists in India such as Teesta Setalvad in the past.
Ford Foundation had become embroiled in a controversy due to their funding Teesta Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust. The Ministry of Home Affairs even wanted to launch a prob into the matter. The Modi government, after it came to power, placed it under a ‘watch-list’. It was eventually rescued by the ‘magic touch’ of John Podesta, a close aide of Hillary Clinton, and the Ford Foundation eventually relented to register itself under Indian laws. The Ford Foundation had also funded Arvind Kejriwal’s NGO before he got into politics.
Along consistent lines, RGF’s annual report for the year 2018-19 mentions that Aman Biradari Trust was one of its working partners. The Aman Biradari Trust was founded by Harsh Mander, who was found inciting Muslim mobs after the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act. He is also, of course, is a senior member of the Ara Pacis initiative which is known to work with the Italian Secret Service and the Italian Government to help them achieve foreign policy objectives.
In addition, Harsh Mander was also a member of Sonia Gandhi’s extra-constitutional National Advisory Council that drafted the remarkably anti-Hindu Communal Violence Bill. That the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation counted the Aman Biradari Trust among its partners is further evidence of the cesspool of ethical malpractice that festered within the organisation.
Rajiv Gandhi Foundation: Sinister for far more reasons than the China links
Thus, all of this information that is available in public domain, amply demonstrates that the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation was used by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to engage in shady deals with foreign governments that could have very well compromised the sovereignty of our nation. Furthermore, they also received donations from dubious entities abroad.
It also demonstrates that Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust had links to the scandalous Clinton Foundation as well. In addition, the RGF also received a lot of funds from private entities which come across as investments rather than for shared humanitarian objectives. Considering all of this, it is imperative that the Government of India order an investigation into the operations of the RGF and the RGCT in order to determine the extent to which they compromised Indian national interests.