On Saturday (April 23), former Yes Bank CEO Rana Kapoor revealed to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that he was forced to buy a painting worth ₹2 crores from Congress scion Priyanka Gandhi. Kapoor was reportedly promised a Padma Bhushan in exchange for the purchase.
Reportedly, the amount paid by the ex-CEO of Yes Bank was allegedly used for Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s treatment in New York. The painting was originally gifted to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by renowned painter MF Hussain.
At the heart of the controversy is a letter written by Priyanka Gandhi on June 4, 2010. Sent to the home address of Rana Kapoor, it said, “Thank you for purchasing the portrait of my Father, Shri Rajiv Gandhi painted by Shri M.F. Hussain, which was presented to him in 1985 at the Congress Party’s centenary celebrations and is presently in my ownership and possession.”
“I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated June 3, 2010, as well as your payment by cheque no. 135343 dated June 3, 2010, drawn on your HSBC Account No. 019.384890-006 in the amount of ₹2 crones representing the full and final payment towards subject painting,” Priyanka Gandhi had written.
She further added, “I trust you are aware of the historical value of this work, and will ere are its placement in an environment that befits its stature.”
Controversy over the ownership of the painting
The MF Hussain painting was given to Rajiv Gandhi by the painter himself in 1985 during the centenary celebrations of Congress. The ownership of the painting came under controversy as ex-PM Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister at that time. There were speculations if the gift was accepted by Rajiv Gandhi in his personal capacity or as the Prime Minister of India.
If the painting was given to Rajiv Gandhi in his personal capacity and if Rajiv Gandhi died without a will, the same will be divided between the legal heirs, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka herself. If the painting was owned by Congress, since Rajiv Gandhi was INC President in 1985, it becomes property of Congress and Priyanka Gandhi will not be able to sell it unless she is given the power of attorney by the party.
If the painting was gifted to Rajiv Gandhi in his personal capacity, then it would have been owned by all three, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi, in case there was no will. There is no clarity as to whom it was gifted and who owned it after Rajiv Gandhi was replaced as Prime Minister of India.
Though Prime Ministers are allowed by law to keep the gifts they receive during their tenure, the price of the item cannot exceed Rs 5,000 if they want to retain it. Thus, if the painting was gifted to the chair, it would be wrong on the Gandhi family’s part to retain the painting after Rajiv Gandhi was replaced as PM.
Interestingly, Priyanka Gandhi had claimed that the painting was under her ownership in her letter to Rana Kapoor on June 4, 2010.