Congress president Rahul Gandhi was on Tuesday sent a notice by the home ministry seeking a response to charges that he held “British” citizenship, angering the party in the middle of campaign hustings.
The move caused a political storm, coming as it does just days before Gandhi’s constituency Amethi in Uttar Pradesh goes to polls on Monday, and despite his affidavit being given the clean chit by Amethi’s returning officer last week.
Gandhi was sent a letter by the director of citizenship at the ministry, seeking his response on a complaint filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy.
According to the letter, Gandhi reportedly mentioned his citizenship as British in the annual returns of a company filed in 2005 and 2006. The centre has now sought his response.
While the BJP has demanded a response from Gandhi, Union home minister Rajnath Singh downplayed the matter stating that “When a member of Parliament writes to any ministry, action required on their query is taken. It is not a big development, it is normal process.”
Even though the returning officer of Amethi last week, set aside all objections on Gandhi’s nomination papers and deemed his affidavit valid after scrutinizing allegations of discrepancies over his citizenship and other issues, the centre has given Gandhi a fortnight to respond.
“The MHA has requested Rahul Gandhi to intimate factual position on the matter. It has given him 15 days to respond to the notice. And we are now waiting for his response,” said a senior MHA official.
The Congress party reacted with anger at the allegation.
“The whole of India knows that Rahul Gandhi is an Indian. People have seen him being born and grow up in India. What nonsense is this,” sister Priyanka Gandhi said in Varanasi.
“(Narendra) Modi has no answer for unemployment, Modiji has no answer for agrarian distress and black money, that’s why he is resorting to fake narrative through his government’s notices to divert attention,” said senior Congress party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
Surjewala added that the matter had been raised back in 2015 as well when Gandhi’s citizenship had come into question and it “was settled by the Supreme Court, which dismissed the petition on the issue on 30 November that year.”
The ruling BJP also hit out at the Congress president, with party spokesperson Sambit Patra saying “if you create a confusion you have to clarify.”
In 2016, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had forwarded to the parliamentary ethics committee, headed by veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani, Swamy’s “complaint of ethical misconduct” against Gandhi that he had accessed documents in which the Congress leader had called himself “British”.
In his reply to the ethics committee on the allegations of British citizenship, Gandhi had said he had never “sought or acquired British citizenship” and that his “identity is that of an Indian”.
Gandhi also questioned the committee’s decision to look into a “complaint that is not in order”, claiming it was “an endeavour to malign” him.
Press Trust of India contributed to this story.