Was the donation from the Chinese Embassy towards the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) just a tip of the iceberg or was it an aberration?
It was learnt that between 2004 and 2005, the Foundation, which is now run by Sonia Gandhi, had ran the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies (RGICS), which in turn was linked to a body that the US government in a ”staff research report” in 2018 called a “front organisation”, which performed “dual roles of intelligence collection and conducting propaganda and perception management campaigns”.
In other words, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which is in the eye of a political storm right now, had association with a Chinese body between 2004 and 2005 which the US government alleged in 2018 to be involved in intelligence collection.
The RGF in its website claims that the role of Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies involved primarily research activities, activities with schools and the China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC).
Now the role of CAIFC has become a matter of concern. The US published a report in August 2018 under the name “China”s overseas United Front Work: Background and implications for the United States”.
It was written by Alexander Bowe, who was a policy analyst in security and foreign affairs. The report alleged, “…the China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC), a front organisation for the former General Political Department, performs dual roles of intelligence collection and conducting propaganda and perception management campaigns…”
The report also alleged that CAIFC, along with a host of Chinese organisations, work at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The report further alleged that CAIFC is part of many other organisations which the Liaison Department of the former People”s Liberation Army General Political Department (GPD), “facilitated”.
This new revelation has come in the wake of the BJP citing donations made by the Chinese Embassy and the government of the People”s Republic of China to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which was also alleged to have received donations from the Prime Minister”s National Relief Fund.
In fact, on Friday, BJP President J.P. Nadda lashed out at the Congress, saying, “PMNRF, meant to help people in distress, was donating money to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in the UPA years. Who sat on the PMNRF board? Sonia Gandhi. Who chairs RGF? Sonia Gandhi. Totally reprehensible, disregarding ethics and processes and not bothering about transparency.”
In the backdrop of rising anti-China sentiments across the country after 20 Indian soldiers were martyred in eastern Ladakh on June 15 following a bloody clash with the Chinese People”s Liberation Army troops, the association between the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and China has put the grand old party in an uncomfortable position.
Now RGF”s past association with a Chinese front organisation alleged to have intelligence collection background coming to fore has surely complicated the matter for the Congress, whose interim President now heads the Foundation named after her deceased husband.
Three Congress spokespersons were contacted, including its chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala. However, no one responded.
Earlier, speaking about the RGF”s donation allegations, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera had termed it as a “diversionary tactic”, while alleging that “the government is fighting the Congress instead of fighting China”.
However, the BJP was unsparing. Reacting to the development, BJP’s social media wing shief Amit Malviya said, “Is this association between the RGF and CAIFC surprising? It is a reassertion of what we have always been claiming.”
The Congress government while in power was doling out largesse to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGV) and Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister in 1991 allocated Rs 100 crore over 5 years.
The disclosures are coming to light as the RGF comes under scrutiny following exposes that that the Government of China and China Embassy were donors to the Foundation.
However, reportedly, following Opposition uproar, the funds while allocated from the Budget could not be disbursed to the RGF.
The Budget Speech of 1991-92 by Manmohan Singh, Minister of Finance presented on July 24, 1991 has the detail.
“The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation has been established to perpetuate the memory of the great leader and to promote the ideals and objectives for which he lived and laid down his life,” Singh said.
“This Foundation, among other things, will lay particular emphasis on research and action programmes relating to the application of science and technology for development, propagation of literacy, the protection of the environment, the promotion of communal harmony and national integration, the uplift of the under-privileged, women and handicapped persons, administrative reforms and India”s role in the global economy,” he added.
“As a homage to the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi and in support of the laudable objectives of the Foundation, Government has decided to contribute Rs.100 crores to the Foundation at the rate of Rs.20 crores per annum for a period of five years beginning from the current year,” the then Finance Minister said in the Budget speech.
BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra launched an attack on the central government allocating Rs 100 crore to RGF led by Sonia Gandhi. Patra said it is an example of Congress corruption and the RGF was formed to collect money.
Patra said that on three occasions, money from PM Relief Fund was diverted to RGF. The money was taken in the form of a shell company.
Patra said that Rameshwar Thakur was the auditor of the RGF. The rule is that the auditor has to be changed in three years but Thakur was not changed. Patra said instead Thakur was rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat and also appointed as Parliamentary Affairs Minister.
Patra has alleged that the RGF under Sonia Gandhi was formed to collect funds and is an example of Congress corruption.
BJP IT Cell chief Amit Malviya said in a tweet, “When Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh allocated 100 crore to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. 20 crore per year for 5 years… Former PM, supposedly Mr ”Honest”, has been serving the interest of the Gandhis for as long as one can go back to!”.