‘Cong’s Nawaz Sharif moment’: Sitharaman, Chidambaram in war of words


NEW DELHI, May 13: Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday took a dig at P Chidambaram over chargesheets filed against his family and wondered if this was the Congress’s “Nawaz Sharif moment”.
The defence minister was referring to the Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision disqualifying its former prime minister from holding office because of non-disclosure of assets and income earned abroad.
“The parallels cannot be missed out in this case. I am wondering if for Congress party in India, we are seeing the Nawaz Sharif moment,” she told reporters here.
Hours later, Chidambaram hit back at Sitharaman with a tongue-in-cheek tweet, saying that there was a buzz she would be removed from the cabinet and appointed a lawyer of the Income Tax Department.
“The buzz in Delhi is that Ms Nirmala Sitharaman will be removed as Defence Minister and appointed as lawyer of the Income-tax department. Welcome to the bar, Ms Sitharaman,”he tweeted.
The Congress leader also reminded the ruling BJP of its failure to bring back black money from abroad and deposit Rs 15 lakh in every Indian’s bank account, as promised by it before the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
“The president of the richest political party in India is dreaming of billions of dollars! Bring the money back and put Rs 15 lakhs in the account of every Indian as you promised,” he tweeted, without naming BJP president Amit Shah.
The Income Tax department on May 11 filed chargesheets against Chidambaram’s wife Nalini, son Karti, daughter-in-law Srinidhi and a firm under the Black Money Act for allegedly not disclosing their foreign assets.
Sitharaman asked if Congress president Rahul Gandhi would investigate the issue involving his party’s senior leader.
“The Congress party president, incidentally who is also out on bail on some financial transactions which are questionable, should certainly comment and tell the entire party and people of India whether he is going to investigate this,” she said.
She pointed out that the Pakistan Supreme Court had disqualified Sharif from holding office because of not disclosing assets held in foreign countries.
Sitharaman said the law on black money was brought in by the Modi government because it had pledged to fight black money held in India and abroad before the last Lok Sabha elections. The chargesheets or prosecution complaints have been filed by the IT department before a special court in Chennai under Section 50 of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, officials had said.
Nalini Chidambaram, Karti and Srinidhi and a firm linked to Karti have been accused of not disclosing, either partly or fully, immovable assets such as one at Barton, Cambridge, UK, worth Rs 5.37 crore, property worth Rs 80 lakh in the same country and assets worth Rs 3.28 crore in the US.
The family of the former finance minister had said the Income Tax Department (ITD) chargesheets against them under the black money law were “baseless allegations” as the overseas investments under question had been reflected in their IT returns.