NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday temporarily sealed the premises of Young Indian (YI) in the Congress-owned National Herald office in Delhi as part of an ongoing money laundering probe, a day after the Central financial probe agency had carried out raids at 12 locations in Delhi and other places.
Sources said that the temporary seal has been put in order to "preserve the evidence" that could not be collected as authorised representatives were not present during the raids on Tuesday. The rest of the National Herald office is, however, open for use.
The notice pasted under the signature of the ED investigating officer outside the YI office said it cannot be opened "without prior permission" from the agency. Officials said the ED team had emailed the principal officer/in-charge of the office to open the premises for it to carry out raids, but the response was awaited.
The Delhi police also beefed up security outside the Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s house in Janpath. A senior police officer said, "We have received information from Special Branch that AICC workers and public persons might stage protest outside the party headquarters and other areas. Since Section 144 is imposed in the area, we have put barricades to avoid any untoward situation."
The party also said it has received a letter from the police stating that it cannot hold any protest on August 5 -- the day it was planning to hold massive protests, including the "Chalo Rashtrapati Bhavan" march, against inflation.
Soon after the ED sealed the National Herald office, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge termed it a "tactic to scare people". "This is just a tactic to scare people. But people will not be scared. They will rise up in revolt," he said.
At a press conference, Congress leader Ajay Maken said the "abrupt action" was a "distraction ploy from the Congress’s planned protest on unemployment and inflation."
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the government, through the "police gherabandi (barricading)", wants to "ensure that issues like the job crisis fall out of headlines."
Senior leader Jairam Ramesh said, "Those who threaten are the ones who are scared. Those who indulge in the politics of vengeance are the ones who are scared."
In a tweet in Hindi, the Congress said, "The voice of truth will not be afraid of police guards. Gandhi's followers will fight and win from this darkness."
Sealing the office of the National Herald, bringing the Congress headquarters under police guard shows both the "fear and frustration of the dictator", the party said, adding that questions about inflation and unemployment will still be asked.
Earlier in the day, the Congress had alleged that the ED had become a "tool" in the hands of the Centre to "destroy" Opposition parties. Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the party was not being allowed to raise the issue of alleged "misuse" of the ED in Parliament.
As the road to AICC headquarters was blocked, the Congress alleged this has become the norm rather than an exception. Mr Ramesh also shared a video showing heavy police presence outside the AICC headquarters here and the road sealed for traffic.
"Delhi police blocking the road to AICC Headquarters has become a norm rather than an exception! Why have they just done so is mysterious..." Mr Ramesh tweeted.
"The Congress is under siege. Delhi police has surrounded our HQs, and homes of INC President and ex-President. This is the worst form of vendetta politics. We will not submit! We will not be silenced! We will continue to raise our voice against injustices and failures of Modi Sarkar!," Mr Ramesh said in another tweet.
While entering the AICC headquarters, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid told reporters that there is nothing in the case of money laundering investigation, as there is "no money involved, so no question of laundering."
"I have come to my party office, if there is any information here I will get it. Everyday party workers, MPs are being stopped...You (media) are also stopped, you must not stop and keep doing your job," he told reporters.
The ED had on Tuesday raided a dozen locations, including the National Herald office at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, as part of its money-laundering probe into the National Herald-AJL-Young Indian deal.
Earlier, the central financial probe agency had questioned Mrs Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders. While Ms Gandhi was interrogated for over 11 hours over three days in July, Mr Gandhi was quizzed for more than 50 hours over five days in June.