Dubai: As the general elections in India entered the fourth phase, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi found himself in a political storm after a ruling party MP brought into question his Indian citizenship.
Member of Parliament Subramanian Swamy, belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), approached India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, providing documents of a British company ‘Backops Limited’, which allegedly showed Rahul Gandhi’s name as one of the directors and secretary of the company.
What is the controversy?
This is not the first time Swamy has raised questions about Gandhi's alleged British citizenship. Since 2015, Swamy has claimed that Gandhi is a British citizen.
However, he has also tweeted about Rahul Gandhi alleging that he has an Italian citizenship.
Gandhi has responded to the allegations in the past, claiming Swamy was misleading the public and asking him to produce documentary proof to support his claims, according to Indian news channel NDTV.
A 2016 report by the Times of India on the dual citizenship row quoted Gandhi as saying: "I am surprised that the committee of ethics has chosen to to take cognizance of a complaint that is not in order. This is an endeavour to malign my good name. I have never at any stage sought or acquired British citizenship. My identity is that of an Indian.”
He has not yet responded to the current notice issued by the Home Ministry.
The notice issued to Rahul Gandhi by the Home Ministry, dated April 29, provides details of the documents submitted by Swamy, adding: “You are requested to intimate the factual position in the matter to this Ministry within a fortnight of the receipt of this communication.”
Rahul Gandhi's mother, Sonia Gandhi has also faced questions regarding her citizenship. An Italian citizen by birth, Sonia Gandhi gave up her Italian citizenship in 1983 and acquired an Indian nationality. Her Indian nationality was questioned in Indian courts since the first time she ran for public office in 1999.
By law, Indians are not allowed to hold dual citizenship and have to give up their Indian nationality if they are granted the citizenship of another country.
The Home Ministry has provided a time of 15 days to Rahul Gandhi to respond to the notice. The news, however, quickly went viral on social media with several users reacting to the notice and demanding a clarification from Gandhi.
However, several other users expressed doubts as these claims have been raised in the past and dismissed.
Other users claimed that the entire controversy was a red herring, taking people's focus away from bread and butter issues.
With the elections heating up, Gandhi’s foreign connections have been in the news and a topic of discussion on social media, with many accounts also spreading fake news.
Earlier this week, a video posted on Facebook showed an Indian man in Italy, pointing towards historical landmarks at a public square in Turin, Italy, claiming that the buildings behind him were owned by Rahul Gandhi.
The Facebook video has received over 205,000 views on Facebook since Saturday and has been shared widely on Twitter as well. However, the buildings in question are historical landmarks, including the Royal Palace of Turin built in the 16th century, according to fact-checking website, AltNews.