We, the mango people of India, should be both angry and dismayed at the get-rich-quick tale of Robert Vadra. We must accept that the legacy of the nation’s first prime minister—that man of ideas, integrity and dignity—has been sadly diminished. The Ideas of India are now reduced to the Real Estate Acquisitions of the First Damaad of India. FDI has suddenly taken on an all-new meaning.
Perhaps we should agree with Vadra’s Facebook comment that this is a banana republic. If so, it is one where individuals like him, appendages of political clans, make a monkey of the aam aadmi by getting land, help and interest-free finance. Vadra’s fortune is so clearly built on a fortunate marriage. He may have done nothing criminal, but he has certainly wielded influence to get rules bent, and that is improper, particularly for someone linked with this particular family.
There is something quite crass about the entire snatch-and-grab-land episode. Rippling muscles, legs astride fancy motorbikes, Vadra has always appeared a bit of an interloper in the first family that is usually associated with a certain elegance and class. But ‘We, the mango people of India’, mostly ignored Vadra outside the small circle in Delhi where rumours about his business deals have been doing the rounds for a while. The larger public never gave the man a thought. Now it seems that the husband to a Gandhi-Nehru, father to the next generation of the dynasty, applied the bodybuilding steroid technique to build his little empire really fast. He just can’t be ignored any longer. His face and form now impose on that cosy family album frame. There is so much history, drama, tragedy attached to the family—even family-baiters grant that. In that grand scheme of a family whose tryst with destiny shaped India’s history, the Vadra episode is just plain tawdry.
IAC blow Shanti Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal with ‘evidence’. (Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari)
The best thing Vadra has going for him is the fact that the ruling class, which includes the Opposition, media and business, is uneasy with this sort of expose, one that questions land deals and the nexus between India’s leading builders and the first political dynasty, particularly in Haryana. For within the Indian State is the Republic of Hooda, that begins on Delhi’s periphery and is one of the most valuable real estate stretches in the country. Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a master player in the game of quid pro quo and influence-peddling. He is said to know exactly how to keep important citizens of Delhi happy: by giving them real estate in Haryana at throwaway prices. He has been the rare CM in the Congress circuit to have rarely had trouble with the high command. Now it’s apparent that he has been good to the first son-in-law.
DLF, Hooda’s government spokespersons and the Congress have all naturally tried to pick holes in the argument and trash Arvind Kejriwal and friends. As more details of the Vadra affair emerge, the Congress has on the record tried to put up a (largely unconvincing) defence—off the record, they know it’s another disaster—but have belatedly tried to step back from one of the more damaging episodes in the dynasty’s history. (The party’s dirty tricks cell was back in action on Thursday, though, with allegations about Prashant Bhushan’s trust-owned land in Himachal Pradesh.)
One need not be enamoured of India Against Corruption to recognise the fact that only a wildcard entry like them could have gone to town with this story. After all, it has been in circulation for a while, and a section of the BJP leadership actually stopped the party from making Vadra an issue (another form of quid pro quo?). Enter Kejriwal, obviously desperate to make a mark and enter politics with a splash. Something he has certainly managed.
There is, of course, the belief that the next big target for Kejriwal & Co would be BJP president Nitin Gadkari. But given the internal equations within the BJP, it is hard to see Modi shedding tears for Gadkari with whom he has had an uneasy relationship. This episode has also had an unfortunate outcome for Sushma Swaraj who is widely believed to have stopped the BJP from going ahead with raising the Vadra issue earlier this year. She has been critiqued by party cadres and there are a lot of rude comments on her Twitter account.
For the Congress, it’s all-round bad news. Consider the SMS joke doing the rounds—Rahul to Sonia: “Mummy, first CWG, then 2G, then Coal-G, and now Jija-G!” But even for the BJP, this is a hot potato. There are enough scandals involving its leaders, including the dealings of another first damaad, Ranjan Bhattacharya, married to former PM A.B. Vajpayee’s foster-daughter. A hotelier by profession, he too had acquired considerable wealth at short notice. Perhaps a comparative study of the sons-in-law of India’s politicians is called for. Meanwhile, the BJP would both be worried about the Kejriwal force turning on them, or alternately stealing some of its space and thunder at a time when another scandal has hit the Congress.
What seemingly started as mere chai-pani has escalated to multi-crore scams (His Royal Son-In-Lawlessness, Oct 22). Corruption is at its zenith. The noises made by the mango people have reached a pathetic crescendo. We helplessly watch the powerful plunder our country. In spite of the odds, the ‘army of one’, Arvind Kejriwal, is continuing his fight. The coming seasons should be eventful.
Amrita Muttoo, Mumbai
Robert Vadra is such a smooth operator; so brazenly has he put down those details with the Registrar of Companies. To drag a public sector bank into the deals was audacious indeed. We’ve seen such legerdemain only in Hollywood films.
V. Mahadevan, Chennai
It used to be ‘Indira is India and India is Indira’. Now it’s become ‘Hooda is HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) and HUDA is Hooda’.
Pankaj Bhatia, on e-mail
If you are talking about Robert Vadra, then make the case for or against him. Why go into all the other possible cases (sure, there are enough of them)? Why would an article start with Vadra but deviate and devote the bulk of its space to bjp and Narendra Modi?
Rajesh Chary, Mumbai
Robert Vadra ceased to be a private citizen the day he agreed to reside in state-provided accommodation and accepted taxpayer-funded security. If the Gandhis were naive enough to believe he was piling up crores on the basis of his acumen—it could not have been entirely a secret to them—they are unfit to have anything to do with governance.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
It’s strange that senior Congress ministers and leaders have fallen head over heels to defend a private citizen. One has never seen so many ministers working in tandem—and to score a self-goal no less!
Meghana A, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
This oligarchic regime needs to be shown the door. But if Kejriwal and Co are to make a lasting contribution, they should bring back to the fold the likes of Rajendra Singh and Rajagopal who left the movement unhappy with its functioning. Dumping Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and their simple thinking was the smart move.
R. Saroja, Mumbai
In view of his business acumen, the government should consider conferring a Vyapar Ratna award on him and ask him to head a ‘Revenue Development Board’ to cure the economy.
Pramod Srivastava, New Delhi
Kanti Desai, Suresh Ram, Ranjan Bhattacharya and Robert Vadra. Just shows that it pays to be dear to the first family. Some serious hay was made during their time in the sun.
Venkatesh Iyer, Chennai
Though he was right, Vadra is the wrong person to be calling India a banana republic. His mother-in-law and her coterie are responsible for that.
K.G. Acharya, Mumbai
His station being what it is, Robert Vadra ought to take on Kejriwal’s accusations himself. By relying on a battery of Congress spokespersons to come up with diversionary tactics instead, he has added to the suspicion about him.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
No use blaming Vadra. I’d in fact credit his behaviour as he has sought few favours whereas his position affords opportunities for so much more.
Srinivasan Venkataraman, Chennai
Sasikala Natarajan, Jayalalitha’s confidante, applied much the same formula to amass a fortune from the nondescript video shop she ran in Chennai. The Tamil media failed to highlight her meteoric rise—for fear of perhaps offending the iron butterfly at Poes Garden.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
How long can this state of affairs be allowed to continue? There’s a dummy PM, remote-controlled by somebody with no accountability to the nation. In such a scenario, more ‘son-in-lawlessness’ cases will occur and the media will keep playing second fiddle.
Apropos of His Royal Son-in-Lawlessness (Oct 22), about the DLF doling out crores to Vadra’s firms, you say “you have to ask why”. The answer is obvious, what is not is why the Indian media for so long lacked the courage and enterprise to expose these scams.
Manish Anand, Delhi
How much faith can we place on the allegations by Kejriwal against Robert Vadra? Fact is, even after 25 years, there’s no concrete proof of the allegations against Rajiv Gandhi in the Bofors deal.
Dr Peter S.C. Pothan, Bangalore
The story reeks of a personalised hatred and bias towards Vadra. It’s been written only to please the iac gang.
Arun Jadhav, Mumbai
There are 10 paragraphs in this write up. The first 3 loosely reference Robert Vadra - but nothing really incriminating. The next 7 talk about hooda, BJP, Modi, Karnataka, TN, Maharashtra etc. If you're talking about Vadra, then make the case for/against him - why go into all the other possible cases (sure there are enough of them, and enough written about them as well). A very poorly written article - just reinforces that even the worst the Congress can do is better for certain people than other parties! Why else would such an article start with Vadra but devote 75% space to BJP/Modi etc?
Mr Khemka IAS said on TV he was doing his duty . But Khemka must understand some duties may be the Duties to be done but never to be done.
All these happenings give ample ground to suspect that DLF was founded by RajivG and KP singh actually is a CEO in the co. After demise of RG it fell under control of RWadra who is looking after the business of SG. Why is it that every inch of land grabbed by Rwadra was sold to DLF. In Business class Only RWadra could know about gov fruitful policies and future projects' places, related to any ministry even planning commission, with out hiring a RADIA. Only his family is in a position to order central ministers and kangres ruled state ministers to announce new projects where RW already grabbed land. So sale price of his pieces of land rise sky high compared to his purchase price. There have been few people as intelligent as RW, He might have worked really hard at the most for 2-3 years to woo Priyanka, and now he is standing over and above any Indian citizen without bothering to split even an eye brow.
I hope and pray that Robert Vadra has a long life so that he and India will know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
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