Throughout a choleric election campaign, Narendra Modi repeatedly accused Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul of running a ‘maa bete ki sarkar’, while Robert Vadra was projected as its biggest beneficiary. Late in April, the BJP even released Damaad Shri, a poorly produced video accusing Haryana and Rajasthan’s Congress governments of helping Vadra acquire land at windfall profits.
No wonder there is hushed expectation in Delhi’s party circuit around what retribution the new BJP government, with its emphasis on clean governance, will mete out to the Congress first family. What the chatterati do not know is that despite the rhetoric, peace overtures between the warring sides are already under way. It is learnt that a male, telegenic and globe-trotting lobbyist who inhabits treacherous ideological terrains has stepped in to broker a truce.
Noises from the establishment lend credence to such gossip. Union minister of commerce, finance and corporate affairs Nirmala Sitharaman, when asked about probable action on Vadra’s land deal cases, said, “I don’t know.” Of course, there’s time enough for action. Seeing that the BJP top brass was occupied in the constitution and swearing-in of Modi’s cabinet until recently, only the politically naive would think the Congress leadership is safe. BJP wingmen seem to have bought into this idea. Take this headline from ‘bold and right’ NitiCentral on May 19: ‘Mrs Vadra is in trouble and she knows it’.
Significantly, the guns trained so far on Robert Vadra have suddenly been turned on to his wife, Priyanka, the very embodiment of Congress hopes. An up-and-coming BJP leader says, “Whatever we had to say on Mr Vadra, we have said during our campaign.” Modi may well go ahead and institute an inquiry. Yet, he has been ambivalent on the topic. For time and again, he has also said there will be no witch-hunt and the law will take its own course.
But a probe seems unlikely, especially since focus has moved to a petty crime of Priyanka: that she held multiple ‘unique’ identities given by the ministry of corporate affairs. Priyanka simply apologised for her ‘mistake’. Multiple Director Identity Numbers (DINS) have unfortunate tax implications for the exchequer, Subramanian Swamy, veteran Gandhi baiter, reiterated on social media platforms last week. When a minor fire broke out in Shastri Bhawan in New Delhi, Swamy raced online to tweet: “BC fraud on multiple DINS is a genetic disease: his mother has multiple DINS. Family of chors! Who set Min of Corp office on fire today?”
Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, Priyanka and Robert Vadra in New Delhi. (Photograph by Jitender Gupta)
Where all this will end is anybody’s guess. Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, member of India Against Corruption, which first revealed Vadra’s lucrative land deals, allegedly involving DLF, says a serious investigation can prove conspiracy between officials, politicians and Robert Vadra and his associates. “Outright corruption is most apparent in the land deal by Vadra at Gurgaon,” he says. If BJP stalwarts like Ravi Shankar Prasad get it right, action in Vadra’s case will prove serious intent on tackling a new kind of corruption, where illegality is tough to establish though windfall gains are apparent. Interestingly, DLF heir-apparent Rajiv Singh was at Modi’s swearing in on May 26.
Even IAS officer Ashok Khemka (who played a major role in exposing the Vadra deals) is not optimistic. “What seems clear is that there’s massive public anger against the deal. And there’s a mandate for development.... Even so, development means different things to different people. It won’t be served by hounding people.” The Vadra land deals mattered only in the last 15 days of the election, he says.
Clearly, politics is at the root of the equivocation. Haryana voted for the BJP in unprecedented numbers and the Vadra case was an issue, but Modi didn’t bring it up at his rally there, choosing Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to raise the alleged iniquities of the Gandhis. A source in the Haryana government says that in all the poll hullaballoo, Vadra’s deals in Palwal somehow escaped attention. “The rules allow one entity to own up to 56 acres, but Vadra is said to own 75. This needs to be examined,” he says.
In Rajasthan, where Vadra stands similarly accused, cases have gone nowhere, though the state BJP released a ‘Black Paper’ on 100 Gahlot-era ‘scams’ before last year’s assembly polls, which a resurgent BJP under Vasundhararaje won handsomely. “Despite a full majority, Vasundhararaje did not take action on any issue she aggressively raised during campaigning,” says Rakesh Parikh, an Aam Aadmi Party leader. The Congress, meanwhile, murmured about investigating ‘Snoopgate’ last month, only adding to the din of a ‘witchhunt’ versus ‘law taking its course’.
DLF, which has been consistently denying any wrongdoing, reiterated its position. “There is no case for a probe. All our dealings were above board,” says a spokesperson. He adds, “I don’t think the BJP believes in a witch-hunt. Modi has made it quite clear in his speeches.” Man-about-town Suhel Seth, a keen observer of the just-concluded polls, who has weighed in on the side of ‘development’ this time, seems to concur. “Let me tell you something. I know Mr Modi a little and Mr Modi is not a vindictive man.”
In Congress circles, the buzz is that there’s enough meat on former Vasundhararaje confidant Lalit Modi’s past land deals in Rajasthan. Ultimately, even that case is a tangled affair and tough to prove, but they give the Congress an opportunity for reciprocal mud-slinging. Actually, at the close of a season never short of acrimony, most of the heavy ammo is put away in favour of a resumption of business as usual. ‘Let bygones be bygones’ seems to be the silent consensus among sworn political foes for now.
Despite the BJP targeting Robert Vadra’s dubious land deals during its shrill election campaign, the Modi government has suddenly fallen silent on the issue (A Breather Before a Hole?, June 9). There can be two reasons for this: either the new government does not want to be perceived as vindictive or the BJP has as much to hide as the Congress.
Vijai Pant, Hempur
The new government has hardly settled in and Outlook wants it to go after Vadra instead of attending to more pressing problems. And had the government really gone after him, Outlook would have been the first to cry foul.
Prem Krishnan, Singapore
What Modi’s inaction on the Vadra affair says is: Congress, you had your time from 2004 to 2014 to have your fill; now duck away, it’s our turn.
The government has more important things to fix—like the moronic retrospective tax Pranab Mukherjee foisted on foreign companies as finance minister and drove investment out—than to go after Vadra.
Krupakar Kolbatla, Mumbai
The Congress and the BJP are two sides of the same coin. Despite its hyped-up faults, the Aam Aadmi Party was the only option that could have made a difference.
Nasar Ahmed, Karaikudi
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
How dare Modi sleep even a wink until Vadra is put in the jail? How dare Modi sleep a wink until every Bangladeshi is sent back to their country? How dare Modi sleep a wink until Article 370 is recended?
Indian black money will also have the same fate, Modi or no Modi.
Lol... BJP or Congress, its politics that emerges the winner. Its more of a you scratch my back and i'll scratch yours. I don't think there is any party that is worth its salt to go all in and probe all corruption charges. The fact is, politicians on either side of the fence have dirt on their hands, trying to clean out the dirt from the other side will only reveal their dirty hands.
Vadra can rest in peace knowing fully well that everyone has skeletons in their closet. Of course, there will be a fall guy... Most often an inconsequential one.
And yea, Modi supporters can continue to live in denial and rake up reasons ranging from they just recently took office to give him another 5 years.
People should realize that we don't live in a perfect world. Kejriwal tried his hand at it and failed miserably. Moral of the story.. Euphoria or not... its time to keep the expectations in check, least we don't get disappointed too much.
It is not the question whether Modi is vindictive or not. It is the question of bringing criminals to justice and recovering all illgotten money from the. If Modi fails on this test it will be AAP party replacing them next time. No tolerance on corruption - this is whht Modi has to understand to survive. We are not interested in what he is like . We want him to perform.
Now that the BJP has come to power at Centre , why can`t the Govt.on it`s own ,get all the land deals made by Robert Vadara in various states examined thoroughly and to initiate appropriate legal action against defaulters in case the state govts. are found to have been put to revenue loss in any way owing to alleged illegitimate land deals.? It was BJP`s one of the election agenda .
Ashok khemka,an IAS officer in Haryana had pointed out number of irregularities to have been committed in land deals made said RVputting state exchequer to huge revenue loss. Instead of doing justice to the matter,the State Govt.took action against the said IAS on allegedly unsound grounds.
Parshuram Gautampurkar,Sawai Madhopur,Rajasthan
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