One gave The Family its surname; the other gave it a bad name. This is the tale of two sons-in-law, both outsiders, and the family they married into. Let’s call them the nation’s sons-in-law or desh ke damaad—sobriquets bestowed on them by the political class and the media. Feroze Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru’s son-in-law and Indira Gandhi’s husband, gave the family a name that has enabled them to keep it forever associated with the Mahatma, however tenuously, in the minds of lots of people. It’s also a name that has kept the family at the head of the Congress party right into the 21st century. And Robert Vadra, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law and Priyanka’s husband, seems to be giving the family more than its share of headaches and embarrassing moments.
There is no way of knowing how Feroze would have reacted in an era of 24x7 television and social media that is forever tweeting observations of and responses to the doings and sayings of anyone in the public eye, but consummate politician that he was, he would have handled the mike and camera with aplomb, something businessman-and-wannabe-realtor Vadra simply cannot dream of doing. Some days ago, outside the Amantra Club at the plush, government-owned Ashoka hotel, Vadra not only delivered some memorable quotes (‘Are you serious?’, repeated four times, and ‘Are you nuts?’, interjected once), he thrust away the mike that managed to catch these remarks. He left the media in a paroxysm of indignation for 48 hours. Watching the scene unfold on prime-time television, repeated in capsule form ad nauseam, the public was treated to an unseemly display of wannabe-aristocratic petulance. Some were vociferous that the media was under attack. Either way, Vadra has been an embarrassment to the Nehru-Gandhi family, right from the time he chortled on Facebook about “mango people” in a “banana republic”. Every now and then, he has forced the Congress to end up defending the indefensible.