‘Private’ Citizen Robert Vadra
Troubles come in sack-full. In case of Robert Vadra, the jamai babu of Sonia Gandhi, they have come in truck-load, but all of them are result of his own avarice and arrogance. And his arrogance stemmed from the fact that his mother-in-law ruled with her puppet Sardar, Dr Manmohan Singh as the nominal prime minister. The Italian lady followed the Indian tradition of bending backwards to accord all possible privileges to the ‘damaad’—in the case of Vadra, highest category of security and no immigration or customs checks at airports. And the liberty to do business his way.
Obviously, son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, became a very, very important person for Sonia’s loyalists, however high positions they might have been bestowed by Madamji.
Vadra, with his background of a small-town, middle-class upbringing, could sense the power he acquired with Priyanka Gandhi becoming his wife. And thus avarice germinated. And that is why he has now been hit by truck-load of troubles. Avarice and arrogance are a recipe for disaster—a Molotov Cocktail.
Troubles loomed large with the change of government in Haryana from the friendly Congress government to Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. It meant that rules and regulations would no longer be overlooked when jamai babu wanted to acquire some land. His land dealings with the Hooda government over-anxious to keep him happy, was allegedly in such a large scale that Gurgaon, the city called mini-Manhattan, was jokingly referred as Jamaigaon.
His troubles compounded with the CAG report. It said Vadra made Rs 44 crore windfall gain in Haryana deal because an indulgent Congress government allowed him to do so in breach of law, and did not insist on covering Rs 41.51 crore of the profit he made by quickly selling the land to DLF Universal.
In its first draft report on land deals in Haryana under the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government, the auditor has said that Vadra’s Skylight Hospitality Private Limited was allowed to develop a commercial colony when it had just Rs 1 lakh in its kitty. “The department (of town and country planning) ignored the aspect of the financial capacity of the coloniser,” said the report.
The land was soon sold to DLF Universal for Rs 58 crore, with Skylight Hospitality making a neat profit of Rs 43.66 crore. The CAG draft report underlined that the bilateral agreement between the state government and Skylight Hospitality required Vadra’s company to retain only Rs 2.15 crore, and pass on the rest to the government account. Since Vadra’s company had altogether spent Rs 14.3 crore—Rs 7.5 crore towards land purchase and another Rs 6.84 crore on security and licence fees and conversion charges—the draft report said the Hooda government should have realised Rs 41.5 crore from Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law.
Apart from this latest exposure, Vadra has been deep in controversies because of his relations and land dealings with the DLF Group. From a capital of Rs 1 lakh, he has, in just a few years, allegedly become a billionaire.
His known sources of income; rents from DLF Limited from purchase of land, India’s largest real estate conglomerate: Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd (owned by Vadra and his mother Maureen Vadra), is a partner in a firm that owns Hilton Garden Inn in the South Delhi business district Saket. DLF Hotel Holdings is another partner in this firm: North India IT Parks Pvt Ltd: Real Earth Estates Pvt Ltd: Sky Light Realty Pvt Ltd.
Vadra has since the last two years been regularly in the news but all for wrong reasons. In October 2012, Arvind Kejriwal accused Vadra of taking an interest-free loan of 65 crore and heavy bargains on land from DLF Limited in exchange for political favours. DLF responded that it had dealt with Vadra as a private entrepreneur that the loan was Business Advance which was given, as per practice of trade, to make payments for land purchased from Vadra, that the company did not sell him land at a throwaway price, and that no quid pro quo took place.
In response, his Facebook comment “mango people in a banana republic” that was later deleted, had become widespread punch line for the news reporters and the public to talk about. Slowly storm was gathering around him. But those who live in the rarefied air of power seldom notice ominous sings. damaadji like all power-drunk close aides of Sonia could never imagine that their golden phase could ever be over—not even when Narendra Modi appeared on the horizons of national politics.
But fed up with the noises being made by envious mango people Vadra closed his Facebook account two years ago. The last straw was controversy over his business deals with realty major DLF. Kejriwal raised questions over the rise in his fortune. In his account on Twitter, Kejriwal tweeted, “Evidence pouring in from mango men from across the country. Mango men would prove to be nemesis for the powerful.”
The veracity of balance-sheets of Vadra-owned companies, which claim to have received an overdraft of 7.94 crores from Corporation Bank was questioned. Later Corporation Bank denied ever providing an overdraft facility to that amount. But then the Sonia loyalists, like a pack of wolves rushed out to defend jamai babu. Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted. “Irony: when law min (Salman Khurshid) in dock, no UPA minister there to defend him. When Vadra in dock, cabinet ministers line up to defend.”
The fact is that but for his maa-in-law, Vadra would have been investigated and possibly tried on various accounts much earlier. A fitness freak, who is a regular on Page 3, Vadra has no sympathiser, even Congressmen have no love lost for him, their obeisance for him was an extension of their utter surrender to Sonia. But, now that Sonia has lost much of her charisma and authority, how many party men would come out in defence of Vadra is debatable. His latest misadventure with media exposed that the Gandhis fortress has very few foot soldiers left to defend it.
Can The Doomed Congress Be Saved By Priyanka?
Over 50 people demonstrating in front of 24, Akbar Road, headquarter of the Congress Party shouting, ‘Priyanka lao, Desh Bachao’ were, in fact, asking Sonia Gandhi to give her daughter Priyanka the role of her brother Rahul.
They actually meant “Priyanka lao, Congress Bachao.”
This demonstration started even while counting of votes in Haryana and Maharashtra was still in progress. It was not very clear but indications were that the Congress would come third in both the states. And coincidentally Swaminathan Aiyer had about that time written that a party which would come third could never become number one.
The anxiety of the Congressmen, not only those demonstrating, but across the country, is natural. Rahul Gandhi, despite being persisted with by his mother in several state elections and in the 2014 general election, has not only failed but has also continued to roll downwards, losing whatever charisma or appeal he had even for the youth. In fact, he could manage to scrape through his own Lok Sabha seat in Amethi constituency which he nursed for 10 years. And that too against Smriti Irani, who entered the fray just about five or six weeks before the polling.
Most Congressmen privately admit that Rahul has failed as motivator of masses, lacks skills to reinforce party organisations nor he has any leadership qualities. “Its sunset for him,” said a veteran Congress leader, “Although Soniaji would not give up on him that easily.” His recent meeting termed as deliberations with seniors is an example of the futility of re-launching him or the Party. The ‘seniors’ comprised those who either lost in the recent general election or sat out. They can have no links left to connect with people nor they can draw up any pragmatic reform and recovery strategies.
But the more important question is, are party men hopeful that once Priyanka Gandhi takes over the revival of the Party would be most likely? This stems from the belief that Priyanka has the traits of Indira Gandhi who after almost two-year of intense struggle stormed back to power. But political scenario and political players then were radically different than now. The Janata Party leaders from heroes in 1977 had become blundering nincompoops and lost their influence over the people. They had, in fact, by dogged pursuit to somehow jail and harass Indira Gandhi made her a martyr. A chastened Sanjay Gandhi along with his team of street fighters contributed in convincing people that the Janata Party leaders were no good.
Priyanka’s political abilities are untested. Her political forays have been limited to nursing his mother’s and brother’ constituencies. How much could she withstand the rigors of Indian elections and be able to connect with people of different regions are unknown.
Indira Gandhi’s apprentice in politics was for several years. Then she worked with Jawaharlal Nehru after he became Prime Minister for almost 17 years. She went all over the country with him meeting local leaders, party office-bearers and thus got acquainted with the customs and ethos of different regions. Then as President of the Party, her political orientation was complete. She knew perfectly the state craft and how to manage a party.
It might sound romantic to bring a replacement of Rahul, an attractive and definitely a stronger person but so what. It would be cruel on an untrained, inexperienced Priyanka to expose her to the seasoned political opponents full of wile and guile. She will have to contend with the formidable combination of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. They have the back-up of RSS which is spread all over India. In contrast, Priyanka has no organisation which can help her win elections. And that means party men in a very short timed will lose their enthusiasm for her. They want to get back to power as early as possible.
Then there is the spectre of her husband, who is likely to be embroiled in investigations and possibly cases. If Sonia does anoint Priyanka, the allege misdeeds of her husband Robert Vadra would cast an evil shadow on her. In controversies and likely to face cases of fraud and corruption, Vadra would be a hurdle she cannot cope with.
The only way out for her would be to separate or divorce her husband. But that is easily said than done. Indira Gandhi had separated from Feroze Gandhi, although he did not have any charges of corruption, of fraudulent dealings or of misconduct.
Sonia knows the odds stacked against her daughter. She knows that the moment Priyanka steps into the political arena, Vadra’s alleged misdeeds would be orchestrated by the opposition ad nauseam on various TV channels also. And this would be fatal for Priyanka. And last but not the least is the question that has Priyanka got what it takes one to become a leader and have the ability to rebuild the Party which her mother and brother have done their best to reduce to ashes.
The future of Sonia and Rahul is also not clear. What if they are caught up in the National Herald case?
The only possibility is that if Congressmen decide on a long-term plan to reinvigorate Congress sans mother and son, they could find Priyanka useful, but only if in the meanwhile she gets rid of Vadra, either on her own or because of his likely legal tangles. It is possible by the time this Congress becomes once again relevant in Indian politics, Priyanka could develop into a political heavyweight.
She has the family genes and possibly the glue which kept the warring Congress factions together. But she would be accommodated and be a success only if she delinks with the Dynasty. She would have to adjust to become a part of the polity and culture of the new Congress Party of the mould of even the pre-Indira Congress, blacking out Emergency and the feudal rule of Sonia.
In short it would be better if Priyanka sticks to looking after her children. Let Rahul swim or sink.
Surprisingly Vadra’s arrogance seems to be still intact which made him attack a reporter of ANI when he asked Vadra to comment on the CAG report which alleged that Vadra made Rs 44 crore. The incident which became a national news—and possibly pissed him off so much that his maa-in-law visited him for 45 minutes, ostensibly to soothe his ruffled nerves—happened on November 1 at Ashok Hotel. He was, some say invited to open a spa by a friend of his. It is claimed by Sonia acolytes that it was a private function. But, a PR agency reportedly issued invitations and names mentioned included Meenakshi Lekhi and Ramola Bachchan, among many other socialites and Delhi’s permanent party-goers.
The ANI reporter when he came face-to-face with Vadra asked—as all other journalists would have—him to comment on the CAG report about his land deal which accrued to him a profit of Rs44 crores. The response from Vadra must have shocked the reporter. Are you serious, Vadra repeated four times and then called him nuts and an idiot. And then he pushed down reporter’s mic but before he committed more faux pas, his bodyguards took him away.
The ordeal of the reporter was not over. The bodyguards turned bullies returned to demand the clip which filmed the jamaiji’s misadventure. The reporter although gheroed by menacing-looking Vadra’s security, kept his wits and he pressed the deleted button of the clip that filmed Vadra in the gym there. He was let go. And rest is sensational history. TV Channels went haywire telecasting the utterly shameful conduct of Vadra—called Al Capone of India by Subramaniam Swamy. Not many jumped to his defence but Digvijay Singh, the old loyalist to the family—some say there is a motive behind his faithfulness—did. He said that Vadra was a private citizen and he should not be hounded—especially at a private function.
If Vadra is a private person, he has been enjoying many privileges of a very important public person for years. Is it just coincidence that he is treated like a VVIP—one can’t blame him if we have such weak spine. He has bodyguards and commandos, how many private citizens have such an army to protect them. How many private citizens are exempt from frisking at airports. But for the Singhs and other loyalists the daamadji is a bechara Bob hounded by the infidels.
The ANI reporter was made to shut up by a pissed off Vadra but questions won’t stop. The new Haryana Chief Minister has said law will take its own course—meaning law will catch up with Vadra. Then his Commandos or maa-in-law would not be able to help him. The private citizen will have to answer, and answer which will convince the judge that he did no wrong. As he claims.
He has lost all his protective shields, although he might not realise as yet. Nemesis, whenever, it catches him could pull him down from his alleged billions to the one lakh capital he started with. Just a thought, can we compare him with the inimitable, legendary Natwar Lal? No, he was an individual enterprise, pitting his wiliness against the police of several states. People laughed at his con acts. private citizen Vadra has apparently been helped by ministers, bureaucrats and the police has not been hunting for him, instead they are protecting him . People have not much Vadra can never become legendary. He will be a foot-note in the history of the rise And fall of the Dynasty.
By Vijay Dutt