Robert Vadra, or as Om Prakash Chautala says “Wadeyra”, can boast today of a rags-to-riches story. Robert the not-so-successful businessman before he met Priyanka Gandhi: A modest house in Moradabad (I saw it from the outside and it is certainly no patch on where he is living now); a family where several members died in mysterious circumstances including his father who lived his last days in a crummy little place in the down-market Yusuf Sarai; Robert himself who became a party hopper frequenting Delhi’s expensive night clubs and perfected his dance techniques to the point where many of those who saw him on the floor insisted that this is what attracted the impressionable ladies; a business of brass that was not doing too well, just another face trying to make it big.
Robert, the son-in law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi: a fitness freak surrounded by security; a morning bicycler with a group of friends and SPG personnel clearing the roads as the gang whizz by; a wannabe politician who did try to get into Rae Bareilly and Amethi but without much success; a bit of a megalomaniac fond of his created image that used to have Priyanka in the frame, but not that frequently now, and fonder still of his own bytes to interviewers; a close friend of brother-in-law Rahul Gandhi until the grapevine claimed a falling out; and an amazingly successful businessman dabbling in real estate and more.
Robert Vadra is an important man. He is the son-in-law of the Congress party’s first, all powerful Nehru-Gandhi family. He walks with full security cover, denied even to persons on the death list of terror groups like General Brar who was recently attacked in London where he was travelling in a bus without even one guard behind him. Vadra has full clearance, denied to Prime Ministers and ministers, to return from foreign travels without security or custom clearance. And till recently, he has enjoyed full freedom to make money and more money with the assurance that if questions are asked, the entire Congress party and the government will come out batting for him.
So the moment India against Corruption came out with documents suggesting murky real estate deals between Robert Vadra and DLF, the Congress leadership cracked the whip. And party ministers and leaders were out on television defending the indefensible with belligerence and arguments that made no sense, to put it mildly. But perhaps the best defense came from Robert Vadra himself, although he chickened out almost immediately, and deleted his entire Facebook account where he had posted something about “mango men in a banana republic.” This one phrase gave more insight into the man than years of Vadra-watching by inquisitive scribes.
One, the dismissive tones reflected an arrogance with power clearly having gone to the Vadra head. Two, the churlish remark was clearly mocking those who dared question his assets. But three, and this is really the crux of it all, it demonstrated exactly what Robert Vadra thinks of India being run by a Congress government under the stewardship of his mother-in-law. A banana republic? Really? Sometimes in desperation, aware Indians voice the apprehension that democratic and sovereign India was being turned into a banana republic. But Robert Vadra has gone several steps further, as for him India is already a banana republic.
To edify those who might be looking at banana as an extension of mango, or vice versa, the Wikipedia definition is, “A banana republic is a politically unstable country that economically depends upon the exports of a limited resource (fruits, minerals), and usually features a society composed of stratified social classes, such as a great, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy, composed of the élites of business, politics, and the military.” India? Or Robert Vadra’s India?
In the midst of all this furore, poor Minister Salman Khurshid and his wife, stung by a sting operation pointing towards forgeries and fraud in a NGO run by them for the disabled, were left to fend for themselves. Mr Khurshid who was so vocally batting for Robert Vadra, was made to realise that there are two laws in the party, one for the First Family, and for all the others. And he is one of the ‘others’ in that the Congress party that was working around the clock to defend Vadra, disappeared when it came to helping Minister Khursheed wade out of the waters.
There is that old tale where dust turns into gold with a touch. Well King Midas did transfer some of this to the Nehru-Gandhi family in the first term of their government, but more recently the reverse holds true — gold is turning into dust with their one touch. Rae Bareilly and Amethi, the long held captive constituencies for the First Family, seem to be revolting and murmurs suggest a possible rout for the Congress in the next general elections. Priyanka has not been able to still the whispers, and seems to have lost much of the sheen she held for the rural electorate here. Rahul Gandhi is just not able to launch himself. The Uttar Pradesh fiasco sent him indoors, and he emerged recently to woo Kashmir, but it all went awry, with students raising black flags outside the guarded hall, and sarpanches walking out of a meeting with him. Sonia Gandhi rushed to Haryana to atone for the Congress state government’s indifference to the spate of crimes against women. But instead of earning brownie points, she found herself in the midst of a controversy with another victim of heinous rape wondering why she had been ignored by the Congress president. Was it because she had been raped by Jats, and not by Dalits like the other girl, and the Congress did not want to alienate this vote bank, she asked rather pertinently.
The stars are certainly not shining for the Nehru-Gandhi family, with their personal fortunes waning with the Congress party. Hard realisation that a sound byte no longer works, and a wave here and a smile there can no longer convince an electorate reeling under corruption, inflation, price rise and insecurity.
The writer is a senior New Delhi-based journalist