When Morarji Desai was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India in 1977, his son Kantibhai became, as Janardan Thakur has written, the ‘extra-constitutional authority’. His growth as a businessperson within a year of his father’s anointment was astonishing. His links with the Shahenshah of Iran were palpable. He had once forced an unscheduled landing in Teheran while coming back to India from Soviet Union. Kantibhai was widely described as the ‘Sanjay Gandhi of Janata Government’. He was Morarji’s Achilles’ heel.
In the current political scenario, the Congress party has many Achilles’ heels but Robert Vadra seems to be leading the list. And just like Morarji shielded Kantibhai, Priyanka Gandhi claimed that her husband is ‘being targeted and used for political attacks.’ If scrutinising the unrealistic growth of an obscure businessperson is attacking, then he deserves to be attacked.
A story done by The Hindu in 2012 manifested the fishy way in which Vadra has gone about his business. He married into the royal family in 1997. But the Congress came to power in 2004 and from 2007; Vadra’s business activities took-off like an airplane. Inside a year, he founded five other ventures, spanning the real estate, hospitality and trading sectors. The story showed that from just Rs. 7.95 crore in financial year 2008, Vadra’s fixed assets and investments grew to Rs 17.18 crore in 2009, at a growth of 350 per cent in a single year to Rs 60.53 crore in 2010. The listed assets of Vadra have a staggering market value but the declared investment portfolio in his balance sheets is a scanty Rs. 71 crore. Vadra was also alleged of taking an interest-free loan of 65 crores and heavy bargains on land from DLF Limited in exchange for political favors. Numerous reports have doubted the authenticity of balance sheets of companies owned by Vadra.
Rahul Gandhi speaks of how Adani’s business has ballooned unrealistically but the story of his brother in law is not too different. Therefore, instead of passing an off-the-cuff clichéd political remark, Priyanka Gandhi should clear the air about her husband’s ambiguous and shady business deals. This is not 20th century where whatever Gandhis say, is accepted.
There were talks about Vadra being a private person. If at all that is the case, why has he been exempted from frisking at airports when travelling with other Special Protection Groups? According to an RTI reply given to a group called RTI Anonymous, P. Chidambaram’s Office gave Vadra this exemption because he is a Special Case. It said, ‘Robert Vadra has been granted exemption from pre-embarkation security checks at all civil airports in the country on the recommendation of this ministry as a special case as he is married to a SPG protectee, i.e. Priyanka Vadra, in consultation with central security agencies.’ If he is enjoying the benefits of being Priyanka’s husband, the argument that he should be treated as a private person defies logic.
When the Vadra-DLF controversy broke out, the entire Congress party defended the blighter. However, a few days later when another controversy about the alleged financial irregularities in an NGO run by congressman and then-law minister Salman Khurshid broke out, Rajdeep Sardesai had tweeted, "Irony: when law minister in dock, no UPA minister there to defend him. When Vadra in dock, cabinet ministers line up to defend."
Both Rahul and Priyanka, claim to be representing the voice of youth. As a youngster, I feel mocked when such leaders are projected as the future of Indian politics. I might not be a fan of Modi, but at least he has fought his way to the top. Whereas these two are living off the laurels of their ancestors.
Pandit Nehru and JP Narayan had been close friends, and so were their wives Kamala and Prabhavati. Prabhavati wanted to start a school for girls in the name of Kamala Nehru and she invited Jawaharlal as the chief guest. However, Jawaharlal Nehru gave her his blessings but politely turned down the request. Ramachandra Guha, analysing this event, wrote, ‘It is reasonable to speculate that Nehru adopted this policy as a way of discouraging flatterers and intriguers. If Nehru had accepted the invitation, how would he said no to others who sought to attach the name of his father or wife to schemes whose chief intention was to ingratiate the proposer to the most famous man in India?’ Moreover, Nehru never invoked his father Motilal to get credibility.
Therefore, the way schemes and buildings are named after Rajiv and Indira Gandhi and the way the Gandhi’s obsessively talk about their family; is a sad indication of how they have drifted away from the principles endorsed by Rahul and Priyanka’s great grandfather.