Rise and rise of Robert Vadra, new fixer on the block
It was foolish of the Congress leaders to rush to defend Robert Vadra. Anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal had done his homework well; he leveled specific charges and backed them up with documents from freely available public sources. At the very least, he sowed reasonable doubts about the business dealings of the son-in-law of the Congress’s First Family.
Yet, like a headless chicken senior Ministers rushed from TV studio to TV studio, mouthing inanities about Kejriwal doing it for publicity, wanting a build-up for the party he was set to launch, and so on and so forth. Not an iota of concrete evidence was offered by these Vadra warriors to counter the well-documented charge that the small-time artificial jewellery and brassware dealer from Moradabad had overnight become a billionaire thanks to his unholy nexus with the realty giant DLF.
Already enormous damage was done to the public image of the Gandhis. For, at least in the case of the more than two-decade-old Bofors scam, that Italian fixer Ottavio Quattrocchi was only ‘a friend of the family’. But Vadra is family. The relationship cannot be wished away. Nor can he be made to disappear in the dark of night as was arranged in the case of Quattrocchi.
In other words, the Congress must pay an enormous price for the humongous folly and greed of Vadra in the coming Assembly and parliamentary polls. It was sheer arrogance that he seemed to believe that his large-scale financial skulduggery would remain hidden from the people. That brazen attitude was reflected in cooked up company balance-sheets, with Vadra listing a loan from a bank as seed money while the concerned bank officially, and most categorically, denying it had ever advanced such a loan.
Clearly, the son-in-law of the Gandhi dynasty was handling a lot of black money, the most popular currency of Indian politics and its allied real estate business. Otherwise, he would not be paying below market prices for chunks of land in Haryana and then registering the same at the much higher circle rates, would he?
During the recent UP Assembly election Vadra had most grandly told newspersons, “If people want, I can join politics.” His wife immediately shot down the idea, saying that “he is a successful businessman and has no time for politics”. That’s right. He is a successful businessman alright. How successful has been fully brought out in great detail by Kerjriwal and his intrepid colleagues who at considerable personal risk of intimidation and harassment have laid bare the tentacles of Vadra’s burgeoning business empire.
As a popular blog says, even Warren Buffet would be hard put to match the money-making feat of Vadra, growing a mere Rs 55 lakh of uncertain origins into over Rs 300 crore in double- quick time. Of course, Priyanka would not be unduly concerned about the means her husband has employed to become `a successful businessman.’ After all, the seven-star life-style of the Gandhis needs must be supported by an ingress of unlimited wealth even if its sources remain shrouded in mystery.
Now, after wading through the Niagara of words said and written about the nefarious business activities of Vadra these past few days, it is hard to resist the conclusion that he was acting as a highly-priced fixer for DLF. Period. Right from its very modest beginnings in the early 1950s, DLF has always relied on ruling politicians. In its early years, the first Chief Minister of Delhi, the late Chowdhry Brahm Prakash, known as the strongman of Delhi Congress, was widely seen as a `friend and well-wisher’ of the company.
Of course, in Robert Vadra DLF had located the master-key to open doors in Chandigarh, Jaipur, New Delhi and other capitals which boast of Congress administrations. Kejriwal has failed to mention how Vadra’s company had bought nearly 200 acre of wasteland in Rajasthan at dirt cheap rates and how sometime later the price of that land had multiplied manifold when an obliging Gehlot Government earmarked the entire area as wind-power zone and undertook to develop essential infrastructure at taxpayers’ expense. Vadra’s company sold a portion of that cheaply acquired barren land and made a huge killing. (Before Congress spokespersons rush to deny the story, they would do well to scan the regional papers.)
Meanwhile, before Salman Khurshid commits his life to defend Vadra, as he did on several television channels, it is hoped he would find time to organise his own defence since a usually well-regarded TV channel, and now the CAG, has accused him and his wife Louise of pocketing taxpayers’ money meant for the disabled in Uttar Pradesh. And Jayanthi Natarajan, another doughty fighter on behalf of the private person Vadra, it is hoped, has had time to settle allegations of real estate racketeering which were most tellingly brought out in a pamphlet distributed freely among MPs some months ago.
Of course, we need not recall here the circumstances in which Renuka Chowdhry had found herself summarily shifted out of Tourism Ministry during the UPA-I Government following news reports of an alleged attempt at extortion from the duty-free shops at Delhi’s IGI Airport. The point is simple: The defenceless must rush to the defence of, well, the defenceless Vadra.
Corruption a great leveler
And you think only the Opposition is jumping with joy at the public exposure of Robert Vadra? Since much of what has been disclosed by Kejriwal and Co was already in the public domain, at least since March last year, there is reason to believe that the Opposition was not caught unawares by the disclosures.
However, the ones who were most pleasantly surprised were the allies of the Congress in the UPA Government. The Karunanidhis and the Pawars who were on the back foot due to the shenanigans of A Raja and Kanimozi and Ajit Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal had reason to believe that Kejriwal with one big blow had disarmed the Congress leadership of its faux moral armour. Sonia Gandhi’s moral authority lay in tatters after it was revealed what her son-in-law had been up to.
With Vadra as the role model, it would be a free-for-all for everyone in the extended UPA parivaar to rake it in big so long as it lasts – and it may well last till May 2014 before they are all dispatched into political oblivion.
Retired Supreme Court judge and Press Council chief Markandey Katju seems to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease. Recently he wrote in a leading newspaper how as a judge of the Allahabad High Court he had ticked off a university lecturer who, when asked, did not correctly know how much one divided by zero was. The teacher replied “infinity”, upon which, Katju wrote, he told him that he was not even fit to be a teacher in an intermediate college. The correct answer, according to Katju was, “indeterminate”. Of course, Justice Katju was wrong. It is zero divided by zero that is “indeterminate”.
Following Katju’s article at least two readers wrote to the newspaper, insisting that the answer given by the teacher was correct and that Justice Katju was wrong. He had clearly admonished the poor teacher who could not have argued with him since he was the judge hearing his complaint against the university authorities. One of the readers of the newspapers asked Justice Katju to locate the poor teacher and offer him an apology.
Clearly, Justice Katju seems always at pains to advertise his great learning, implying as if everyone else was illiterate. Modesty, he should know, is a first virtue of a wise man
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