What is it about Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, that makes him on par with the President of India, the Prime Minister or the Dalai Lama, among other VVIPs?
The answer, it seems, is that he is the only ordinary citizen who is never frisked at Indian airports (see the attached picture, Vadra's name figures at the bottom). And it's not because he is a real estate tycoon (courtesy, DLF's large-heartedness), as we learnt yesterday.
Congress spokespersons were very voluble yesterday telling the media not to delve into the private business interests of India's First Son-in-Law, but if he such a private person, why is he treated as Citizen Special at airports in the country?
Why, in any case, should Vadra not be frisked like the rest of us?
According an RTI reply given to a group called RTI Anonymous in March this year, P Chidambaram's ministry gave Vadra this exemption because he is a "special case".
The reply had this to say: "Shri 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. Smt Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, in consultation with central security agencies."
But after this cryptic note, the ministry gives no further details, citing exemptions from disclosure. "The details in this regard are exempted from disclosure under Section 24(1) of the RTI Act 2005. Shri Vadra has been exempted from pre-embarkation security checks at all civil airports only while travelling with SPG protectee," the reply further stated.(View the RTI reply below).
In other words, he won't be frisked when he is there with Priyanka Gandhi only.
The civil aviation ministry is irritated with the sheer number of exceptions to the frisking rule at Indian airports. Thanks to the political need to pander to all kind of egos, the list now includes over a hundred types of VVIPs who can't be subjected to security checks, since it includes not only the President and the PM, but all cabinet ministers, all CMs, all Governors of states, all judges of the Supreme Court and all Chief Justices of high courts, the top military chiefs - not to speak of the Dalai Lama and Vadra.
According to an Indian Express report earlier this year, the aviation ministry is planning to prune this list to just a handful since the US government feels that this kind of exemption is inimical to security. The list may finally be down to just the President, Vice-President, the PM, the Speaker and the Dalai Lama.
But even while bureaucrats and politicians haggle about who should be on the list, one wonders why one name cannot be struck off the list without argument: Robert Vadra.
If he is busy doing sweetheart real estate deals with DLF and making a pile, as Arvind Kejriwal seemed to suggest yesterday (read all about it here), he can pay for his own security and does not need SPG cover.
(Information courtesy Canary Trap)