The Congress stands virtually isolated after Arvind Kejriwal dropped the Robert Vadra bombshell on Friday, however, it can still bank on all-weather friend Lalu Prasad to put up a stout defence for it. While almost all political parties have been demanding a probe into the charges leveled by Kejriwal, the RJD chief has defended Vadra's business deals.
The irrepressible Lalu found no merit in the allegations. He said he found nothing wrong if someone chose to gift a property to him. He also blasted Kejriwal for making “baseless allegations” and thinking that he had become a leader simply by wearing a cap.
Two things are noteworthy here: Lalu Prasad himself had faced charges of being gifted a palatial house in a prime locality in Patna by one of the fodder scam accused; second, he is considered to be a minister-in-waiting in UPA II. In hindsight, Vadra could have been better off without the moral support from such a leader.
The day after Kejriwal made his allegations public, all parties seemed to be caught in a dilemma: should they, should they not cross the unwritten Lakshman Rekha in targeting the first political family. A section of BJP leaders felt it "awkward" that no other party had joined the issue till morning. Many of them were thinking aloud how vociferous should they be, or how far or how long should they go ahead with it.
Is it the personal issue of a private individual? Will this amount to personal attack against the Gandhi family? Should a greater restraint be applied on such matters? Or was it an issue related to public morality, more so, because it concerned the Gandhi family? These were some of the issues reflected upon by leaders of various parties and observers.
There also appeared to be an apprehension that if they were seen to be latching onto an issue raised by Kejriwal they would be giving him greater legitimacy, particularly when they had almost completely ignored the issue a-year-half ago when Economic Times had reported it.
For Kejriwal, biggest support came from his estranged mentor, Anna Hazare. The issue somewhat bridged the divide. Anna asked for a judicial probe into the allegations. If Kejriewal is found to be wrong after the probe then the Congress can prosecute him for defamation, he said.
The BJP, which had immediately lapped up the issue yesterday, reiterated its demand against Vadra. If Rajiv Pratap Rudi and Ravi Shankar Prasad repeated the charge then party MP and BJP Mahila Morcha president Smriti Irani made it more colloquial by calling it a “Jijaji scam”. The party is inclined to use it as additional ammunition against the ruling Congress.
CPM leader Brinda Karat joined the issue, saying an investigation was a must. "These facts came to light about a year so in some newspapers. Yesterday again, some questions were raised and some documents were presented. We think that if this issue has come to the forefront, the government should definitely investigate. There should be a scrutiny and then the truth should be placed in front of the public," she said.
Further discomfiture came for the Congress from Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party, both asking for a fair investigation. The Samajwadi Party’s towering minority leader Azam Khan joining the growing voices of “probe Vadra” could be cause of worry for the Congress. Every time such voices of protest come up, it raises the bar for negotiations to have sustained outside support to the UPA government.
While there is no response from Vadra as yet, the Congress leaders are keeping their defence more on hurt pride than on substance and also dropping direct hints that “a lesson or two” on law of the land could taught to the “political upstarts”.