The unwritten Lakshman Rekha in Indian politics has been breached. For the first time the Nehru-Gandhi family is under direct attack on charges of corruption. The Bofors case was an exception but it originated abroad and it initially involved someone whose connection to the family was rather distant. This time it is much closer.
Prima facie it appears that some of the facts on various transactions between Vadra and DLF would stand to scrutiny and is thus sure to bring the corruption debate back to the front burner. The Congress-led UPA had temporarily succeeded in diverting the public attention from the subject by launching a reforms blitzkrieg. The charges would cause injuries to the party and the family in innumerable ways.
Kejriwal charges did hurt where he intended it to hurt. He made Sonia Gandhi react rather instantly, something that never happened in the past. Since Vadra is said to be out of the country and thus is not in a position to defend himself Sonia took the charge, both as the Congress president and also as a mother-in-law. She countered the charges, saying “(there’s) no misuse of (his position) by Robert”. She also reportedly described the charges as an attempt to “sensationalise” the issue.
Taking the cue, the entire senior Congress leadership and the government vied against each other to present a better defence for Vadra. The crux of their argument is, as a citizen he had a right to do whatever business he chose. The line of defence was more on rhetorical lines than on merits of charges leveled against him.
Privately, a good number of Congress leaders and workers had for long been apprehensive of landing in a situation like this. There had been hush-hush talks of aggressive business deals by Vadra. He was always considered to be the weak link in the family that they have been taught to worship.
They understand that an attack of this nature against Vadra could land them in an existential crisis since the UPA and the Congress are already fighting serious corruption charges in the CWG, 2G and Coalgate cases. Allegations of misappropriation of wealth by Vadra lead directly into 10 Janpath.
The trouble for the Congress gets compounded because he happens to be husband of Priyanka, who is considered to be Congress’s `brahmashtra’ – the ultimate weapon with the party against the opposition – should Rahul Gandhi fail to deliver electoral results.
There have been quite a few occasions when party leaders had been in a difficult position explaining Vadra’s conduct. In UP assembly elections, he campaigned in Rae Bareli, leading a bike rally. It was something that did not go down with family loyalists and sympathisers in Sonia Gandhi‘s home turf. Vadra faced criticism from various quarters and soon abandoned his rally.
Earlier, he had said that he could win from any constituency in the country and had also revealed that there was a serious move for him to contest from Sultanpur, a neighbouring constituency of Amethi and Rae Bareli in UP.
So far as the charges made by Kejriwal are concerned, the Economic Times had reported a good portion of that last year. But no political party made it an issue and beyond some murmurings in political and business circles, nothing much happened. The story then “died a natural death”. But going by the initial heat that it has generated, it is not going to die down any time soon.