Modi's 'jijaji' jibe: Why Robert Vadra's land dealings could hurt Cong

The BJP and Modi will certainly continue to harangue the Congress with Vadra jibes all through election season, but jijaji may well prove to be the spectre that haunts Congress as it looks for the road ahead after 2014.

FP Politics April 21, 2014 16:09:00 IST
Modi's 'jijaji' jibe: Why Robert Vadra's land dealings could hurt Cong

Once it was all about 2G, now it's about jija-ji. Narendra Modi recently mocked Robert Vadra, referring to a flurry of land deals that Congress President Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law executed since 2009, turning him from a small-time dealer in, by various accounts, artefacts and costume jewellery, to a major real estate player in Haryana and Rajasthan.

Modis jijaji jibe Why Robert Vadras land dealings could hurt Cong

Robert Vadra goes to vote along with wife Priyanka. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

A report by the Wall Street Journal, reiterating reports from October 2012 in DNA and Firstpost, details the sudden land rush in Kolayat in Rajasthan's Bikaner district that started with a series of land purchases in 2009. The man buying up large tracts of land, according to state land records, was representing Vadra.

There may have been no legal violations in the land purchases, even if the sellers were offered well more than the going market rate at the time, though officials are investigating whether any land purchase limits prescribed by law were exceeded.

But, as Vadra continued his intensive land purchase drive, all the way until 2011, the state government of Rajasthan that was helmed by the Congress at the time, was preparing a solar energy policy. When the policy was announced in 2011, Bikaner's large land tracts emerged as ideal spots for solar power projects that would get sops from the government under the project. And each would require land that had by then advanced in value several times over.

"Once our area became a solar-power center, we discovered Mr. Vadra had bought up all of our land cheaply from the farmers," Arjun Ram Meghwal, a member of parliament from the BJP, is quoted as saying in the WSJ report.

It was a series of windfall gains for Vadra-owned companies that had made the purchases.

"Based on a review of company filings, land records and interviews with property experts, the Journal calculated that through 2012, Mr. Vadra sold more than $12 million of property, and as of then he still held real estate valued at about $42 million. It isn't clear whether Mr. Vadra's companies have sold any more real estate since then because company filings for the past two years aren't available on government websites," the WSJ report said.

These, alongside the allegations by Haryana bureaucrat Ashok Khemka of wrongdoing in land purchases by Vadra, could form the proverbial albatross around the neck of the Congress. Priyanka is widely considered a more inspiring figure to lead the Congress, but even if this is to happen after the foretold debacle of 2014, Vadra's land dealings and his sudden riches would be inconvenient baggage.

It didn't help that the frontman who did the purchases on Vadra's behalf was a Congressman.

In all, Vadra has sold over 700 acres of land in Rajasthan, it is estimated. Accroding to WSJ, he sold this land for $ 2.7 million, three times what he spent on buying his entire Rajasthan land holdings. Incidentally he still owns 1,200 acres of land in the region.

The BJP and Modi will certainly continue to harangue the Congress with Vadra jibes all through election season, but jijaji  may well prove to be the spectre that haunts Congress as it looks for the road ahead after 2014.

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