With an opposition party so compromised and so complicit in the rampant loot and corruption that we have witnessed in recent years, isn't Robert Vadra quite on the mark when he calls India a 'banana republic', asks Sushant Sareen.
The irony is inescapable: even as the top-rung government ministers and party apparatchiks were coming out in droves to defend the alleged malfeasance of the first son-in-law, the man under the cloud of suspicion himself exposed his defenders and the rotten state of national affairs they are lording over by contemptuously calling India a 'banana republic'.
If not for financial honesty and propriety, then at least for political honesty, Robert Vadra needs to be complimented. After all, it is only in a banana republic that someone like Vadra can make so much money in so little time, not because he is some kind of financial genius but because he has the right connections because of which he has the right kind of friends.
Indeed India has been reduced to a banana republic by the people running this government who are selling valuable national resources for peanuts to oblige cronies masquerading as capitalists and industrialists and buy political allies. Thus it is that 2G, Commonwealth Games, coal-gate, and a host of other scandals are all par for the course.
A new controversy has now erupted over the remarkable business acumen of Vadra, who in a matter of few years has multiplied his wealth from Rs 5 million to Rs 5 billion. Quite aside the fact that he has managed to do this through companies that apparently don't do any business activity, L'affaire Vadra has made us 'mango people' -- the cynical, if not derogatory, term used by the first son-in-law for the people in whose name his family's political party seeks votes in elections, ie, aam aadmi -- aware of the existence of the Indian version of the 'princeling' phenomenon, which we thought was prevalent only in Communist China.
The other great revelation of this phoenix-like rise of Indian 'princelings' is the unwritten but more or less scrupulously observed honour code between the two main political parties wherein all crimes of omission and commission of the 'princelings' become taboo subjects.
In this modern Indian version of 'honour among thieves', if you happen to be the progeny or married to a progeny of any top political party leader, then you have complete immunity from law. Come to think of it, even if you happen to be related to the second or third rung of politicians, chances are you can get away with murder (remember the Jessica Lal case?) if you can keep things under the wraps long enough.
Of course, Manu Sharma was unlucky because there was no conspiracy of silence in the media to play down his case. But when it comes to the first family of top political leaders (and here one is not just talking about the Congress party but also including all other parties), then you get to play monopoly (with the nation's property and resources) with a perpetual 'get out of jail free' card.
The defence of the son-in-law by the courtiers was only to be expected. But the real eye-opener has been the silence on the part of the main opposition. The grapevine for quite some time has been buzzing that the Bharatiya Janata Party is a 'friendly' opposition party. In recent weeks, the BJP had started acquiring the reputation of being a 'compliant' (even compromised) opposition party. But now it appears that it is actually the 'B' team of the ruling Congress and is as in thrall of the first family of the Congress as the Congress itself.
What was most hilarious was that while the Congress was trying to deflect the focus from Vadra's 'business wizardry' by accusing the BJP of firing a salvo against the Gandhi family using the shoulder of India Against Corruption, the BJP, instead of demanding an investigation into the dubious dealings of Vadra, was busy trying to convince the Congress that it had nothing to do with the entire episode.
Amazingly, none of the BJP stalwarts who are normally visible on the television screens were anywhere to be found. It was almost as though they were on trial, not Vadra. With an opposition party so compromised and so complicit in the rampant loot and corruption that we have witnessed in recent years, isn't Vadra quite on the mark when he calls India a 'banana republic'?
Of course, allowing the princelings the freedom to loot with impunity doesn't apply across the board and the party that generally violates this principle the most is the Congress. In fact, while the Congress expects that its princelings will not be touched, but fingering princelings from other parties is perfectly legitimate and acceptable.
Take for instance the case of Jaganmohan Reddy. While he was a Congress princeling, he was given a free hand to become a billionaire. Not a single eyebrow was raised over the method and manner in which he made his pile. But no sooner than he started challenging the party high command, his corruption suddenly became visible.
Despite dark stories about the scion of a top Delhi politician making tonnes of money on property deals, no one is interested in the case. But when it comes to a BS Yeddyrurappa's shenanigans to favour his kids, all hell breaks loose. Come to think of it, the Congress was quite blase about targeting Sukhbir Badal, the Chautalas and other such princelings, but suffers paroxysm of rage when it comes to its own princelings.
This is not to say that what the opposition parties' princelings do is kosher or should be excused. Certainly not, but why not have the same standards for all princelings?
Needless to say, for us 'mango men' to expect any sort of accountability of the princelings from the banana republic is nothing short of a pipe dream. Perhaps the time has come for a codification of this honour among thieves code so that we are at least spared the mortification of watching elaborate and often brazen cover-ups of corruption by the princelings.