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Why Congress's code of Omerta did not apply to Vadra

October 17, 2012 19:16 IST
Rajeev Srinivasan wonders why the Nehru Dynasty's usual Teflon isn't working for Robert Vadra

It is interesting that the normal code of the Congress party -- absolute fealty to the Nehru dynasty -- seems to have fallen by the wayside in the case of poor Robert Vadra. Newspapers are being allowed to question how Robert came by his millions, and the story of his Facebook gaffe re aam aadmi has gone viral. This is startling, because anybody associated with the dynasty normally gets the puff-piece/kid-gloves treatment in the craven English-Language Media.

We have seen this not only in the case of genuine, bona fide relatives of Jawaharlal Nehru, but even with peripheral players (especially if they are white) -- for instance, Ottavio Quattrocchi: he was allowed to skip town, his assets were unfrozen by the law ministry, and the Indian authorities "did not even present proper legal documents" to extradite him, according to an Argentinian judge. In other words, complete Omerta, the code of silence as used by the mafia.

This code extended to Vadra himself in earlier, happier times. For instance, I noted in 2006 on my blog the curious fact that Vadra was the only named person allowed to board flights in India without the mandatory security checks, other than the President, Lok Sabha speaker, prime minister, et al.

This utterly odd exemption -- why on earth would Robert Vadra, a private citizen not holding any position, be considered on par with the highest officials of the State and with a Nobel Prize-winning spiritual leader? -- was not remarked upon then by the media.

Nor was the strange fact that Robert Vadra's father, brother and sister all died unnatural and mysterious deaths: the father hanged himself, the sister died in a road accident, and the brother committed suicide. Commenting on this on my blog in 2009, I concluded that, going by this record, Robert Vadra had a good chance of becoming India's prime minister a la Pakistan's Asif Ali Zardari.

The Zardari analogy, it turns out, may not be so far-fetched after all: he was long known as Mr. Ten Percent, that number being the cut he kept out of any deal. Given the meteoric rise of Vadra's fortunes from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 500 crores in three years, he must have done better than Zardari.

There was also the comment made by Vadra during the recent Uttar Pradesh elections that he was willing to join politics (quoth he: "I would definitely contest if the people so desired". Was he talking about mango people, I wonder). So very noble, like the rest of the Nehru dynasty, sacrificing all the time for the country! I keep thinking it's unfair to ask one family to sacrifice so much, and maybe it is time they quit and allowed somebody else to sacrifice, but I digress.

So what has changed this time for Robert Vadra, he of the charmed life in the past? Why is the Congress throwing him under the bus, even though the usual family retainers did make half-hearted noises along the lines of "how dare you mere peasants question the actions of one of the royals? Off with your heads!" But the old vigour was gone. And some ELM-types dared to suggest that the old Teflon wasn't working any more, and that some of the mud was sticking to the dynasty itself, santham papam!

Why? Enquiring minds want to know. I have no idea, but I have two conjectures: one is that Vadra is being sacrificed so that his relatively small scam (only Rs 500 crores. Yes, only!) can be used to divert attention away from the mega-scams (Coalgate, Thorium, Adarsh, CWG, 2G, Air India, handicapgate, and so on, ad nauseam). And it is working: all these others have disappeared from the front pages.

The second conjecture is more complex: that Vadra is seen as a threat to the dynasty scion du jour. There is a long history of those in that unhappy position suddenly losing their jobs (think Sitaram Kesri and the Toilet Revolution), or finding themselves very dead. It's clearly not good for your health to be perceived as a possible challenger, however remote.

Now that Rahul has failed abysmally in UP, and has been panned even by such publications as The Economist (which can be trusted to stand up for the interests of NATO), maybe some are worried that Priyanka Vadra ("she is so like her grandmother") could well get ideas about being the up and coming dynasty face. Of course, Vadra would be in the thick of that.

There *is* another possibility -- that the dynasty edifice is crumbling, that it's now every man for himself, and that throwing the expendable Vadra to the wolves may yet save the principal dynasty assets. I wouldn't bet on it. This may just be a gambit to get the Congress B-team, namely Arvind Kejriwal's new party, firmly into a position where it can siphon off anti-incumbency votes.
Rajeev Srinivasan