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Vadra storm exposes double standards in Cong leadership

October 07, 2012 15:26 IST

Congress leaders going all-out to defend Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law has left several red faced, with leaders privately speaking of unfair practices in the party, reports Renu Mittal.

Almost the entire Congress party and a number of ministers in the United Progressive Alliance government including Finance Minister P Chidambaram have been fielded by the leadership to defend Robert Vadra the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi. Vadra has been targeted for possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income and has been accused of carrying out big business dealings with DLF for a quid pro quo.

On the face of it, party leaders are defending Vadra as it involves the first family of the Congress party, but underneath there is a simmering resentment at the double standards of the leadership. Sonia Gandhi has made it a point to ask any leader against whom charges of corruption have surfaced to put in their papers and step down, with the party refusing to defend the person in any way at all.

Senior leaders point out that in Vadra's case, however, there is an all out attempt to involve the party fully, even as the party has had no connect with him and he is not even a member of the Congress party. This has led to red faces, with leaders privately speaking of unfair practices in the party.

When former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao was running from pillar to post for his legal cases, there was no attempt by the party to come to his help. Instead, he was left to his own devices despite the fact that he was the Congress prime minister for a full five year term.

Closer home, leaders give a number of examples to establish that she has ruthlessly tried to safeguard her image by removing anyone against whom public charges have been made. The most glaring example is that of Natwar Singh (former cabinet minister) whose name was made public in the oil scam with Iraq.

The evidence against him was flimsy as well as a part of the alleged conspiracy by the United States to remove him as the then external affairs minister of India as he did not suit the United States ideology. Natwar Singh was known to be the closest person to Sonia Gandhi addressing her by her first name. But he was asked to resign along with being booted out of the party. He still remains out of the Congress and remains busy with his writings.

Ashok Chavan, former Maharashtra chief minister, was sacked before you could blink your eyes, for having had two flats in Adarsh society and now there is a case of seven flats in one particular society.

A similar fate befell Shashi Tharoor, the first-time MP and minister who was called and told to put in his papers over his friend Sunanda receiving sweat equity. He was charged with using his influence as a Union minister to help his friend. Later he was asked to resign, after which he married Sunanda Pushkar and he is now busy attending parties and social events.

Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi was shown the door when allegations against him surfaced in the Commonwealth games and the same thing happened to Ajit Jogi who was Chattisgarh chief minister.

Congress leaders are taking the plea that Robert Vadra is a businessman, who has a right to live his life and that his business is independent of the politics of his mother-in-law and 10 Janpath. But Congress leaders apart from others are also asking the question; why is the party being made to defend him particularly since most of these allegations have already come in the public domain in a financial paper at the beginning of the year and Robert Vadra has admitted to most of it.

What may be a tricky issue for him and DLF to answer is how a public limited company like DLF gave unsecured loans to a private company since it is public money which is at stake. According to the rules, the board of governors can give permission for this, but then politically it can be an issue of impropriety which can be used against Vadra.

Politically, the disclosure of Vadra's wealth and his real estate and other portfolio, which certainly looks impressive, has served the purpose of putting Sonia Gandhi in the dock since sources say that most of the charges are based on facts and documents. Kejriwal has challenged the Congress to file a defamation case against him, saying he will face it. But within the Congress, the defenders will be remembered as the real loyalists in the future.

Vadra, who is away from the country and is said to have been in Australia when the disclosures came on Saturday, has tweeted, "Thanks so much for your concern. I am fine and can handle all the negativity." He has further added, "(I have)lost people I loved. What can be worse?"

Renu Mittal in New Delhi