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Robert Vadra not new to controversy

Last updated on: October 8, 2012 13:22 IST

Image: Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra
Photographs: Reuters Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore

Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is mired in controversy after charges of corruption were levelled against by him by Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan. While Vadra continues to deny the allegations, as many in the Congress defend him, here is an extract from the book 'Sonia A Biography' authored by Rashid Kidwai which suggests that this is not the first time he is embroiled in a controversy.

Kidwai, in his book, states that five years after Robert Vadra married Priyanka Gandhi in February 1997, Sonia Gandhi had gone public cautioning Congress leaders to not deal in any way with close relatives of Robert Vadra.

The directive came shortly after Vadra himself issued a public notice snapping ties with his family. Sonia's action was unusual to say the least, as she was known to guard the family's privacy zealously.

Kidwai's book states that Priyanka Gandhi first came in contact with Robert Vadra in 1986, when she was fifteen. There was little in common between the two except for their love for dogs, music, fashion and dancing. The simple friendship developed into a relationship. The two were spotted for the first time in public at fashion designer Ashish Soni's show in New Delhi in 1993. The next day, newspapers carried a picture of Priyanka in a sleeveless black T-shirt with Vadra.



Sonia Gandhi's unusual directive to Congress leaders

Image: Priyanka Gandhi tweaks her mother Sonia Gandhi's cheeks at an election rally in Amethi

Many were surprised by Priyanka's choice. Vadra was the son of a brassware magnate from Moradabad (about 150 kilometers north-east of Delhi). He kept a low profile till the world came to know about the marriage on February 18, 1997. Sonia reportedly had some reservations about Priyanka marrying him as he had not gone to college after completing his A-levels. Moreover, some members of the Vadra family had a strong Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh links, having donated their property and wealth to the Sangh.

Informed sources said Sonia took the step of issuing a directive to chief ministers of party ruled states, All India Congress Committee functionaries and others after receiving many complaints that the Vadras (not Robert) were seeking favours using the Nehru-Gandhi family name. It was said that when Salman Khurshid was Uttar Pradesh Congress Committe president, Robert's brother Richard had allegedly called him up to recommend names of some local politicians from his hometown Moradabad.

Robert's public notice published in a leading national daily on January 3, 2002, was drafted by Arun Bhardwaj, son of former law minister Hansraj Bhardwaj (the current governor of Karnataka).

It read: "It has been brought to the notice of my client that some persons including Rajindra Vadra (Robert's father) resident of C-7, Amar Colony and Richard Vadra, resident of Basant Vihar Colony, Civil Lines, Moradabad, UP are misrepresenting to the public that they are working on behalf of my client and allegedly promising jobs and other favours in return for money. Even though Rajindra Vadra and Richard Vadra are relatives of my client but they have no access to my client. Public at large is hereby put to notice that my client has not authorized Rajindra Vadra and Richard Vadra and anyone else to work for him or to use his name in any manner and make such misrepresentation to anybody. Such misrepresentations are without the knowledge and consent of my client."


Sonia was accused of engineering split

Rajindra Vadra was outraged by the public notice. He accused Sonia Gandhi of 'engineering split' among the Vadras and snatching away his son. He denied any financial irregularity and insisted that Robert had not consulted him before issuing a public notice. Domestic quarrels, defamation suits soon became public.

Between 1997-2002, Robert ran Artex, a company that dealt in costume jewellery in bone, wood, plastic and black metal. He used to frequently travel to Australia, USA and Europe. Priyanka too had developed an interest in designing costume jewellery and often traveled with him.


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