Caught by surprise initially, the Congress party tried to keep off the controversy created by Arvind Kejriwal and took the dubious stand that they had nothing to do with it since Robert Vadra was not a member of the party.
Well, the import of it all seems to have sunk in a little late into the Congress minds. They seem to have realised at last that the issue is the implied (insinuated, our urbane and suave P.C.Chidambaram might say) misuse of Robert Vadra’s relationship with Sonia Gandhi. Then comes the statement – in response to a question – of Rashid Alvi, a Congress spokesperson: “The attack is part of a well-planned conspiracy not against an individual but against the Congress and its leadership.” Well said, we concede. Join us as we clap in admiration of the succinct summation by Rashid Alvi.
Conspiracy or no conspiracy, the fact is that the allegations leveled by Arvind Kejriwal are in effect allegations against the party and its leadership (read Mrs.Sonia Gandhi).
But then allegations against the party and its leaders are not news. There were many and there will be many more. (If it is any consolation to Congress, their arch rival BJP hasn’t come across as lily-white in recent times. Nor any other political party in power anywhere in India, for that matter.)
After all, Congress is a party famous for the slogan “Indira is India and India is Indira”. So it is hardly surprising that the party spokesman’s mind might have run something like: “Attack against Robert Vadra is attack against Sonia ji. Attack against Sonia ji is attack against Congress because without Sonia ji – and, of course, without Rahul ji and Priyanka ji – there is no Congress.” So far as the logic goes, it is immaculate. Who can fault it given that everyone knows that the grand old party has for long identified itself with the Nehru-Gandhi family and its leaders have long become incapable of visualising the Party without someone from the famed family at its helm?
Given that, the defense (mostly amounting to lame excuses) put up by several of its leaders is hardly surprising.
Ambika Soni, the Information and Broadcasting Misnister, opined that the media had been helping Kejriwal by airing “unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing”. Forgetting, of course, that the media earn their bread and butter by airing almost any nonsense if it has news value. And forgetting that her own party would welcome similar ‘help’ from the media. Given that she is the Minister for I&B, it would have been fair if she didn’t butt in rebuking the media in this issue. But then everything is fair in love, war, and, of course, politics, one might admonish us.
H.R.Bharadwaj, Minister for Law in past Congress governments at the Center and presently the Governor of Karnataka, said: “For the past so many years, attacks have been launched against the Gandhi family. I was the lawyer when Indira Gandhi was verbally attacked. But her personality was so towering that she fought back. Morarji bhai made so many cases against her, and they were all false. They fell like nine pins.” The implicit suggestion, of course, is that the present allegations by Arvind Kejriwal are destined to go the same way. Perhaps they would. But Mr.Bharadwaj seems to have chipped in ignoring the decorum of the high office he holds. But then who can really accuse our politicians of being sticklers to decorum?
During the Newshour debate on Times Now, Salman Khurshid, the Union Law Minister, said: “Let them give us proof that will be verified by agencies and courts and then level such allegations.” We wonder why the courts have to be dragged into the issue. Mr.Khurshid says that the allegations against Robert Vadra are “preposterous and stupid”. Charming man he is. But his statement fails to charm us.
The eminent lawyer and HRD minister Kapil Sibal says that leveling allegations has become a daily phenomena. We can’t help agreeing with the astute lawyer, of course. After all, aren’t we all very sick of reading the daily newspaper: what do we find there except some ruckus about some new scam amounting to humongous numbers our teachers had never thought it necessary to teach us? But what Mr.Sibal doesn’t tell us is why there is so much smoke without any fire. There can be no smoke without a fire, we have always been taught.
P.C.Chidambaram, the suave lawyer and Finance Minister always clad in simple spotless white, has come up with the rather strange argument that private transactions cannot and ought not to be allowed to be questioned on the basis of insinuations unless there was a specific allegation of quid pro quo or corruption.
Keeping aside, for a while, the question about the validity of his stand, we think his argument is strange because, going by what some newspapers have published, there is much more than mere insinuations here. Yes, there are tax returns and there are audit reports; so were they all there in the Satyam Computers Scam.
Going by media reports, there seems to be a fair case for multi-pronged investigation into Robert Vadra’s companies and transactions – even if his relationship with Sonia Gandhi is ignored for a while. Again, to be fair to Sonia Gandhi, that Robert Vadra may indeed have misused his relationship with Mrs.Gandhi doesn’t ipso facto mean that it was done with Mrs.Gandhi’s knowledge, acquiescence or connivance. We cannot help conceding that.
The Family cannot be allowed to be attacked by infidels, of course. Congressmen have done a splendid job trying to stand by their breadwinners. The defenders of the family-that-cannot-be-faulted are not limited to members of the Congress party.
Sharad Pawar, the NCP chief, challenged Kejriwal to go to court if he could substantiate his allegations. Interesting. Go to court against whom? Against the Union Government? For what? Seeking a directive from the court to the Union Government or some department of the government to probe Vadra? Is it the duty of the court to step into the scene in cases like this? Aren’t these people the very ones who say that courts are stepping out of their traditional boundaries on alleged grounds of government inaction?
Laloo Prasad Yadav, once accused of wrongdoing in the Fodder Scam of yesteryear, accuses Mr.Kejriwal of targeting Robert Vadra to get cheap publicity. We know that Kejriwal is not in it exactly with totally altruistic motives. He has his agenda. He is a part of the anti-corruption crusade and he has floated a party and has political ambitions no matter how honourable the ambitions be. But we are not quite sure that Kejriwal has been looking for cheap publicity. Moreover, the issue is not whether Kejriwal has been looking for cheap publicity. The issue is whether the allegations are well-founded. How can Laloo-ji know that Vadra is in the clear without going into the evidence that Kejriwal is flaunting? In any case, who would take Laloo Prasad Yadav’s remonstrations seriously?
The interesting thing is that BJP which would have been expected to seize the chance to push Congress further into a corner has largely remained low-key in its handling of the allegations by Kejriwal. Is it because the party’s track record in Karnataka and elsewhere is nothing to write home about? Is it because Mr.Gadkari himself has been facing embarrassing moments because of allegations against him in an irrigation project in Maharashtra and doesn’t want to ruffle the feathers of the powerful? Is it because trying to drag out the skeletons in the cupboard didn’t actually do BJP a lot of good in the coal-mining scam? The most farcical thing Mr.Gadkari could have said is that there is no real evidence for the accusations against Robert Vadra. Since when have political parties started making allegations based on “real evidence”? Our political parties seem to be becoming responsible, don’t they?!
We admit that we are not politicians to be all-knowing. And having elected them, we do not even claim to be intelligent. But we have a simple question: why did DFL give any loans – or advances or whatever else they choose to call them – to Robert Vadra on such favourable terms as have been alleged?
(There is a supplementary question too. Simple one, again. What is the quid pro quo for DFL in this? After all, business houses do not go for such charity on such a large scale, do they? Of course, business houses are known to make liberal contributions to political parties – but then even they do not call them charity!)
The defenders of Robert Vadra have done everything but answer this simple question straight. Robert Vadra, it must be admitted, has done better than his defenders. He has simply denied the allegations. And DFL, of course, endorses that saying that it has not given any unsecured loans to him. (What about secured loans?). It also denies selling any property to Robert Vadra at throwaway prices. Comforting that statement must be to the defenders of Robert Vadra.
Who cares about the sheaf of papers that Arvind Kejriwal waves at us people bored with all these scams and allegations which Kapil Sibal has rightly called a daily phenomena?
Robert Vadra may be innocent. He may not be innocent. Sonia Gandhi may be innocent or she may not be. But this entire episode does show that there is not one politician who speaks convincingly. And not one whom people would believe. Such is the erosion of their credibility. A sad state of affairs indeed.
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