Vadra’s deals may come under renewed scrutiny with Priyanka’s political plunge

New Delhi: The “Damad ka ghotala” (son-in-law’s scam) jibes that the BJP made against Robert Vadra ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls to target the Congress are expected to get more shrill and intense in the coming days. With his wife Priyanka Gandhi now a big player in the coming Lok Sabha elections, the controversy over his land deals is set to become a bigger poll issue in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Vadra, son-in-law of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, is arguably the country’s most famous “damad”.

He married into the Nehru-Gandhi family, the country’s most prominent political family, in 1997 after knowing Priyanka Gandhi for a few years. Three months before the crucial Lok Sabha election, Priyanka Gandhi has entered active politics as Congress General Secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh and has emerged as the most important X factor in the polls.

When the Congress-led UPA government came to power in 2004, Vadra was running a business exporting costume jewellery. He entered the real estate business in 2007 and controversies about his land deals in Haryana and Rajasthan started making headlines about six years ago.

Ever since, he has been under attack of other parties opposed to the Congress though he is not a politician himself.

An FIR was lodged against Vadra and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in September last year for alleged irregularities in land deals in Gurgaon. He has faced allegations that his company Skylight Hospitality sold 3.5 acres of land in 2008 in Shikohpur village to DLF at a rate much higher than the prevailing rate.

Questions have also been raised over the purchase and subsequent sale of land by the company in Bikaner, Rajasthan, at a significant premium through a maze of transactions.

Business premises linked to Vadra’s associates have been raided during the probe and the Enforcement Directorate has asked him to be present for questioning in the alleged money laundering case related to his deals in Rajasthan.

Vadra has denied the allegations and accused the BJP government of a “baseless witch-hunt” against him for four years but the cases are a political fodder for the BJP to target the first family of the Congress.

Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi used it in the campaign for 2014 elections with his ABCD jibe (Adarsh ka ghotala (scam), Bofors, Coal ghotala and damad ka ghotala”.

He had also targeted the Congress over “damadjee” in his election rallies. The BJP is likely to raise the pitch of its attack in the coming months. He was called “Congress national son-in-law” by union minister Smriti Irani earlier this month. Party leaders are likely to emphasise the Vadra surname in their references to Priyanka Gandhi.

BJP leader Uma Bharti had said before the last Lok Sabha polls that Vadra would go to jail over land deals and the party spokesman Sambit Patra said in September last year that he will go to jail “for allegedly helping a defence dealer in bagging contracts during UPA rule”.

The BJP has made allegations about his links to arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari which too have been denied by Vadra.

Vadra’s father Rajendra Vadra ran a brassware export business in Moradabad, a western Uttar Pradesh town. The Vadra children – Robert, Richard and Michelle – spent most of their childhood in Delhi where his mother Maureen taught in a school.

The family has been struck with tragedies as Michelle was killed in a road accident in 2001, Richard reportedly committed suicide in 2003 and Rajendra was found hanging from a fan at a guest house in Delhi in 2009.

Vadra made known his differences with his father and brother publicly when he issued a public notice in 2002 for misusing Gandhi name by allegedly “promising jobs and other favours in return for money”.

The notice created a furore and Rajendra later said in an interview that it had been issued probably because he was against the marriage.

Vadra has created quite a few controversies with his remarks. In 2012, when the country witnessed a campaign against corruption by activist Anna Hazare, he put a Facebook post with lines “mango people in banana republic” which was widely commented upon. He deleted the post later.

In 2014, he shoved away the microphone of a reporter who asked him about land deals in Haryana stating “are you serious.”

Born in 1969, Vadra is a fitness freak and a doting father to his two children. He had said in one of the interviews in 2012 that there always has been a push for him to join politics.

He congratulated Priyanka Gandhi after she was appointed the General Secretary of the Congress in eastern Uttar Pradesh. “Congratulations P… always by your side in every phase of your life. Give it your best,” the businessman wrote on Facebook.