When it comes to family, what wouldn’t one do for their well-being? A universally true sentiment, right? But what if the same, for now seemingly innocent, sentiments are exercised in political corridors. The title, the relations are permitted and used by almost every ambitious person, to utmost, for clambering up in this chaotic world. For some if they find favour with their “Karta” it means access to too-good-to-be-true deals, exemption from restricting rules, overlooking of misdemeanors and fraudulent activities. Overall, gifts come pouring in, the lady luck smiles on you and the rise is meteoric (ignore the resume). But among all the relatives none holds a place of higher stature as the respected ‘Damaad shri’. So it’s no wonder that the national son-in-law Robert Vadra has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. From photo-op bike rallies to land scams, he has been at the receiving end of mass criticism.
When Vadra married in 1997 he embarked on a bountiful journey with his first venture- Artex that dealt with brass handicrafts and accessories. His companies started out with a funding of Rs. 50 lakh but from 2007 the sun seemed to shine brighter for him and he founded five other businesses spreading over real state , hospitality and trading sectors. The real estate giant DLF, acting as a guardian angel , provided unsecured, interest-free loans and advances amounting to Rs. 50 crore. Armed with such huge loans Vadra’s fixed assets and investments recorded a whooping 350 percent rise in 2010. Also there have been several unexplained gaps in the financial information provided by them, though assets pop up in balance sheets, corresponding enhancement of visible business activity is negligible. Also the records raise questions on his capability to make such huge investments in high value properties since only Skylight Hospitality has been shown to make any substantial profit and overall calculations wipe out his reserves.
The issue that raised hue and cry in political corridors, Vadra-DLF land deal, was brought up by all opposition members and probe was demanded. A land deal mutation between Skylight Hospitality and DLF had been cancelled by Ashok Khemka who worked as the Director-General of Land-Consolidation, citing falsification of documents and huge pocketing of benefits among other irregularities. Skylight Hospitality had purchased a land at Shikohpur village in Gurgaon for Rs. 7.5. crore on 12 February ,2008. On March 21 the very same year, permission was granted by the Hooda government on their request to develop the plot commercially. Within three months the company signed a deal for the same plot with DLF for Rs. 58 crore earning a hefty profit of more than 700 percent. Before leaving his office as he stood transferred (though not surprisingly), a letter was issued by Khemka ordering an enquiry across four districts namely Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat into the “alleged under-valuation of some properties registered by companies associated with Vadra as vendor or vendee”.
After the whole matter snowballed into a political controversy the Haryana Govt. was forced to order an investigation into the deal, an inquiry committee headed by additional chief secretary was set up. Later the committee opined that Khemka had acted beyond his authority and there was no wrongdoing in the deals. Also, the deputy commissioners of the four districts, after examining all registered documents, stated that none of the deeds had been registered as undervalued. Questions were also raised in the CAG report about exceptions made for Vadra’s company as it was found that his name and status had been frequently brought up for favouring the company. Further the company did not submit any document as a proof of its financial capability, which is one of the major criteria for issuing of the license. At each step his credentials sufficed to gain approvals and sometimes even bend the rules to company’s favour. The opposition at that time went ahead to release a strongly-worded video and booklet titled ‘Damaad Shree’ alleging that land ceiling acts had been violated in the ‘Damaad Gate’ scam. In the 8 minute long video they sought to draw the stark difference between the favoured and the shunted, accusing the UPA Govt. of assisting Vadra in land-grabbing. Meanwhile it was also clarified that their target was not a particular person, but the corruption prevailing in the country. It appreciable, political rivals rising above personal vendetta and focusing on progress and reforms but as the events have unfolded one is forced to question ‘Is there anything such as political rivalry? Are the corruption issues raised, only as point-scoring tools? What about dealing with the corrupt in their own arena?’
‘If the desire is so noble and firm then why under the new regime, justice has not been delivered given that the proofs are substantial?’ It is not surprising that Khemka had to face the ire of the state Govt. after his revelations, he was chargesheeted by the Hooda Govt. for wrongly cancelling the deal, failing his responsibilities and speaking against the Govt. in media. But, what comes as a shock is that under the new regime of NDA Govt. too, his respite was short lived and after serving a short tenure as the state transport commissioner he was transferred to a low profile job in Archaeology and Museums Dept. as Secy. & Dir. General. It is jolting to know that even after shuffling of Govt. at union and state level the chargesheet continues to mire his career and was sought as the main reason for not sending him to the centre on central deputation. His chargesheet stands even after BJP came to power contrary to expectations of the masses. The irony that the same group alleged victimization of honest officers in former regime is hard to miss on.
Are the political parties nowadays following the policy of ‘Live and Let Live’? Are they afraid of what answers these questions may bring into limelight? It might be possible that they have their own members equally culpable and hence are afraid to draw the first blood. It is not only Vadra who seems to be following the get-rich-quick scheme. Sanjay Singh, infamously known as ‘Mukhyamantri ka saala’ in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh has been able to exploit the tag to utmost. From a class III employee in Tourism Dept. he rose to the post of general manager within 3 years of Raman Singh’s regime despite the fact that the Tourism Secy. Rejected his promotion quoting the fact that there was no provision of direct promotion to class I from class III. He even had a huge pay scale hike which was later declared illegal after complaints but, the incremental salary was never recovered from him. Among others, he also faces corruption and bribery charges. CAG report revealed irregularities in his division such as unaccounted purchase of large quantities of gift items amounting to Rs. 6.37 crore. These allegations led to issuing of a show-cause notice and further reminders, all of which went unanswered. Add to the list, accusations of using Govt. funds without approval for several private foreign trips costing about Rs. 18.72 lakh.
The list further includes Dushyant Singh (Vasundhara Raje’s son) and Hema Malini to name a few. The Dholpur palace had been the bone of contention for long with the Govt. , the son and the father staking their claims, the dispute went on for decades. But, in 2007 Dushyant gained the rights over the palace and converted it into a hotel. It was later revealed that Lalit Modi had invested in his company Niyati Heritage, buying shares at a whooping price of Rs 96000 per share while Ms. Raje purchased the shares at a nominal price of Rs. 10 per share. It is believed that Lalit Modi-controlled AHHPL transferred hefty funds and loans to Singh’s NHHPL through a Mauritius-based firm Wilton Investment Limited. It is under scrutiny by ED(Enforcement Directorate) if appropriate capital gains tax were paid and disclosures were made to RBI as per FDI rules. Add to it the fact that his company has not filed balance sheets since five years.
Turning to more recent events the allotment of 2000 sqft plot worth Rs 40 crore in Andheri’s Ambivili area to MP Hema Malini at a meager sum of Rs 70,000 has drawn public ire for all the right reasons. A debt-laden state facing drastic drought situation with farmers committing suicide could surely optimize its resource usage. In spite of court’s judgment asserting that “any public property cannot be allotted by the state without releasing advertisements inviting applications from the needy”, no such measures were adopted.
In Gujarat too, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s daughter’s company seems to have acquired land at a rather unjustifiably discounted rate.
Already wary of the long list and screaming ‘no more’ the oppressed janta could have a moment of relief if justice was delivered. But its not as easy as we think, we can clearly see none of the parties have got their hands clean, the opposition and the regime all have a fair share of controversies to their name. For them the easiest way out is the blame-game, ‘raking the muckheap’ is something no one is interested in, afraid of what might be unearthed. If all the rivals start ignoring the omissions and commissions of each other then the opposition looses its relevance and is reduced to a symbolic presence, raising issues for electoral benefits only and joining hands later. Also, it’s easier to identify and make allegations against corrupt practices of such dignitaries than to convict them for the same. Such people capable of fraudulent activities are not to be fooled into conviction, with a team of lawyers behind them, they make money out of all the loopholes in the law. In such cases, after the acquittal of the person, the right thing to do is fix the loopholes that allowed him to carry on his immoral, and yet unfortunately legal, practices, so that the next culprit does not find an escape route and is meted out a punishment.
(Image Courtesy: http://www.oneindia.com/new-delhi/sonia-gandhi-son-in-law-robert-vadra-back-khemka-chargesheeted-again-1325624.html)