New Delhi: After reports that Congress President Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra posted a new Facebook status that read, 'Mango people in banana republic', India Against Corruption (IAC) asked him to apologise. IAC member Arvind Kejriwal's associate Kumar Vishwas demanded that Vadra apologise for insulting India by calling it a banana republic.
"Today Robert Vadra has written 'mango people in banana republic' on his Facebook page. He insulted our country because he is related with the most arrogant family ie the Gandhi family. He should apologise before the nation," said Vishwas.
In a war of words on Sunday, businessman Vadra said that he was a private law abiding citizen and all his financial deals were transparent. His remarks came amidst a furore over Kejriwal and senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan's allegations of financial impropriety against him. The duo had accused Vadra of receiving undue benefits from realty giant DLF.
In a first, a Congress ally, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), came out in support of Vadra on Sunday. Union Minister Sharad Pawar defended Vadra and dared Kejriwal to approach court if he felt that his allegation against Vadra had any substance. "Of late, this is becoming a trend that anyone levels allegations, then keeps mum and later asks the government to conduct a judicial probe. But in such cases, anyone can approach court. Kejriwal can also go to court," the NCP chief told reporters.
Vadra vs Kejriwal: The war of words
Continuing his attack on Kejriwal, Vadra, on Sunday, dismissed his allegations as baseless and defamatory. "I am a private law abiding citizen who has been engaged in business over the last 21 years. I am saddened by the attempts to manufacture lies against me and malign me and my family in order to gain cheap publicity," said Vadra.
Vadra claimed that his business transactions are fully reflected in financial statements filed before appropriate government authorities in compliance with the law. They are available in the public domain to anyone interested in knowing the truth. "The allegations leveled against me by Kejriwal and Bhushan are utterly false, entirely baseless and defamatory," said Vadra.
Kejriwal, however, attacked Vadra for "skirting the matter" by questioning the motive of the anti-corruption activists rather than addressing the issues raised by them. "He is questioning the motive, which is not important. Why is he not talking about the issue? Why is he hiding behind DLF and the Congress. He is shooting the messenger," Kejriwal said.
Responding to Vadra's allegations that Kejriwal misrepresented numbers in his financial statements, the IAC member said that he was ready to face trial over the matter. Kejriwal further said, "On the one hand, the congress party says that Vadra is a private individual and has nothing to do with the party. On the other hand, the whole party rises to defend him. It was sad to see (Finance Minister) P Chidambaram give a clean chit to Vadra. How will an independent investigation happen?"
Kejriwal launches offensive against Congress
Kejriwal had on Friday addressed a press conference in the national capital alleging that construction major DLF gave an unsecured and interest-free loan worth Rs 65 crore to the companies owned by Vadra.
According to Kejriwal and senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, Vadra's companies allegedly used that money to buy seven DLF flats worth Rs 35 crore for a rock bottom price of Rs 5 crore. The five firms that were used to buy the flats are allegedly owned by Vadra and his mother.
Bhushan stepped up the attack on the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi by alleging that Vadra, who earlier had properties worth Rs 50 lakh, now owns properties worth Rs 300 crore. They raised a demand to probe the allegation. Bhushan and Kejriwal further questioned if the DLF got land allotments among other favours in return.
Sonia Gandhi's defence of son-in-law
The Congress party did not take much time in putting up a high-voltage defence over the allegations with party president Sonia Gandhi herself issuing a brief statement claiming that her son-in-law is clean. "Robert Vadra is a businessman. His transactions are transparent and above board. There has been no misuse of either the office of the Gandhi family or any misuse by Vadra," said the UPA chairperson.
Later, speaking to mediapersons, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni called them "baseless allegations by people who do not have any proof". "Everyone has the right to do own business. Robert Vadra is also a citizen of the country and he has the right to do any business," said the Congress leader.
DLF issues clarification
Meanwhile, DLF also issued a statement saying its relations with Vadra were "totally transparent". DLF, in its statement, said, "Our business relations with Robert Vadra are completely transparent. The relationship was conducted to the highest standard of ethics."