When Arvind Kejriwal announced a press meet on October 5 the media must have rushed to get some more interesting sound-bites on his new political party. They didn’t expect him to lay out alleged financial misdeeds of Robert Vadra (RV), the national son-in-law. All hell broke loose. Later, one anchor, who likes to see the larger picture, even asked if TeamArvind is going to target a BJP member next. I’ve never seen so many heavy weights coming out with guns blazing to defend one man. Some of them even claimed he’s a ‘private citizen’. Yes indeed, the sudden growth of RV to a billionaire is indeed a very private affair. There were Congresspersons of all voices and sizes. There was Rashid Alvi, Rajiv Shukla, Manish Tiwari, Renuka Chaudhary. They even threw in ministers like Salman Khurshid and also Jayanthi Natarajan, who made a sudden special appearance after a long gap. Khurshid even angrily stated: “We will teach Kejriwal a lesson”. Someone joked on Twitter if Khurshid is the Union Law Minister or the Union “In-Law” minister.
All this is nothing new. The Robert Vadra story has been doing the rounds for over a year now. It’s only the print media though, that was doing all the talking. TV news channels stuck to their Sharia which prohibits them from ‘blasphemy’ against the Sonia Gandhi clan. Private folks on Youtube showed greater courage and narrated RV’s story. You can see and hear it on this Youtube site or this Youtube site. Oops.. Sorry! If you opened those pages this is what you get:
Well, another Youtube page does carry that picture story on RV with a toxic warning about how GOI pulls any videos on Youtube that portrays the Gandhi family negatively. As usual, the worst debates did happen on NDTV and CNN-IBN. While the big pieces came out in force the small pawns didn’t fail in defending RV either. The worst one was clearly Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN. In trying to “balance” his stupidity Rajdeep never fails to ask why BJP didn’t bring up the RV case earlier. This time he got a reply asking why the media didn’t debate it when the RV reports have been out for more than a year. “Point taken” said Rajdeep. The Axis of Evil of TV news kept asking everyone why they don’t go to the courts if there are misdeeds by RV. This is where Rajdeep received another resounding slap. This time it was from Dr. Subramanian Swamy. Prabhu Chawla, once again did some homework (Why now? Why not earlier?) and suggested many politicians have got flats or property from DLF at throwaway prices.
First, a bit about Robert Vadra’s billions. Economic Times (Robert Vadra ties up with DLF) was among the first to do a full story in March 2011. Then Outlook magazine did an analysis of the ET article with reactions from Opposition parties including the BJP. Here’s what Outlook said on March 18, 2011 (Tweets are highlighted in red):
The story was summed up by Mr Swapan Dasgupta, a journalist known to be close to the BJP, on Twitter as: “ET's Vadra story drives home reality of crony capitalism. DLF pays Vadra 2 buy its own properties at sharp discount & get secure equity” Monday, March 14, 2011 10:47:38 AM via web
“According to 1 opp leader, after Bofors "winding up charges", IPL "sweat equity", we R seeing emergence of "political equity" in Vadra case” Monday, March 14, 2011 10:51:57 AM via web
On March 16, the TOI reported: BJP, Left to corner Cong on Vadra's rise:
On Tuesday, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said, "The matter is a serious one and the party is gathering documents to aise it with the prominence it deserves." She said the party had "entrusted" leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley to collect facts on Vadra's rise. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury was on the same track. "It looks like a serious matter and our party is ascertaining facts and will come up with a structured reaction on this," he said. But the story began to change, as Mr Dasgupta tweeted on March 16: Resistance in BJP on raising Vadra issue is from some a of its ex-Presidents. Wednesday, March 16, 2011 2:57:47 PM via Mobile Web
…Leader of Opposition in the Lok Saba Sushma Swaraj felt it would not be good form to target family members of political rivals. Since then, of course, the focus has shifted to the cash for vote wikileaks expose… Notice how many of those who helped the UPA win the confidence vote & also helped Vadra's business secured Padma awards? Not incl. media…. The controversy over Sant Singh Chatwal was public enough but perhaps Mr Dasgupta was alluding to Dr. Kushal Pal Singh, the chairman and CEO of DLF, getting a Padma Bhushan for 2009 and the prominent name in this list in his last tweet?
Hmm… yes, some of the Padma awards under the Cong-UPA govt are indeed surprising, including those delivered to media folks. In case you forgot, Robert Vadra was also voted “Style Icon” of 2011. He does have style, doesn’t he? Anyway, let’s read what RV said when the DLF tie-up was sealed: “The Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in Saket is a small business hotel. I have interest in hospitality and am happy to be part of the hotel.” Vadra also added, ”I have known the DLF people for a long time and they are friends of mine. I had wanted to invest in real estate and one thing led to another. Right now, I can only be part of a small hotel. If I were taking favours from people I would be doing far bigger things. But I am doing this on my own. I can’t expand immediately but I hope to expand a few years down the line”. Oh, these are just “small” things and RV hopes to “expand” in a few years. So you and I will have to wait for that “expansion”. Wonder what that is going to be like! Buying up real estate on the moon or mars?
On August 25, 2011 FashionScandal reported thus: “DLF, which is going through a financial crunch is also looking to divest its stake in the Hilton Group. Some feel that these divestments are aimed at distancing DLF from Robert Vadra owned Sky Light Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. DLF Hotel Holdings entered into partnership with Sky Light Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. but after that the group has been facing political heat from the Opposition parties”. So now that we have some background story we can get back to Rajdeep Sardesai. On pushing Dr.Swamy over why they aren’t going to courts, Swamy replied he had announced long back RV was third on his list after 2G and P.Chidambaram. This is correct. But it’s clearly shameful of Rajdeep to ask these stupid questions when TV channels even failed to discuss the RV reports in print/websites. Naturally, Dr.Swamy delivered a stinging slap to Rajdeep and others like Prabhu Chawla and Vinod Mehta when he pointed out the “innocence of journalists” in real estate scams. Ouch! That’s gonna hurt. What Swamy was clearly hinting at was that top media celebs and media houses were no exceptions when it came to real estate scams. Is it then a surprise that all the ‘media pawns’ were fighting so vigorously for Robert Vadra?
Here’s a tweet from Swamy from June 2011. He clearly states Shekhar Gupta, of Indian Express, has acquired 20 times the property to his known sources of income and therefore has to “behave” for Sonia Gandhi. Gupta, who sued his critics for 500 crores over the silly “Army coup” story has not uttered a single word over this allegation by Swamy. Not just Swamy, even Kuldip Nayar has stated that Gupta had become “abnormally affluent”. Did the media ask any questions? None! Hammam, you see!
Interestingly, when asked by Shekhar Gupta “Can you run a property business without bribing?” the DLF chairman replied: ‘In my terminology, what I call bribing, is in two parts: One, where you give money to somebody to facilitate quicker disposal. Second, you give money, if somebody asks you, to do a wrong job. Now in my terminology, bribing is to do a wrong job, which I have never done in my life”. Haha..“facilitate quicker disposal”. Yeah, that answer surely deserves a Padma Bhushan.
If RV is dabbling in real estate crores and is a private citizen, what exactly was he doing in UP in February 2012? He was running around on bikes campaigning for Congress. He even suggested Priyanka Vadra would do well in politics. “Point taken” is not an answer Rajdeep. Regardless of what political parties do or don’t do, it does not explain why the media is permanently silent on alleged misdeeds of the Gandhi family or its own media clan. Lately, N. Ram of The Hindu is accused in a land-grab case. A FIR has been filed against N.Ram and even a DMK member and Ram has sought anticipatory bail according to news reports. Why is the TV media and even major print media houses not debating or even reporting that? Sonia Gandhi has been named as the 4th richest politician in the world with assets over $2 billion. Do they want to wait for another Kejriwal moment to debate the story? Why does it take Narendra Modi to talk about SoniaG’s foreign travels for media to debate or report? The BJP had even constituted a special task force on black money and submitted a report. Did the media even discuss the report or its contents?
The answers are not very difficult to find. Rajdeep Sardesai and his clan of media pawns move only when moved by other forces. I had earlier written a post: “Why Is Indian Media Scared Of Sonia Gandhi? in June 2011. That deals with how Rahul Kanwal cut off a person asking questions of SoniaG’s assets. There was another debate when Rajdeep Sardesai quickly cut off former IT officer Vishwabandhu Gupta when he raised questions on SoniaG’s wealth. Rajdeep then chided V.Gupta “Don’t make wild allegations”. The allegations against Robert Vadra aren’t wild. In fact Prabhu Chawla’s analysis of the documents makes worse reading. Chawla states that the 65crores being referred as loan is actually an “advance” paid by DLF to RV for properties to be sold by RV. Hmmm!
Here’s the thing: Since it is recorded as “advance” in RV’s books it becomes a “liability” rather than his income. Secondly, being shown as “advance” it also avoids being treated as income and avoids capital gains tax, if any, that is applicable. Another journo, Vineet Narain, told Prashant Bhushan on NDTV that all property deals everywhere are “under-valued”. He may have “innocently” forgotten that he implies that both Robert Vadra and DLF may be dealing heavily in black money. Maybe it's time to make another movie: "Innocence of journalists" and that won't lead to any violent riots.