RAE BARELI/NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi strongly defended her son-in-law Robert Vadra on Tuesday against allegations of links with an arms dealer, saying a conspiracy was afoot to defame her family.
Gandhi demanded an impartial inquiry into the allegations, which she described were a result of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s “wish to create a Congress-free India.”
She also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he acted like a shahenshah (emperor) at the government’s second-anniversary bash at a time the country reeled under a severe drought.
“Yeh toh Congress-mukt Bharat ke liye shadyantra hai. Baar, baar, roz, roz, ek hi parivar pe naya ilzaam lagate hain. (It is a conspiracy for a Congress-free India. New allegations are levelled repeatedly and daily against one family),” Gandhi said during a visit to her parliamentary constituency, Rae Bareli.
The comments came in response to news reports that Vadra owned a house in London owing to his links with arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari. The reports said recent searches by the income-tax department at premises owned by Bhandari led to the recovery of emails exchanged between his aide and Vadra and an assistant pertaining to the renovation of the house in London before it was sold in 2010. Gandhi rubbished the charges. Vadra’s legal firm has denied that he owned the London property directly or indirectly. It also denied Vadra having any business ties with Bhandari or his aide.
“It (the allegations) is a conspiracy. Some excuses are made and false allegations are levelled. If there is any such thing, get an impartial inquiry conducted. Doodh ka doodh aur pani ka pani ho jayega (facts will be sifted from fiction),” Gandhi said.
As reported by HT on May 2, tax officials searched 18 premises used by Bhandari who came under the scanner for unusually high growth in his business in a short span of time. He set up his flagship company Offset India Solutions (OIS) in 2008 with a paid-up capital of Rs 1 lakh and is now at the helm of a multi-crore group comprising at least seven firms that offer defence consultancy and liaison services.
An HT investigation found that Bhandari received Rs 69.38 crore from 35 shell companies between 2009 and 2014. He received a million Swiss francs in 2012 from an undisclosed source, according to filings with the registrar of companies (RoC).
Shortly after Gandhi’s remarks, the BJP said the Congress president’s defence of her son-in-law vindicated the party’s old charge that whatever he did had the Gandhi family’s backing.
“Vadra has the blessings of 10 Janpath... That is why he has earned so much money. He can’t be dubbed as a private citizen. Whatever he has done has the backing of Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi,” BJP national secretary Srikant Sharma said.