स्वसद्यकार्ये व्यहारकर्मण्ये व्यये मामापि मन्त्रयेथा
वामांगमायामि तदा त्वदीयं ब्रूते वच: पंचमत्र कन्या!!
(The lady states in this vow to his betrothed “If you agree to accept my counsel in the matters of household, finances and other crucial issues, only then I will agree to be your wife.”)
In the context of the unlikely union of Robert Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi, it seems both have stuck to this vow, for the union has endured despite the odds stacked against it. Vadra is not, by any stretch of imagination, an ideal man but it is apparent that Priyanka Vadra is indeed the ‘Good Wife’. She has brazened out every allegation against Robert, has brushed off controversies that could have broken a normal marriage and has stood by her husband no matter what. Is it due to her duty to do so as wife or Robert’s deeds are the deeds of the union and not his alone? There is no definitive answer but the history of this ‘power couple’ tilts the needle towards the second half of the question, indeed.
Some of the world’s biggest unsolved mysteries include Bermuda triangle, who was Jack the Ripper, Tamam Shud, Zodiac letters, the Loch Ness monster, Stonehenge, why Priyanka Gandhi married Robert Vadra and the rise and the rise of the most celebrated son-in-law of India.
The last two mysteries are the talk of the town again after the Congress party formally inducted Priyanka Gandhi into the party and appointed her as the general secretary of Uttar Pradesh East. Her husband is one of the reasons attributed behind her late entry into the politics. Priyanka’s husband- Robert Vadra is a controversial businessman who has been involved in many controversial land deals. Since his marriage, Vadra’s business has grown significantly.
Robert Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi tied the knot in 1997. It was a love marriage. In an interview, Priyanka Gandhi said that she met Vadra when she was 13. The thing which she liked most about him was the fact that her future husband treated her like anybody else. However, their marriage made sense to nobody. He came from a family of Punjabi Hindu based in Moradbad, Uttar Pradesh where they used to run a company called solid brass. On the other hand, Priyanka Gandhi came from India’s most powerful political family. According to an Outlook report quoted by firstpost, Robert’s own friends in Moradabad were surprised to hear all this: “We haven’t stopped wondering what Priyanka could possibly see in the boy. There is nothing exceptional about him or the family.”
According to The Hindu report, Artex was Robert Vadra’s first modest business, it mainly dealt with brass handicrafts and fashion accessories. From 2007, his business activities saw a sudden increase. Within a year, he started his venture in areas such as the real estate, hospitality, and trading sectors. In 2007-08, his companies set out with promoter funds of just 50 lakhs. However, he never let the small amount come in his way of success. In his pursuit to become a successful businessman, he ended up acquiring 29 high-value properties by 2010. It also included a Rs. 31.7 crore acquisition of a 50 per cent share of Saket Courtyard which owns the 114-bed Hilton Garden Hotel in the capital city of India. He acquired many other properties of crores of rupees in Delhi. According to The Hindu report, Robert Vadra was armed with loans and advances of Rs. 80 crore from DLF, as well as Bedarwals Infra Projects, Nikhil International and VRS Infrastructure.
At the end of 2010, Vadra expanded his sphere and his companies began buying properties in rural areas as well. His companies bought agricultural land in in Bikaner; land at Manesar, Palwal, Hayyatpur, Hasanpur, and Mewat. The price at which these lands were bought ranged from 9 lakhs to as high as Rs. 15.38 crore.
According to The Hindu report by Shalini Singh, in 2008 his fiscal revenue was 1.65 crore which rose to Rs 60.53 crore in 2010. It was the year in which all these properties were acquired with promoter funds of just Rs. 50 lakh along with interest of Rs. 255.46 lakh earned on advances and loans and zero group activity or profitability.
How do his companies- Sky Light Hospitality, Sky Light Realty, Blue Breeze Trading, Artex, Real Earth Estates and North India IT Parks- conduct business is no less than mystery and what actually they do is also a mystery. Common address of his companies was 268, Sukhdev Vihar, New Delhi, having Robert Vadra and his mother Maureen Vadra as directors.
Robert Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality Private Limited is said to have bought land for a little over Rs. 1 Lakh/hectare in Bikaner in 2010 and in January, 2012, he sold this 69.55 hectares of land in two deals for 7.41 lakh/hectare, seven times higher than the purchase price two years ago, amounting to about Rs. 5.15 Crore. The land was bought by Allegeny Finlease Private Limited (AFPL), which around the same time had received a loan of Rs. 5.55 crores, from a power and steel giant Bhushan Power & Steel Limited (BPSL). But there has been no repayment to BPSL by AFPL as per AFPL’s filings with the Registrar of Companies.
The first voice against the suspicious activities of Robert Vadra was raised by Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka in 2013. Khemka accused Vadra and his Skylight Hospitality group of purchasing and selling land worth crores of rupees in Gurugram, Haryana. Khemka’s allegations were followed by Rao Inderjit Singh, a three-time Congress MP, four terms MLA and a former minister who publically demanded a detailed investigation in the irregularities in the land license issued to Vadra. It was surprising for many that a Congress Party leader had decided to open his mouth and ask for an investigation against the son-in-law of the then Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi.
Vadra’s troubles have constantly increased over the subsequent years as his company became linked with cases related to land grabbing in Rajasthan as well. The ED and Central Bureau of Investigation were investigating cases related to irregularities in land deals in the state. The deals were made by 8 companies one of which is linked to Robert Vadra.
In the run-up to 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Robert Vadra’s land deals were an important electoral issue. The BJP targeted the Congress party on the issue of Rajiv Gandhi Damaad Vikas Yojana. The BJP asked son-in-law of Sonia to explain how come he managed to amass Rs. 300 crore in a few years with an investment of Rs. 1 lakh. The BJP senior leader Ravi Shankar termed it as “Vadra ‘get-rich-quick’ model” and also released a book titled ‘Damad Shree’. The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi targeted Robert Vadra by calling him `damaad` and `jija` in his rallies.
While all this was going on, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra strongly defended her husband. In April 2014, she had said, “Lot of harsh words are used for my family, my husband, I feel sad. I feel sad not for myself but because someone is being defamed and truth is not coming out.” She had also said, “I tell my children that truth will come out one day….I have learnt from Indira ji how to to bear all this…when there is truth is the heart and when the intent is right then a shield forms inside us and the more we do good the stronger it becomes,” she said, adding, “I will fight with all my might.” Her statement came at a time when Robert Vadra`s business deals were being discussed by the media widely, her husband was receiving criticism from all the section of media and the BJP was attacking him from all the possible corners. She emerged out as good wife and a good daughter.
In December last year, the ED had summoned Robert Vadra to record his statement in connection with a money laundering case. He was summoned under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The ED had also conducted raids at multiple places linked to Robert Vadra in the last year. The raids have been carried out at Sukhdev Vihar, New Delhi, Bengaluru and also the residence of his associate in Noida. The raids were conducted in the case of purported commission by arms deal Sanjay Bhandari in defense deals.
Robert Vadra is a controversial personality and that is known to everyone but his wife has also been found involved in many controversies in the past. Her house in Shimla has been mired in controversies ever since Priyanka Vadra bought land for it. The Himachal Pradesh High Court had issued a notice to Priyanka in connection with a land deal in Shimla’s high-security zone. Opposition parties also targeted Priyanka Vadra on the issue of purchase of lands in High-Security Zone of Shimla.
For more details: Rahul Gandhi to visit the controversial cottage of Priyanka Gandhi
In a further instance of controversy associated with the name of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, her purchase of land in Amipur village in Faridabad district came under the scanner of Dhingra commission.
In 2014, she admitted that she made “inadvertent and unintentional mistakes” by holding three Director Identification Numbers (DINs). The BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed a petition against her for holding multiple DINs. According to companies act, having multiple DINs is a punishable offence and invites imprisonment of six months and a fine which amounts up to Rs 50,000. The then government allowed Sonia Gandhi’s daughter to go scot-free.
As is evident from a cursory glance of the power couple’s history, Priyanka has played the part of ‘Good Wife’ to perfection. She stood by her husband, fought against his enemies and supported his deeds if not actively endorsing him. If Priyanka or the Congress party thinks that the sins of ‘Vadra’ would not be associated with the ‘Gandhi’, they are in for a big surprise.