Prime Minister Narendra Modi reactivated the Robert Vadra plank, picking up from where he had left off on the Lok Sabha campaign trail and ending his silence on the “damaad” over the past few months.
Modi took care not to appear partisan, earmarking a window between the birth anniversaries of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi for promoting the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign.
The Prime Minister implored the Election Commission to take “serious note” of a Haryana government decision to legitimise a land deal struck in controversial circumstances between Vadra, Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, and DLF, the real estate firm.
Ashok Khemka, Haryana’s former director-general, consolidation, had rescinded the mutation of the plot, which lies in a village called Shikhopur in Gurgaon.
Addressing an election rally at Haryana’s Hisar this morning, Modi blasted the state government, headed by the Congress’s Bhupinder Hooda, for clearing an “illegal” deal after the election process had kicked in.
“They (the Hooda government) know that after the elections, the damaad (son-in-law Vadra) will not get clearances for the illegal deals. So, in between the election process, they have dared to take such a decision. That is why they approved the land deal in a hurry. I hope the Election Commission will take appropriate action for violation of the model code of conduct,” Modi said.
Since becoming Prime Minister, Modi has been steering clear of terms like “damaad” and “shehzada” that marked his Lok Sabha campaign. His decision to revive the “damaad” jibe is being seen as a retort to Sonia Gandhi who had questioned the record of the Modi government in fulfilling its campaign promises.
“What happened to their promise of getting back the black money from abroad within 100 days of coming to power?” Sonia had asked two days ago in Haryana in a blistering attack on Modi. She had added that “empty vessels make the most noise”.
The BJP decided to act on Modi’s statement with a letter to the Election Commission that will be handed, said vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, in charge of detecting poll violations.
A government source said: “Of course, the commission is well within its purview to act on a matter that merits immediate attention and consideration.”
Modi alleged that chief minister Hooda was “pressured” by the Congress to take the decision. “It is clear that from this decision of the shameless Hooda government that both he and the Congress have already accepted defeat,” he said.
However, some of the extreme elements in the RSS fraternity wondered whether the “action taken” against Vadra would stop with Modi’s public denunciation and a missive to the Election Commission or reach its “logical” conclusion. They appeared to be overlooking the fact that land is a state subject and the Centre cannot probe property deals in Haryana.
“What prevented the Modi government from acting against the son-in-law so far? Does it fear the repercussions of perceived victimisation?” asked a source, referring to the sympathy for Indira when the Janata Party government had proceeded against her after she was unseated in the post-Emergency election.
BJP spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh countered such suggestions and contended: “Our government is focused on more important things. It has been around for just three months. The message from Modiji is ‘let things take their course, the government must not look to be vindictive’. That’s the reason why he did not touch the bureaucrats who were known to be close to the UPA regime.”
Singh underscored Modi’s announcement today, also in the Hisar rally, to dedicate the week between Nehru’s birth anniversary on November 14 and Indira’s birth anniversary on November 19 to his “Clean India” campaign in primary schools and anganwadis (shelter homes for poor children).
Official sources were at pains to project the programme as evidence of the Prime Minister’s “bipartisanship” and his “ability to transcend partisan politics”. “There is hi-fi and Wi-fi, but we also need ‘safai’ (cleanliness),” Modi said at Hisar.
So, on a single day, if Modi resurrected the controversy over the “damaad” who chose to shun the public light after the Congress’s Lok Sabha rout, he was also out to disabuse a theory propagated by the erstwhile ruling party, claimed BJP sources.
The Congress and its adherents feel that the RSS has embarked on a project to appropriate the political icons enshrined in the Congress’s annals, from Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar and Vallabhbhai Patel to Rajendra Prasad and Lal Bahadur Shastri.
To a large extent, the Congress’s fears were justified because while the RSS-BJP’s discourses on history waxed positive about these leaders, they conspicuously left out Nehru and his family.
Modi said in Hisar: “We are not in the politics of untouchability.”
On Sunday, he responded to the charge that he was out to take away Gandhi from the Congress’s legacy. “I would not dare snatch away Gandhiji from anyone. It is they (the present-day Congress) who dumped the Mahatma’s principles.”