Ever since India Against Corruption cited business information in the public domain to allege the existence of a nexus between Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra and real estate giant DLF, Congress leaders have insisted that no probe is needed since the impugned transactions were between “private individuals.” The argument is an absurd one for a seasoned political party to make because perception is everything in politics and the public simply isn’t buying it. The party high command ought to have realised that Mr. Vadra, who is a part of the Congress’s first family, must, like Pompeia, be well and truly above suspicion. Instead of taking measures to reassure the public that the business dealings of Mr. Vadra — who has accumulated assets worth hundreds of crores of rupees in the past five years — were indeed above board, senior ministers and spokespersons said he was a private citizen who had nothing to answer for. Today, that argument makes even less sense in the light of what seems like the punitive transfer of Haryana’s top land official shortly after he initiated an internal probe into Mr. Vadra’s land dealings. The official, Ashok Khemka, discovered irregularities in at least one of the deals struck between Mr. Vadra and DLF. He also ordered an inquiry into the possible undervaluation of properties sold or bought by Mr. Vadra in four districts of the State.
Given the questionable decision to transfer Mr. Khemka, the suspicion that the DLF-Vadra private partnership has official support can no longer be sidestepped or dismissed. Admittedly, nothing in the documents produced by the IAC so far establishes or proves wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Vadra or DLF. But the whiff of impropriety is all around and if the party high command still believes it can brazen things out it is making a serious mistake. The more the Congress and the Central and State governments resist or foreclose the launching of a probe into his dealings, the greater will be the public perception that Mr. Vadra used his friendships and relationships with people in high places to further his own business interests. The Haryana government has offered a most unconvincing explanation for why Mr. Khemka was removed from his post as Director General for Land Consolidation and Inspector General of Registration after serving barely three months of a tenure that is meant to run for a minimum of two years as per the rules of the Department of Personnel and Training. The Haryana government says it will now look into Mr. Vadra’s land deals but any probe it launches is unlikely to have credibility. Instead, Mr. Khemka must be reinstated in his post and allowed to complete the inquiries he initiated.