Kejriwal fires Vadra gun, Congress fights back

New Delhi, Oct. 5: Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, who launched their political party this week, today alleged that realty major DLF had sweetened land deals worth Rs 300 crore for Robert Vadra in return for favours from the Congress governments in Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan.

The Congress responded swiftly, lining up senior ministers Ambika Soni, Salman Khurshid and Jayanthi Natarajan, who defended the right of Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law to do business like any other citizen and questioned the motive of the activist-turned-politician duo.

"Everyone has the right to do (their) own business. Robert Vadra is also a citizen of the country and he has the right to do any business. Making a charge without submitting any proof of wrongdoing is not acceptable," information and broadcasting minister Soni said, speaking after the party's weekly core group meeting that decided to confront the allegations.

A DLF spokesperson said the business relationship with Vadra was "completely transparent" and conducted to the "highest standards of ethics".

Kejriwal and Bhushan had alleged that between 2007 and 2010, DLF had helped companies wholly owned by Vadra and his mother Maureen with interest-free unsecured loans of Rs 65 crore, against a seed capital of merely Rs 50 lakh, to purchase 13 properties worth Rs 300 crore at throwaway prices. Most of these properties were bought from DLF itself in Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi, the duo alleged at a news conference this afternoon.

The three Congress governments favoured DLF in return, particularly Haryana, which gave a 350-acre plot acquired in public interest in Gurgaon to the company to develop a golf course and the DLF Magnolia apartment blocks, they alleged.

Kejriwal and Bhushan waved documents they claimed were already in the public domain and sourced from the registrar of companies.

Bhushan said five of the 12 companies that Vadra and his mother wholly own didn't "transact any business between 2007 to 2010 except receiving loans from DLF and laundering these loans to purchase properties from DLF itself".

The two demanded an independent probe, and argued that a strong Lokpal could have conducted it.

The allegations are not new, and had earlier appeared in March 2011.

Soni said in Srinagar: "Kejriwal has been in public life for long. Why did not he present proof to the authorities whose duty is to investigate it?"

"He has announced a political party which is planning to contest elections in Delhi. Therefore they want to bolster their image…. What is his locus standi? As a citizen he has to give proof," she said.

The transactions of DLF and Vadra are open to public scrutiny as they regularly file income tax and wealth returns, the Congress leader said.

Law minister Khurshid said the business relationship of an individual should not be used to attack "our leadership" and that no one had stopped scrutiny of the charges levelled. Politicians can get many things done that others can't, but that is not corruption, he further said.

Environment minister Natarajan termed the charges "most shameful and below the belt" and accused the duo of using the cheapest form of publicity-seeking.

BJP muted

As Kejriwal and Bhushan hurled charge after charge at Vadra, the BJP should have been celebrating. Instead, it was worrying about the fresh controversy that party chief Nitin Gadkari has landed in.

The Congress today released a letter written by Gadkari on July 30 to Union water resources minister P.K. Bansal, asking for Rs 400 crore to be released to the contractors hired to construct the Gosekhurd dam in Vidarbha. One of the contractors is Gadkari's friend and MP Ajay Sancheti. Sancheti was earlier charged with getting a coal block in Chhattisgarh in questionable circumstances.

Sources said a section in the party also believes that attacking families of politicians was "unfair" game and has been embarrassed by Narendra Modi's personal attacks on the Gandhis, especially his question on who paid for Sonia's treatment abroad.

When Kejriwal signed off his press conference warning that another political "heavyweight" would be under the scanner on October 10, the BJP seemed discomfited.