Will Vadra Undo Rahul Resurgence?
The Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana has appointed a high-level panel to look into the alleged irregularities in land allotment to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, during the previous Congress regime in the state.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come under heavy attack from the Congress over a number of policy issues, especially the Land Acquistion Bill and the plight of farmers and this inquiry could be seen as a BJP move to blunt Congress attacks.
Justice S.N. Dhingra, a retired judge of the Delhi High Court, will probe the alleged windfall gains that Vadra may have made by getting cheap land during the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government.
The investigation will focus on Vadra as his land deals have been under the scanner ever since the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) accused him of irregularities in the documents he had submitted.
Corruption was a major issue for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Haryana elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his election campaigns had cited Vadra's businesses and accumulation of wealth.
Senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka as director general of the Consolidation and Land Holding Department had in 2012 cancelled the mutation of a land deal in Gurgaon involving real estate giant DLF and Vadra.
The Justice Dhingra Commission will look into issues such improper grant of land for property projects, criminal misconduct, undue private enrichment and misconduct of public servants in land deals.
"The commission will submit its report to the government as soon as possible but not later than six months from the date of its first sitting," a government spokesman said on Thursday.
Vadra on Friday insisted neither he nor anyone associated with him had anything to hide, hoping that the probe into his land deals will "not be used for political vendetta".
The 46-year-old businessman said his companies have followed all laws in a "completely transparent manner".
Ever since Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi returned from his two-month sabbatical, he has been aggressive in challenging the BJP government's policies.
The normally subdued Congress leader has been strident in taking jibes at the ruling party in recent Lok Sabha debates.
His rather popular phrase, "suit-boot ki sarkar" (government of people in suits) has received a lot of media publicity.
Countering him, BJP leaders have picked up on the comment in their reference to the Haryana inquiry.
Union minister for skill development and training Rajiv Pratap Rudy retorted that the "suit-boot jijaji (brother-in-law) of Congress will not be spared".
The issue is likely to figure prominently in the BJP's campaign in this year's assembly elections in Bihar, where a united Nitish-Lalu-Congress combine is being seen as a force to reckon with.
Corruption is always a major issue in elections and the BJP will hope that the Robert Vadra inquiry makes it look like a party that is serious about dealing with the menace.
During the just concluded Budget Session of parliament, a united opposition posed serious challenges for the government. Now the BJP will hope that its Haryana move will create a rift in the opposition as parties would want to distance themselves from the Congress if any irregularities are found.
Whether this will be viewed as vendetta politics or a genuine effort to probe corruption remains to be seen.
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