Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi is mired in controversy after charges of corruption were levelled against by him by Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan. While Vadra continues to deny the allegations as many in the Congress defend him, here is an extract from the book Sonia- a biography authored by Rashid Kidwai which suggests that this is not the first time that he is mired in controversy.
Kidwai in his book states that five years after the wedding that had taken place on February 18, 1997, Sonia Gandhi had to go public cautioning the party leaders not to have anything to do with close relatives of Robert Vadra. The directive came shortly after Robert himself issued a public notice snapping ties with his family. Sonia’s action was unusual, to say the least, as she was known to guard family’s privacy zealously.
The book states that Priyanka Gandhi first came in contact with Robert Vadra in 1986 when she was fifteen. There was little in common between the two except for their love for dogs, music, fashion and dancing. The simple friendship developed into a relationship. The two were spotted for the first time in public at fashion designer Ashish Soni’s show in New Delhi in 1993 and the next day, the newspapers had picture of Priyanka in sleeveless black T-shirt with Vadra.
Many were surprised by Priyanka’s choice. Vadra, son of brassware magnate from Moradabad, 150 kilometrs north-east of Delhi, had kept a low profile till the world came to know about the marriage on February 18, 1997. Sonia reportedly had some reservations about Priyanka marrying him as he had not gone to college after completing his A-levels. Moreover, some members of Vadra family had strong RSS links, having donated their property and wealth to the Sangh.
Informed sources said Sonia took the step of issuing a directive to chief ministers of party ruled states, AICC functionaries and others after receiving many complaints that Vadras (not Robert) were seeking favours using Nehru-Gandhi family name. It was said that when Salman Khurshid was UPCC president, Robert’s brother Richard (now dead) had allegedly called him up to recommend names of some local politicians from hometown Moradabad.
Robert’s public notice published in a leading national daily on January 3, 2002 was drafted by Arun Bhardwaj, son of former law minister Hansraj Bhardwaj (currently governor of Karnataka). It read: “It has been brought to the notice of my client that some persons including Rajindra Vadra (Robert’s father now dead) resident of C-7, Amar Colony and Richard Vadra, resident of Basant Vihar Colony, Civil Lines, Moradabad, UP are misrepresenting to the public that they are working on behalf of my client and allegedly promising jobs and other favours in return for money. Even though Rajindra Vadra and Robert Vadra are relatives of my client but they have no access to my client. Public at large is hereby put to notice that my client has not authorized Rajindra Vadra and Richard Vadra to and anyone else to work for him or to use his name in any manner and make such misrepresentation to anybody. Such misrepresentations are without the knowledge and consent of my client.”
Rajindra Vadra was outraged. He had accused Sonia Gandhi of ‘engineering split’ among Vadras and snatching away his son. He denied any financial irregularity and insisted that Robert had not consulted him before issuing a public notice. Domestic quarrels, defamation and suits soon became public.
Between 1997-2002, Robert was running Artex, a company that dealt in costume jewellery in bone, wood, plastic and black metal. He used to frequently travel to Australia, USA and Europe. Priyanka too had developed an interest in designing costume jewellery and often traveled with him.