Sunday October 7, 2012
India's Congress rejects Gandhi property scam charge
NEW DELHI: India's ruling Congress party Saturday rejected demands for an investigation into an alleged property scam involving the son-in-law of the country's most powerful politician, Sonia Gandhi.
Prominent anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal charged on Friday that Robert Vadra's wealth had ballooned after he bought property worth millions of dollars at "throwaway prices" from real estate giant DLF and called for a probe.
"An inquiry into what? Is a business transaction between two private entities duly reported to the statutory authorities illegal? Is it a crime?" party spokesman Manish Tewari told reporters in New Delhi.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has backed Kejriwal's call for an investigation into Vadra, the businessman son-in-law of Congress president Gandhi.
"Everyone would like to know why was he given the houses and lands at throwaway prices? The nation must be informed," Kejriwal said, alleging DLF got government favours in return.
Kejriwal, who made the charge just days after launching a new political party, on Saturday dared Vadra to file a defamation suit challenging his allegations targeting India's most famous political dynasty.
The Gandhi-Nehru clan has ruled the country for most of its post-independence history.
DLF, one of India's largest property firms, said Saturday it had never sold Vadra any property "at a throwaway price", received no "undue benefit" from the government and the deals were "conducted to the highest standards of ethics".
Vadra said on social networking website Facebook he could "handle all the negativity", in an apparent reference to the allegations.
Indicating he had faced worse situations, Vadra, who has remained out of politics, said: "(I have) lost people I loved. What can be worse?"
Italian-born Sonia's son Rahul, 42, is widely seen as being groomed for the role of prime minister despite his reluctance to take on any government job.
But his sister Priyanka, 40, who is married to Vadra and bears a strong resemblance to her strong-willed grandmother - former prime minister Indira Gandhi who was assassinated - is regarded as the more talented politician.
Their mother Sonia is widely seen as India's most influential politician and the family's privacy is fiercely guarded by party members who rushed to Vadra's defence on Friday.
Vadra, who heads a small firm, Artex, which specialises in jewellery and handicraft exports, branched into property in the last decade.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram also stated Saturday there were no grounds for a probe, saying that the property transactions had been disclosed in income tax returns.
The latest accusations come after Premier Manmohan Singh's government has been rocked by a string of multi-billion-dollar graft accusations involving telecom and coal-mining deals. - AFP