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Telegraph.co.uk | Dec 29
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Over in India, the ruling Congress party's must be eligible for some kind of prize for scandal. Already battered by charges of wrongdoing involving senior leaders and ministers, the party's first family is now under attack. Here's our New Delhi contributor, Ajoy Bose.
The target this time is none other than Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra. He has been accused of using his family connections to acquire vast properties through sweetheart deals with the country's leading real estate business group.
The charges were first leveled at a dramatic press conference last week by Arvind Kejriwal, leader of India against Corruption, the activist group that has been carrying on a fierce public crusade over the past year. Launching a new political party this month the group decided to begin with a bang targeting India's most prominent political dynasty, the Gandhis, who have ruled the Congress and dominated the country's politics for the past many decades. They have alleged that Indian realty giant, DLF, sold Vadra prime properties at throwaway prices in the capital New Delhi and the neighboring state of Haryana, and also offered him interest-free loans without asking for collateral. The Gandhi son-in-law, a small-time brassware exporter, is said to have boosted his personal fortune from a modest 100,000 dollars to well over 50 million dollars in just a few years. Rattled by this onslaught, Vadra instead of putting up a credible defense sought to mock his accusers. Interestingly, and perhaps underlining the growing importance of social media in India, he did so on Facebook describing the anti-corruption activists as "Mango people in a Banana republic." This was a particularly ill-advised remark. "Mango people" appears to be a play on words of the Hindi colloquial term that means ordinary people, or the common man. It also means mango. While this was clearly contemptuous of average citizens, calling India a banana republic made even less sense. After all, the Gandhis have ruled it for so many years. Facing even more criticism for his intemperate Facebook post, Vadra hastily closed down his account lamenting that people had no sense of humor.
Too late: social media's all over him. Madhu Kishwar, prominent feminist thinker tweeted "Vadra's utter contempt for governance is understandable, since he found it so easy to manipulate." Someone called Queen Bee angrily warned "Dear Vadra, this mango people will peel skin out of your body and get back every penny that you sucked from our country."
Another tweet predicted "It is the Mango people of India that will teach Congress a lesson in the general election." Loving it all, the leader of India Against Corruption, Arvind Kejriwal quipped that the Mango men would prove to be the nemesis of the powerful.
So far, the Congress leadership and the government appear flat-footed by the attack on a member of its holy cow - the Gandhi family. They have failed to either disassociate themselves from Vadra, or order an impartial probe. Indeed, the ruling party may find it difficult to regain moral authority and the only way out could be an early national poll.
For Link Asia, I am Ajoy Bose in New Delhi
Indian investors have made their judgment and the real estate company Vadra is involved with has lost 11 percent of its value on the stock market.