New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday dared the Modi government to launch a probe into the alleged links of her son-in-law Robert Vadra with arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.
“Everyday they are coming up with some allegations. It is a conspiracy. It’s a part of Congress-mukta Bharat agenda” Sonia told reporters in Rae Bareli.
“If there is even an iota of truth in the allegations (levelled on the Congress), then a neutral and fair probe should be constituted, so that the real picture can come to the fore (doodh ka doodh aur paani ka paani ho jaayegaa),” Sonia said amidst loud cheers from her party workers, who had assembled for the inauguration of a new nagar panchayat building in Dalmau, located almost 30 kilometres from the Rae Bareli district headquarters.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, Modiji is a PM and not a shehenshah(king),” Sonia said when asked about Modi government’s celebration of its completing two years in power.
Sharpening her attack on the Centre, the Rae Bareli MP said, “At a time when the country is staring at drought, poverty and the farmers are worried, this type of show is not right and totally uncalled for.”
A probe by the income tax department into the transactions of arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari has trained the spotlight on his alleged links with Robert Vadra , especially with regard to the ownership of a house in central London.
Sources said papers seized by the I-T department during searches last month on Bhandari’s premises revealed a trail of emails between Vadra and his assistant on the one hand and the arms dealer’s aide Sumit Chadha on the other regarding the purchase of the London house for approximately Rs 19 crore in 2009. There are emails also regarding renovation work carried out on the property before it was sold in June 2010. The Vadra’s legal firm denied that he owned the London property directly or indirectly. It also denied Vadra had any business ties with Bhandari or Chadha. Our clients wish to categorically and unquivocally state that they do not own, directly or indi rectly, any house described by you as House No.12, Ellerton House, Bryanston Square, London,” Robert Vadra’s legal firm said.
The firm’s response steered clear of spelling out whether Bhandari and Chadha were known to Vadra but strongly denied they had business ties. “Our clients have no business relations with Sanjay Bhandari. Our clients further state that they have not entered into any transaction of a financial nature with Sanjay Bhandari or Chadha,” the law firm said even as it alleged that its “clients are being made targets of an unjustified persecution and witch-hunt by false leakages by the government”.
Sources expect more details on Vadra’s alleged equations with Bhandari to emerge as the probe against the defence dealer gathers momentum.
Bhandari, known for his connections across the influence spectrum and with a rising reputation as a middleman, came under the I-T department’s scanner in connection with the probe launched in 2015 against shell companies which created fake entries to route black money to political parties and passed off illicit contributions as legitimate ones.
Sources said the I-T department had gathered enough evidence to launch Bhandari’s prosecution for tax evasion -something which will provide the basis for the Enforcement Directorate to probe him for alleged money laundering under the tough Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Vadra has been mired in controversies since his controversial land deals in Haryana and Rajasthan, transacted when Congress was in power in the two states, came to light before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, giving BJP campaign fodder. The spotlight on his equations with Bhandari comes in the immediate aftermath of the verdict of an Italian court confirming that AgustaWestland had paid kickbacks during the UPA government’s tenure to swing the order for 12 choppers for India’s VVIP squadron.
The suggestion of a fresh scam involving Vadra should inconvenience Congress also because of its timing, it comes just after the fresh evidence, in the form of defeats in assembly polls earlier this month, of its steady diminution.