What has been known as the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, most powerful in India, seems to be dropping the name of Nehru, slowly but gra-dually. Nehru is still there but in a perfunctory manner. It is really Mrs Indira Gandhi who occupies the space. I have noticed the difference. The photos from different Ministries to news-papers on Mrs Gandhi’s death anniversary were larger in number and bigger in size than what appears on Nehru’s death anniversary.
Therefore, it does not surprise me when the dynasty altogether ignores the birthday of Feroze Gandhi, Nehru’s son-in-law, the dynasty’s first. The Congress party, which Sonia Gandhi heads, was conspicuous by its silence on his birth anniversary last month. There was not even a cursory mention in the Congress bulletin.
On the other hand, the fact remains that Feroze Gandhi brought laurels to the dynasty. One example of Feroze Gandhi’s meticulous hard work was the exposure of the then Finance Minister, T.T. Krishnamachari, Nehru’s favourite. Feroze Gandhi brought to the public domain TTK’s connection with a businessman, Mundhra, who had sold his shares at a fancy price to the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), a public sector undertaking under the Finance Minister. TTK had to resign from the Cabinet. Nehru felt proud and lauded Feroze Gandhi for his excellent work. Feroze never needed any support because his honest work did not need any. In fact, what he did strengthened the party.
In contrast, the second son-in-law, Robert Vadra, has amassed thousands of crores or rupees through dubious land deals. The Congress knows it and so do the governments of India and Haryana where most deals have taken place. But there is not even a whimper against what he has done. Sonia Gandhi should have been embarrassed, but it is strangely the Congress Union Ministers who came to the defence of Vadra when the land deals came into light. They were not asked to do so but the dynasty is so sacred that it has to be defended at any cost.
Hence it is understandable that there is a complete silence on the Vadra issue. Despite the challenges by Kejriwal, a social activist, and a persistent campaign by the media, the dynasty and Congress did not open their mouth, although it is an open secret that the Congress-ruled Haryana Government has helped Vadra and the real estate company which effected several land transactions.
The public came to know about Vadra when the mutation of his land was rejected. That is the time when the troubles of Ashok Khemka, an IAS officer, who decided the case, began. He was transferred from the Land Consolidation Department to the Haryana Seed Development Corporation for initiating a probe into the land dealings of Vadra within 24 hours of his passing the order.
And then the threats to him and his family followed. The Haryana Government because of a public outcry sent him security personnel but he refused to accept. However, the silence of the civil society or his IAS fraternity is deafening. He is fighting a lonely battle and all those who admire his courage are timidly sitting in government offices or in the comforts of their drawing rooms.
The State Government has ultimately traced the caller who sent him threatening messages and arrested him. He has no personal grudge against Khemka but someone must have goaded or hired him. The needle of suspicion gets directed towards those who have a vested interest in the land deals. Could the real estate company or Vadra be that crude? The matter needs to be probed.
Khemka wants that action is taken against the culprits so that it acts as a deterrent. It would be a symbol of security if SPs, Deputy Commissioners, DGPs and the Chief Secretary go to the public without security. “They should have confidence in the law. If they feel insecure without security, then what about the security of the public?”—asks Khemka.
According to the IAS officer, his order on the Vadra land deal can be challenged only in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. “If this process is not followed and another probe committee is constituted, it means you (aggrieved parties, including the government) don’t have the faith in the Constitution. It would be unfortunate…,” says Khemka. And rightly so.
The story of the dynamic second son-in-law is in sharp contrast to the efforts the first son-in-law, Feroze Gandhi, made to remove corrup-tion in the system. He (Feroze) practically put in 24 hours in collecting information to challenge the Nehru Government on matters of graft and dishonesty. He died of a heart attack. Feroze Gandhi was a figure of attention in the Central Hall of Parliament where he spent most of his time. Journalists surrounded him because he was the source of information. All that we knew of Vadra is that he is a health-buff. Whether he lives in the penthouse which his business part-ner, a real estate company, has given him is a matter of conjecture.
But Feroze Gandhi lived in a small bungalow on what is now Rajendra Prasad Road in New Delhi. He would often visit the Prime Minister’s residence to meet his his estranged wife, Indira Gandhi, and their two children. But everything about Feroze Gandhi was transparent and not a whiff of corruption or any official favour ever touched his life. How different he was from the second son-in-law! Is that the reason why the dynasty does not own him. In a way it is good. Because he does not fit into the new ways/values which the dynasty seems to have acquired.
The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com