The year 2002 is etched into public memory due to the riots that occurred in Gujarat following the Godhra Train massacre which laid the foundations for the rise of Narendra Modi in national politics. But the year was significant for other reasons as well. It was in early 2002 that allegations of misconduct against the Vadra family surfaced and Robert Vadra denounced his own family in public.
In January 2002, Robert Vadra issued a public statement denouncing his father, Rajinder Vadra, and brother, Richard Vadra, for misusing the Gandhi name “allegedly promising jobs and other favours in return for money”. Members of the Congress admitted that they had been approached by the Vadras for various favours. The Vadras were allegedly promising people election tickets and jobs to flats and admission into schools in return for money.
The notice, from Robert Vadra’s advocate, read, “It has been brought to the notice of my client that some persons, including Rajinder Vadra, 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 for on behalf of my client and allegedly promising jobs and other favours in return for money. Even though Rajinder Vadra and Richard Vadra are relatives of my client but they have no access to my client. The public at large is hereby put to notice that my client has not authorised Rajinder Vadra and Richard Vadra and anybody 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.”
Soon after, Sonia Gandhi ordered people in her party to have nothing to do with the Vadras. While some viewed it as Sonia’s efforts to protect her party from disgrace, others were not so convinced of her good intentions. “Disowning first the spouse’s family and then the spouse runs in the Nehru-Gandhi family right from the days of Indira Gandhi. Maneka’s parents had to face the same treatment and then Maneka herself. Now it is Robert and his family which have become a victim of the family trait,” said Chhedi Ram Maurya, an advocate.
The reason for Robert’s public denouncement could only be speculated. While some said that it was a consequence of the Vadra family’s alleged ‘RSS links’ while others claimed it could have been motivated by speculations of a scandal involving Richard Vadra breaking out into the public.
Rajinder Vadra, for his part, never denied asking for favours on behalf of people he was acquainted with. However, he denied ever asking or tickets. In an interview with the Outlook, he said, “I voted for the Congress. Where’s the problem with that? He (Robert) makes certain calls for his friends. Why can’t I make a call for a friend who can’t afford to pay lakhs in a donation for a school admission? I also called the Maharashtra CM for jobs for my friends. I never asked for tickets.”
On being asked whether it was unfair for him to use his son’s name, Rajinder said, “He is still my son, even if he is not talking to me. I didn’t say ‘Robert sent me’. I just said ‘I am his father’. I’ve never asked for favours for my business. People approach me. I make one call. If it’s done, it’s good. Otherwise, it’s okay.” He also said that he didn’t blame Robert considering what he had heard about Richard but that he should have been consulted first.
Rajinder was particularly aggressive towards the Nehru-Gandhi Parivar. He asserted repeatedly in public that he did not want his son to marry into the family. “My son is talking about disowning me now, but I disowned him when he married into that family,” he said once. Taking a jibe at the Parivar, he had said, “I’m not afraid of anybody, Kashmiri militants or Italian militants.” Most conspicuously, however, Rajinder had once claimed that if he is murdered, the Parivar will be responsible for it. He had said, “If I am killed, three people will be responsible: Sonia Gandhi, Robert Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi.”
Seven years later, in 2009, Rajinder Vadra was found dead at a guest house in New Delhi. He underwent treatment for cirrhosis in Max Hospital in New Delhi and was discharged 12 days previously, a Max Hospital official told PTI.
“Rajinder used the wire of a clothes iron to hang himself from the ceiling fan in a guest house, City Inn, in Hauz Khas area. A room attendant found the body around 9.30 a.m.,” a police officer had stated. “The guest house employees rushed him to a private hospital in Saket where he was declared brought dead. The body was shifted to Safdarjung Hospital for post-mortem,” the official added.
News reports from previous years claim that Rajinder’s death was shrouded in mystery. A Jagran report from April 2012, states, “Rajinder’s death in 2009 was shrouded in mystery while Robert’s sister, Michelle, died in a car accident in 2001. Later his older brother, Richard, was found dead at his home in 2003.”
A TOI report from April 2009, stated, “Police officials, off the record, initially said the death was caused by a heart attack, but later clammed up.” It added, “Sources within the hospital claimed that there were injury marks around the neck, but declined to be quoted. Neither the Police nor hospital authorities divulged any details about the cause of death.”
Further down the line, the same report said, Robert’s brother, Richard was also found dead in mysterious circumstances in September 2003 at his Vasant Vihar residence, and his sister Michelle died in a car accident in 2001.”
Robert Vadra has come a long way since those unfortunate events in the past. While his fortune appears to have blossomed during the initial UPA years, the wheels of fortune appear to have turned his back on him during the later years when the erstwhile government was riddled with multiple scams and his land deals became the source of a political slugfest.
Under the NDA government, Robert has been the focus of multiple investigations with his links to arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari becoming an area of interest. While earlier, he could only be spotted at high profile places, now he can often be seen at Enforcement Directorate offices as well.