Robert Vadra at the inauguration of the 33rd Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair in Greater Noida in February 2012. PTI
ust when India was finally hearing an unscripted message from a member of the Nehru family who interacts with the public and the media, he has been silenced. Hours after Robert Vadra, the muscle-strewn swashbuckler who won the heart of Priyanka Gandhi, revealed that he was not averse to assuming public responsibilities, The in-law of The in-law seems to have vanished from television screens. Although there are rumours that subsequently he was chief guest at one of the myriad corporate functions that provide Delhi influentials an excuse for mingling in convivial company, it was also reported that Vadra lost consciousness during the event and had to be taken away in an ambulance to a hospital known to attract celebrities. Some defensive reflex in his subconscious must have warned Robert Vadra that his formidable mother-in-law may not take kindly to his presence at a public function, and may abandon the omerta she routinely exhibits with the Indian media to give him more than a slice of her mind on such a transgression.
But why the hesitation in outing Robert? Perhaps there was the worry that the Vadra biceps may make the other biceps (of the forever waiting prime minister-in-waiting) seem puny by comparison. Or it may well be that Robert Vadra's earthy manner and confiding style may win for him media attention independent of the "paid news" variety, although he is but a mere in-law rather than a full member of the Nehru-Maino bloodline. Which has succeeded in ensuring that the alternative Nehru-Anand bloodline be driven away first from the Indira Gandhi residence and subsequently from the political party that the lady created in 1969 from what was left of the Congress party after Kamakshi Kamaraj Nadar handed it to her in 1966.
Judging by the way in which Vadra has been prevented from revealing more of his hitherto secret desires to the people of India, it seems obvious that Head of the Household Sonia Gandhi does not regard her son-in-law as being as deserving as her son is of the most prominent place in the Indian sun, which is the Prime Minister's room at South Block. What if she is wrong in her assessment of her daughter's cherished spouse? What if Vadra's effortless candour resonates better with the people of India than the expertly scripted statements that flow out of the Congress president? Or indeed the rehearsed stances that her son and political heir Rahul Gandhi sports? Although it may well be that Sonia Gandhi was breathless with sorrow after the Batla House encounter, it is not impossible to believe that the Rahul effusions in Bhatta Parsaul and in numerous dingy huts across a country that his family has dominated for close to seven decades were motivated less by emotion than by political calculation.
The country has watched the post-2009 transformation of Rahul Gandhi from pragmatist to populist. Clearly, Mamma's success that year convinced the lad that it was all due to the numerous freebies that poured out of the exchequer, mainly into the pockets of officials, middlemen and politicians. And that a doubling of populism could morph into a Congress majority in 2014. From that time on, Rahul Gandhi was one with Lalu Yadav in degrading the fortunes of those who are the engines of the economy, the middle class, albeit "in favour of the deprived". How the poor gain from low economic growth has, of course, not been explained by the Youth Leader.
he Indian middle class is disliked not only by Rahul Gandhi but by numerous foreign personnel in multiple NGOs across the country, who are eager to shut down commerce and industry within the country, thus driving the middle class back into poverty, rather than pursuing a policy of high growth that would transform the poor into the middle class. The UPA has been relentless in its animus against the middle class, raising its cost of taking loans for education and housing, superintending huge spurts in inflation and causing the murder of industrial growth by the RBI's UPA-approved policy of absurdly high interest rates in a situation where lower rates are needed. Of course, higher rates help the tens of thousands of foreign investors, even as they hurt the interests of tens of millions of those unfortunate enough to hold an Indian passport in UPA-ruled India. Thus far, unlike his brother-in-law, we have yet to hear from Robert Vadra about how his heart "beats for the poor", a remark sought to be reinforced by his brother-in-law through brief stays in some nameless unfortunate's hut. Thus far, Vadra has not travelled that gimmicky way, nor have we heard him shout out the castes of those who are his close associates, the way Sam Pitroda was outed as a Viswakarma by the Congress Party's Prince of Wales.
Robert Vadra has this in common with Sonia Gandhi, that he too is an in-law. If the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi could at one time aspire to become the Prime Minister of India (after all, who can forget the fact that Sonia Gandhi, MP, once declared in writing that she supported Congress president Sonia Gandhi as PM?), what is the problem in her son-in-law nursing the same ambition, except that he is from a family different from her Orbassano stock? After all, Robert has done well in business, and is known to be of immense help to his friends, attributes useful in politics. What Rahul Gandhi needs to generate a genuine spark in his inner motor may be competition from within the family. Once Robert Vadra gets into his stride and reveals his mind and his interests to the public, perhaps that would goad Rahul into doing the same. For too long, too few questions have been asked — or answered — about India's most powerful family. All the more unpardonable that Robert Vadra seems to have been forced into silence just when he showed that he still had a viewpoint that was not the creation of handlers, but represented his own views. Too bad for transparency in politics.