Robert Vadra, husband of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and son-in-law of (late) Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, is by now a well-known name across the country. Often in news for the wrong reasons, he is mockingly referred to as ‘damadji’ (which means son-in-law) by his detractors despite having remained only in the sidelines of the country’s political scenario.
Here are 10 things you may or not know about Robert Vadra:
1. Unsuitable Son-in-law
Robert Vadra met Priyanka Gandhi in 1991 at a private party. Very soon, the couple started dating and was seen at a number of Delhi nightclubs. When it came to tying the knot, Vadra was deemed unsuitable by most of the Nehru-Gandhi family’s friends. People, too, were shocked. Instead of a marriage that cemented some political alliance, Priyanka had chosen a husband who had never been in the news. In a closely-guarded wedding on 18 February, 1997, the couple tied the knot. The marriage is going strong – after 18 years and two children.
2. Shared Heritage
Priyanka and Robert may have bonded well, it is assumed, over their shared heritage. Like his wife, Robert was born to a European mother and an Indian father. Robert’s father, Rajendra Vadra, is originally from Sialkot (now in Pakistan). The family migrated to Moradabad during the partition and Rajendra married Maureen (née McDonagh) of Scottish origin. Robert’s siblings Richard and Michelle have both passed away.
3. “Mango People in Banana Republic”
In 2012, when the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement was at its peak, the country was raging against the alleged corruptions of the Congress party, Vadra put up a post on Facebook, which read “Mango people in banana republic.” Some call it political suicide, others believe it to be merely one of the innumerable gaffes committed by the Nehru-Gandhi family. Whatever the view one takes, Vadra’s remark is one that is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon. He did delete his Facebook account soon after the remark, though.
4. Real Estate Controversy
The real estate deals controversy is perhaps the worst blow that could have been delivered to Vadra’s image and INC’s political ambitions. The Wall Street Journal published a report detailing out allegations that Vadra had been involved in large-scale corruption and dubious land deals amounting to millions of dollars in Haryana and Rajasthan. The report suggested that Vadra had used his wife’s political clout to amass $42 million worth of real estate and had sold land worth $12 million.
According to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, the Congress government of Haryana led by CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, is believed to have shown undue favours to Robert Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality. The company has allegedly acquired land at very low prices and also encroached upon forested land. This land was sold to DLF at premium rates. The Congress party and its leaders rallied to protect Vadra in the controversial deals.
5. Khemka Vs. Vadra
IAS officer Ashok Khemka, better known as the whistle blower who was transferred 44 times in 23 years for refusing to comply with the corrupt practices of governments, was one of the leading personalities involved in a public tussle with Robert Vadra. In 2012, Khemka went on to cancel a Rs.57-crore deal between Vadra and DLF because it violated government regulations. In turn, the Congress government of Haryana targeted the senior officer and filed a charge sheet against him. Khemka was accused of “causing damage to Robert Vadra’s reputation”. With the NDA government’s ascent at the centre, Khemka’s version has generally been accepted.
6. Pink Pants, Navy Blazer, and Media Troubles
The one picture of Robert Vadra that was splashed across newspapers, magazines, and TV channels during the course of highly sensitive Lok Sabha elections in 2014 was one in which he flamboyantly donned pink trousers, a sleek white tee, and a smart navy blazer. And with him was Priyanka, dressed in demure maroon khadi and white salwar. The contrast was stark and Robert’s attire seemed quite unsuitable for the gravity of the elections in which the Congress ultimately faced a crushing defeat. Not much later, Vadra was reported to be involved in a scuffle with a reporter who questioned his involvement in the land deal controversy.
7. Family Troubles
Robert Vadra is believed to share a close bond with his brother-in-law and Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi. His own family, however, does not seem to curry much favour with the in-laws. According to some news reports, in 2002, Sonia Gandhi had cautioned senior Congress leaders against associating with Robert’s brother and father who allegedly sought favours in her name.
8. The Fitness Mantra
“I am very determined, be it business or my fitness. I’ve lost 20 kgs in five years. And in this much time, if I’d wanted to, I could have become a big celebrity. It’s been a fight to stay normal”, said Vadra to a media house. While humility does not seem to be his strong suit, fitness is certainly one of the Nehru-Gandhi son-in-law’s passions. He loves to dance and is often seen dancing through the night on special occasions, say news reports.
9. Fast and Furious
Robert Vadra is also well known for his love of fast cars and superbikes. In the late 1990s, Vadra used to be seen driving his Maruti Gypsy wherever he went – quite fancy for the times. With the passage of time, Vadra has acquired an impressive number of racy bikes including a1800 cc Suzuki Intruder worth Rs. 15 lakh. Apart from the super luxury car, Jaguar, Vadra also owns a Mercedes, a Land Rover, and a BMW.
10. Simmering Political Ambitions
Robert Vadra’s simmering political ambitions, despite his claims that he has none, are not much liked by Congress party members. . In 2009, Vadra claimed that he was egged on by party members to contest from Sultanpur, near Amethi, a traditional Congress stronghold. While the 2014 elections did not leave much scope for the “son-in-law” to claim a ticket, it still remains to be seen if Vadra is nurturing dreams of trying his hand at politics in times to come.