Mon, Oct 08, 2012 - Page 5 News List

India’s Congress rejects charges of real-estate scam

AFP, NEW DELHI

India’s ruling Congress Party on Saturday rejected demands for an investigation into an alleged property scam involving the son-in-law of the country’s most powerful politician, Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi.

Prominent anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said that Robert Vadra’s wealth had ballooned after he bought property worth millions of US dollars at “throwaway prices” from real-estate giant DLF and called for an investigation.

“An inquiry into what? Is a business transaction between two private entities duly reported to the statutory authorities illegal? Is it a crime?” party spokesman Manish Tewari told reporters in New Delhi.

India’s main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has backed Kejriwal’s call for an investigation into Vadra.

‘THROWAWAY PRICES’

“Everyone would like to know why was he given the houses and lands at throwaway prices. The nation must be informed,” Kejriwal said, alleging that DLF got government favors in return.

Kejriwal, who made the accusations just days after he launched a new political party, on Saturday dared Vadra to file a defamation suit to challenge his allegations targeting India’s most famous political dynasty.

The Gandhi-Nehru clan has ruled the country for most of its post-independence history.

DLF, one of India’s largest property firms, said on Saturday it had never sold Vadra any property “at a throwaway price,” received no “undue benefit” from the government and the deals were “conducted to the highest standards of ethics.”

Vadra said on social networking Web site Facebook he could “handle all the negativity,” in an apparent reference to the allegations.

Indicating he had faced worse situations, Vadra, who has remained out of politics, said: “[I have] lost people I loved. What can be worse?”

HEIR APPARENT

Italian-born Sonia’s son Rahul, 42, is widely seen as being groomed for the role of Indian prime minister, despite his reluctance to take on any government position.

However, his sister Priyanka, 40, who is married to Vadra and bears a strong resemblance to her strong-willed grandmother — former prime minister Indira Gandhi who was assassinated — is regarded as the more talented politician.

Their mother Sonia is widely seen as India’s most influential politician and the family’s privacy is fiercely guarded by party members who rushed to Vadra’s defense on Friday.

Vadra, who heads a small firm, Artex, which specializes in jewelery and handicraft exports, branched into property in the last decade.

Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram also stated on Saturday that there were no grounds for a probe, saying that the property transactions had been disclosed in income tax returns.

The latest accusations come after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been rocked by a string of multi-billion dollar graft accusations involving telecom and coal mining deals.

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