Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A tale of two Sons-in-Law

            Among the primary lessons in statistics is that comparisons must be made only of things that are similar in nature. In other words, we are told, time and again, that it is incorrect to compare chalk with cheese. And there is merit in that. It is, however, useful  to indulge in such an exercise where a comparative study will help drive home the contrast in two persons, in real life.
            It is, hence, of some use to recall the story of Feroze Gandhi, the legendary Parliamentarian in these times when we deal with the developments involving Robert Vadera with DLF brought to light in the past week by the Arvind Kejriwal-Prashant Bhushan duo. And let it be stated at the outset that the only thing common between Feroze Gandhi and Robert Vadra is that both happen to be sons-in-law of the most important person, in their respective time, in the nation’s political life.
            Feroze, unlike Robert, had entered public life very young, participated and led agitations on the street, landed up in jail and finally represented Rae Bareli, from where he was elected to the Lok Sabha, until his death. It may be added that he did not owe his rise in the political stage to his being Jawaharlal Nehru’s son-in-law. Feroze was not known to have acquired property at any point in his life. It is unfair to blame Robert for not having joined the struggle for freedom; for he was not born at that time. It is also unfair to blame him for not having entered public life and fought election. He chose not to and it cannot be anyone’s case that he married Priyanka and became Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law. That happened in 1997 and at a time when Sonia Gandhi was merely a `special’ person in the Congress party; the party, led by Sitaram Kesri was sustaining the United Front Government from outside.
            But then, there is a point to be made in all these. Feroze could not have imagined that he was marrying the future Prime Minister’s daughter when he married Indira Gandhi. Well. Robert too cannot be accused of having schemed in marrying Priyanka. In the year of the marriage, this young man simply set up a brass handicraft business; hailing from Moradabad, it was only natural for him to indulge in brassware!
But then, a few years after his mother-in-law became the most powerful person who could instruct the Prime Minister on anything and everything and had the entire Congress party on her beck and call, the son-in-law expanded his business, entering uncharted ones including real estate and hospitality, the two sectors that recorded exponential growth in the times. It may be recalled that 2007, when the young Robert charted on this course, his mother in law was in a position to enlist the services of such men as Amar Singh to save the Government from falling. It is hence that the charges levelled by Kejriwal and further reports (including that in this newspaper about the rise of his companies) assume importance. And only the naive will agree that all that were done by DLF to Vadra cannot be linked to Vadra being Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law.
And it is here that it makes some sense to show Vadra in contrast to another son-in-law in the Nehru family. Feroze Gandhi will be remembered for many things and among them are such that he had emerged a watch dog against the Congress Government, headed by his father-in-law, and despite being a Congress MP. It was Feroze who raised the scandalous ways in which Ramakrishna Dalmia, a leading businessman then and also a Congress supporter, siphoning out funds collected as insurance premium to further his own business. Neither did the Congressmen hurl innuendoes at Feroze nor did Nehru’s government shun him. Instead, the government decided to nationalise the insurance industry and thus came the  Life Insurance Corporation.
The Feroze Gandhi saga did not end there. It was his expose, on the floor of the Lok Sabha, that the LIC had, under instruction from the then Finance Minister T.T.Krishnamachari, indulged in bad business decisions to bail out Haridas Mundra, a businessman known to have been one of the donors to the Congress election funds. Krishnamachari was Nehru’s man Friday and yet asked to quit the Union cabinet. And it was in this process of exposing the Mundra scandal by Feroze Gandhi that the then Lok Sabha Speaker, Ananthasayanam Ayyangar defined the scope of Article 105 of the Constitution to empower MPs to use as document even correspondence marked confidential in the course of exposing a wrong doing by a Public Servant.
It is unfair to compare chalk and cheese. Robert cannot be forced to do all that Feroze did. But then the contrast between the two sons-in-law is relevant to draw attention from the members of Robert’s mother-in-law’s party that it is against the grain of their own great leaders to get hysterical the way they are getting in the context of the Vadera-DLF scandal.