Corruption has been leveled against Mr. Robert Vadra, DLF and the UPA government because the unsecured loan given to Mr. Vadra by DLF allegedly had a quid pro quo. The Haryana government allotted land to DLF for creating a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at very preferential rates. However, DLF did not establish the SEZ but diverted the land’s use for other purposes to rake in profit.
India against Corruption (IAC) had alleged that the Haryana government allotted land over three acres meant for a hospital to DLF to set up a SEZ. Mr. Robert Vadra allegedly subsequently obtained 50 per cent of stake in the DLF's SEZ Company. Mr. Arvind Kejriwal said that after Mr. Vadra’s company acquired almost 50 per cent of its shareholding, the land was sold back to the DLF group. No SEZ was ever established on the land. Mr. Kejriwal asked:
“Why did the Haryana government allow change of land-use from a hospital to DLF SEZ in which Mr. Vadra’s company acquires a 50 per cent stake, which he sells back after a year, raising suspicion about the motive behind the sale of this piece of land?”
This is a good question. However it raises a further question.
The identical process had been replicated in a land deal clinched in Mr. Narendra Modi’s Gujarat . Former President Pratibha Patil had been petitioned by Congress legislators alleging that Mr. Narendra Modi’s government allotted one lakh square metres of prime land in Gandhinagar to DLF at concessional rates. This was done without auction and calculating by market rates at that time it caused a revenue loss of Rs. 253 crores to the government. The land was allotted for developing a SEZ but was later denotified by the government to allow instead an IT park. Responding to the criticism the Gujarat government appointed a judicial commission which found no wrongdoing by the government. Very recently during the current election campaign the report was submitted by the commission and forwarded by the Gujarat government to the Governor.
Since the circumstances related to the DLF land deals in Gujarat and Haryana are almost identical should not the verdict in both cases be the same? If the government-appointed judicial commission’s finding in Gujarat is valid most likely there is no legal case against the Haryana government. If not, the Gujarat government is as much to blame as the Haryana government.
Whatever the legal implications of these cases there is no doubt that corruption, crony capitalism, an unholy nexus between politics and business, and jobbery are rampant in the prevailing culture. Even if at times the perception of corruption might exceed its reality the damage to democracy is no less. There is dire need for systemic change. That calls for political reform. Reform can only occur through a principled approach. That in turn calls for consistency and commitment to genuine change that transcends the political advantage of the day.
Mr. Vadra is an easy target. But he is not the creator of this system but its creation. We should not confuse symptoms with the substance. Mr. Modi on the other hand has earned an army of admirers extending from Gujarat, Europe and other parts of the world. But that should not render him above legitimate questioning and criticism if the attempt for systemic reform is sincere.
Sauce for Haryana must be sauce for Gujarat.