The Congress Sunday went out of the way to defend Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, who is at the centre of a political storm over his unseemly behaviour with the media, but in private many party leaders agreed his conduct was inappropriate. At least one leader, Sandeep Dikshit, openly said “basic civility” should have been maintained and Vadra’s behaviour was unfortunate.
The Congress officially issued a statement backing Vadra, seeking to counter the BJP by saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, had “removed the mike and walked out of a pre-fixed interview” with a leading journalist when questioned about the Gujarat riots.
Expressing his disapproval of Vadra’s behaviour, Dikshit, a Congress spokesperson and former Lok Sabha MP, said: “I haven’t seen it and I am not responding as a Congress spokesperson because it is a matter between an individual and a cameraperson. All I would say is, for any person, there is a public etiquette and decorum we all maintain, and you can have overbearing media people at times, I can appreciate that, but I think for anybody we must maintain basic civility… And I think if we have some grouse we should just let it go, this kind of public display is unfortunate. I don’t know what the circumstances were and I have not seen the tape, but all of us, specially people who are known in public, must maintain a level of decorum.”
Asked whether Vadra should apologise, Dikshit said it was for Vadra to decide, but it was always good to assuage if somebody’s feelings were hurt. “Who am I advise him? It is up to an individual. I believe if any one of us crossed a particular decorum in terms of public behaviour, it is always good to assuage if you hurt anybody’s feelings,” he said.
Among those who backed Vadra was Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, who called the row a “minor incident”.
“Why is media making such an issue related to a small incident? I am told the agreement was (that) questions will be asked only about the gym facilities in Ashoka (Hotel), and that’s it. I do not understand the kind of media attention which Robert Vadra is getting on a non-event. Are you all very short of news these days?” he said.
In the party’s official statement, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “The Indian Constitution and our established ethos guarantee right to privacy, personal space and liberty to all individuals, more so when a person is neither in public life nor holds any public office. Unpleasantness of repeatedly asking questions at private functions, like what happened with Shri Robert Vadra yesterday, must be avoided at all times.”
Surjewala added: “The repetitive hounding of an individual on an issue that has been conclusively rejected both by a constitutional body like the Election Commission of India as also high courts and finally the Supreme Court of India is not appropriate.”
The Congress said it was clear that “the episode is being propagated as a political agenda for obvious reasons”. “I want to remind leaders of the BJP and friends of the media as to how none less than the Prime Minister (then chief minister), Narendra Modi, had removed the mike and walked out of a pre-fixed interview,” Surjewala said.
On Saturday, Vadra had angrily pushed away the mic of an ANI reporter and upbraided him for asking a question on the land deals involving him. He was at Ashoka Hotel for an event. Vadra is also accused of asking the reporter to delete the footage.