Last week members of the Union Cabinet were subjected to the supreme test of loyalty to the Congress Party's first family when Indian Against Corruption (IAC) accused Mr.Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, the Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of amassing property worth Rs 500 crore in a few years with a paltry investment of Rs 50 lakhs.

Within hours of the Press Conference addressed by Arvind Khejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, a battery of Union Ministers and Congress Party leaders  were hopping from one television studio to another to defend Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law. Some others addressed the media to register their presence. There was a common thread running through their arguments. Every minister asserted, without exception, that Mr.Vadra was an individual business man and that he had the right, like every other citizen, to enter any business or trade of his choice.

Among those who put aside their ministerial duties in order to defend Mr.Vadra were Ms.Jayanti Natarajan, the Environment Minister, Ms.Ambika Soni, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting and the Law Minister Mr.Salman Kurshid. The Finance Minister Mr.P.Chidambaram and the Corporate Affairs Minister Mr.Veerappa Moily also came in later in support support Mr.Vadra. While some ministers like Mr.Salman Kurshid chose to be politically and legal correct in their arguments ,  s.Natarajan decided that attack was the best form of defence. She made no attempt to answer the questions raised by IAC, and instead chose to hurl abuses at IAC members. The Finance Minister Mr.P.Chidambaram argued that the documents put out by IAC related to transactions between two individuals and such transactions cannot be questioned on the basis of an "implied act of corruption".

However, despite the array of ministers fielded by the government, it did not help Vadra's cause. If Mr.Vadra is just an individual, how come so many ministers are hyper active and even competing with each other to defend this individual? It was equally confusing to see spokespersons of the Congress Party also shuttling from studio to studio to defend Robert Vadra whose status in the party remains a mystery. Does Mr.Vadra have primary membership of the Congress Party? Assuming he is a primary member, since when has the party deployed all its big guns in the AICC headquarters to defend an individual member? Or will be party, in the light of this evidence, finally announce that he is
run by a dynasty?

The IAC's revelations about the massive real estate acquisitions by the son-in-law of the ruling dynasty raise many questions. The first charge is that over the last four years Robert Vadra has gone on "a property buying binge" and has purchased at least 31 properties mostly in and around New Delhi, which even at the time of their purchase were worth several hundred crores. The second charge is that the balance sheets and audit reports of five companies launched by  Vadra and his mother on or after November 1, 2007 had a total share capital of Rs 50 lakhs and that over a three year period they acquired properties that were then worth Rs 300 crore and are currently valued at Rs 500 crore.

So, how did Robert Vadra and his mother manage to achieve such spectacular success in the real estate business? This leads us to the third charge namely that Vadra got unsecured, interest-free loans totaling Rs 65 crore from the real estate major DLF to buy these properties, which too belonged to DLF. In other words, DLF gave Vadra a "loan" to buy its own properties, but there is yet another twist to this saga in that even these properties were sold at undervalued rates by DLF.

These transactions need to be investigated because of the possibility of a quid pro quo. IAC  makes out a strong case for investigation when it says of says DLF has been given 350 acres of land by the Haryana Government for development of  Magnolia project in Gurgaon (where Vadra was allocated 7 apartments) and has also been given various other properties and benefits by the Congress governments in Haryana and Delhi. Is this the quid pro quo for DLF giving Vadra the seed money for the purchase of these massive properties worth hundreds of crores?".

Even more troubling is the IAC assessment that this sudden acquisition of wealth of around Rs 500 crore may just be "the tip of the iceberg" and that in the year 2012 Vadra has already registered six new companies. It says "It is clear that there is a lot of unaccounted black money invested in these properties of Vadra. What is the source of these funds? Are illicit funds of the Congress party being funneled into this property buying spree by the son-in-law of the dynasty?" These acquisitions have come to light from the documents submitted to the Registrar of Companies. This may just be "the tip of the iceberg" according to IAC which believes Vadra has many other properties and he has registered 6 new companies 2012. IAC says that prima facie these facts show commission of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act as well as offences under the Income Tax Act. In any case,  these questions warrant a probe by an independent agency.

A day after Mr.Khejriwal and Mr.Bhushan made these allegations, DLF issued a statement and claimed that all their transactions with Robert Vadra were transparent. However, some responses of DLF only throw up fresh questions. DLF says it never gave Vadra "unsecured loans". It only gave him "a business advance" of Rs 50 crore when it decided to buy 3.5 acres of land costing Rs 58 crore from him. In other words, what IAC describes as "unsecured loans" is "business advance" in the eyes of DLF. However, this only complicates matters for Mr.Vadra, because his company balance sheet says something else.
Also, where and how did he acquire a Rs 58 crore property when he had just rs 50 lakhs to invest in his companies?

After remaining silent for two days, Mr.Vadra decided to speak up. He claimed that the allegations leveled against him were "utterly false, entirely baseless and defamatory". He did not answer a single charge. He just hurled abuses at his detractors. If there is anything at all that Mr.Vadra has achieved  through his angry response, it is to strengthen the demand for an independent inquiry. No amount of studio-hopping by Union Ministers can help Mr.Vadra shake off these allegations, which are certain to haunt the UPA and inflict further damage on its political and electoral prospects. The ruling coalition can have one small window of hope to cope with this fresh scandal if it agrees to an impartial inquiry by a member of the higher judiciary. But, if it lacks the gumption to order such a probe, it must remember that retribution often comes in the guise of a son-in-law! As the popular joke on internet goes, the government may have survived CWG, the 2 G and even the terrible indictments of the CAG. But, can it survive the antics of Jijaji?