New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday backed to the hilt son-in-law Robert Vadra, in the wake of an allegation by civil society activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan that he was hugely favoured by realty major DLF.

According to reports, Sonia asked party members to strongly rebut the charges.

As the allegation created a political storm, AICC spokespersons as also several Union Ministers went ballistic against the "so-called civil society activists" dubbing the charges as "baseless and utterly irresponsible".

The defence of 43-year-old Vadra from Congress came as Gandhi, along with party top brass including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was holding consultations at the party's core group meeting which discussed among other things Narendra Modi's claim about the travel expenses of the UPA chairperson and BJP's campaign of "disinformation".

"Those very forces that were responsible for attempts to malign Congress leadership in 1970s and 80s have now resurfaced in a new Avtar," party spokesman Manish Tewari said.

He said the press conference of Kejriwal is "not even a poliltical conspiracy. It is worst kind of a political chicanery."

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda also came out in support of Vadra.

"We have not favoured anyone. We have given the land through internatinal bidding to the highest bidder in a transparent manner," Hooda said.

AICC asked all its spokespersons to strongly refute the charges made by activists against Vadra.

Asked whether a defamation case is being filed against Kejriwal, Tewari said private remedy is available to a private individual. "We are not going to second guess or comment," he added. Law Minister Salman Khurshid launched a sharp counter-attack on Kejriwal and Bhushan, dubbing the allegations against Vadra as reflecting the "bankrupt ideas of a stillborn party".

"These are people with bankrupt ideas looking for a manifesto of the stillborn party. It is this manifesto they are trying to write about through these acts," he said adding the party will not surrender to this kind of blackmail".

He insisted suspicion is not the basis of holding people guilty. "They have to come out with something concrete to seek a probe. Suspicion of any unreasonable person is not the basis of rule of law," he said.

"Time has now come to tell these people where they must get off," Khurshid said adding a probe is required against people who talk such things.

To say that he got land at cheap rates because one is related to a particular person is "absurd", the minister said. Whatever documents they are showing are already available in public domain, he added. Another Union Minister Rajiv Shukla said there is no evidence to suggest any favour was given to DLF and there is no quid pro quo involved.

Another party spokesperson Rashid Alvi said it was not mere coincidence that the "baseless charges" have been made by Kejriwal when Congress has "exposed" BJP chief Nitin Gadkari.

Earlier at a press conference here, Kejriwal and Bhushan had alleged that Vadra had bought property worth crores of rupees between 2007 and 2010 with an "unsecured interest free loan" of Rs 65 crore given by DLF.

Ambika Soni slams Kejriwal

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni on Friday accused news channels of helping civil society activist Arvind Kejriwal to malign the image of people by airing his "unsubstantiated allegations of wrong-doings".

"Kejriwal has floated a political party and wants to contest the elections in Delhi. To boost his image, he is levelling allegations without any proof and you (TV channels) are helping him by airing these allegations," she said.

Soni said if Kejriwal has any proof of any wrong-doing by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, he should submit it to the concerned authorities for investigation.

"In public life, we have to be careful. We cannot level allegations without proof. If an accusing finger is pointed towards someone the other three are pointing towards oneself," she said.

Asked if the government was ready for a CBI probe into the allegations that Vadra had got huge benefits from realty major DLF, Soni said she was not competent to order such a probe.

"Who am I?" she posed.

She said the transactions of the DLF and businessmen like Vadra were open to scrutiny as they regularly file income tax and wealth returns.

Reacting to Kejriwal expressing doubts over Income Tax department being effective in probing the allegations against Vadra, she said, "If the department can conduct raids across the country why not inquire into these allegations? Why does he not give proof?"

Delhi govt rejects Kejriwal's allegations

Delhi Government on Friday strongly rejected charges of civil society activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan that it has allotted land to realty major DLF which in turn allegedly favoured Robert Vadra.

Chief Secretary PK Tripathi termed the allegations as "factually incorrect, mischievous and misleading" and said Delhi government was not in the business of allotting land to private entities.

"Government of Delhi is not in the business of allotting land to private entities. The allegation that Delhi Government allotted land to DLF is factually incorrect, mischievous and misleading as alleged by Kejriwal," Tripathi said.

"The allegation is aimed to malign and vilify the Delhi Government and has no substance," Tripathi said.


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