Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil’s Advocate. Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan’s press conference on Friday levelling charges of corruption against Robert Vadra has stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy. Was it politically justified or morally improper? That’s the key issue I should explore today with Arvind Kejriwal himself.
Mr Kejriwal, let me start with a simple question. Was it fitting that you and Prashant Bhushan should have levelled charges of corruption against Robert Vadra without giving him a chance to explain, leave aside defend himself?
Arvind Kejriwal: We have just put some facts out in public domain. What we have said is that he has benefited from properties worth Rs 300 crore, which were transferred by DLF to him in 3 years time.
Karan Thapar: You can’t beyond put in facts in public domain. You have given an interpretation, you have given an allegation behind the interpretation and what have you done – a miasma of suspicion, you have created a web of doubt. Today, he will be perceived to that screen, even though he has perfectly acceptable explanations. You have taken that tinted him with the tarred brush of corruption.
Arvind Kejriwal: But he can reply to that.
Karan Thapar: Except that you have already created an impression of him. Now, he is battling against what have you done.
Arvind Kejriwal: I don’t think so. I think we are the very ordinary citizens of this country. They are the ruler class. And the people of this country have every right to questions their rulers in a democracy. And we have asked questions.
Karan Thapar: But he is not a ruler. He is an ordinary citizen. And you levelled him without giving him a chance to explain.
Arvind Kejriwal: How do you give him a chance?
Karan Thapar: By going to him and asking questions.
Arvind Kejriwal: Those questions have been out in public domain for such a long time. I am told. Ten days back I have got some of these documents and we put it out in public domain. And yesterday we were told that exactly the same story have been carried by Economic times about a year back.
Karan Thapar: But the point is that Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan made no effort to contact Robert Vadra and ask for his explanation and yet you organised a press conference and talked to the whole country, elaborated in detail. Is it fair to an individual that he should be levelled corrupt without a chance to explain, without a chance to answer?
Arvind Kejriwal: He can answer now. What’s wrong in that? It’s been 24 hours now. Robert Vadra has not spoken, Congress is defending him. Why can’t Robert Vadra speak up and clarify the charges?
Karan Thapar: if a newspaper or a television channel had done what you did yesterday, they would be accused of improper, biased journalism. Why should you not be charged with the same?
Arvind Kejriwal: We are ordinary citizens of this country.
Karan Thapar: You keep saying that but you know it’s not true. You have achieved a special status and you are in cashing it.
Arvind Kejriwal: Let’s assume that we have achieved special status. But we are still citizens of this country. We voted them to power. Some facts come to us, we put it out in public domain. What is wrong in having a public discussion?
Karan Thapar: Robert Vadra is a citizen of this country too.
Arvind Kejriwal: He can reply it to now. We put out some facts in public domain yetsreday. We said what is the reason, why did DLF give him properties worth Rs 35 crore just for Rs 5 crore. It’s a suspicion.
Karan Thapar: The word you yourself are using. You have created a suspicion without a chance to respond. You branded him in public eye…
Arvind Kejriwal: why don’t you give him a chance in your programme, why don’t you call him?
Karan Thapar: But don’t you believe that fair play is something that incumbent on you. You are a politician; you want to win an election? Don’t you think you should be fair to people? Is it your right to in cash your celebrity status at the cost of individual citizen of India?
Arvind Kejriwal: Suppose, we were wrong. Media won’t carry it. There was sufficient evidence. Now media tried their level best to contact Robert Vadra. But he was not available. Why he is not speaking? if he is not speaking to powerful people like you in the media, obviously he will not speak to us.
Karan Thapar: He will choose when he wants to speak. It is his prerogative. Let me tell you , you in cashed on the fact that he is Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law. You actually used Robert Vadra to target Sonia Gandhi. That is the second reason that what you did is neither an honest nor fair. Shoot her straight if you want to, why use her son-in-law?
Arvind Kejriwal: You are saying that we are not honest and we in cashed the fact that he is the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi.
Karan Thapar: This is exactly what I am saying.
Arvind Kejriwal: We in cashed this fact or he in cashed this fact.
Karan Thapar: No, you in cashed this fact to gather an audience around you to speak ill of him knowing that when you did so, it would attract an attention to the front pages. Let me tell you, why I say that because you know and I know that it is neither illegal nor uncommon for industrialist to allot preferential shares or preferential loans. It happens in India, it happens abroad. But when it happened in the case of Robert Vadra because he is Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law he comes vulnerable, you chose that vulnerability for your political ambitions. In other words, he became a pawn in your ambition or your political game.
Arvind Kejriwal: That is what your perception is. You ask the people of this country and they won’t agree with you.
Karan Thapar: Do you remember what you said and I am quoting you personally in April 2011 when allegations were raised against land allotments in the Greater Noida to the Bhushans, you personally said that this is an attempt to target them because of their involvement in the Lokpal Bill. You have done the same thing to Robert Vadra.
Arvind Kejriwal: So, what you are trying to say is that what Robert Vadra has done is all good and we are the culprits.
Karan Thapar:No No. I am saying you didn’t give him a chance to respond. That was the important thing you left out.
Arvind Kejriwal: How do you give him a chance to explain…by writing a letter?
Karan Thapar: By writing a letter, knocking at his door, by making it clear that you owe an explanation. If he failed to respond, I can understand your going to the public.
Arvind Kejriwal: We are not the court of law. It is the duty of the court to give an opportunity of being heard. We are not passing a judgement. We are raising certain issues. In ademocracy we have every right to raise an issue. And the other party has every right to speak in response to that. Why is he silent? His silence is speaking volumes. And I challenge you Mr Karan Thapar in your show today if you have the guts and if your channel has the guts, you call him in this programme and ask for explanations. You do not have the courage also….
Karan Thapar: We have invited people like Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi to this programme repeatedly. I will happily invite him but don’t deflect the issue by throwing a meaning challenge.
Arvind Kejriwal: They are inaccessible people.
Karan Thapar: In April 2011, when allegations were raised against the Bhushans, you personally said they were targeted. How come you are doing the same thing to Robert Vadra? If it is wrong to have raised an allegation in the papers against the Bhushans which is what you said, then it is wrong for you raise an allegation against Vadra.
Arvind Kejriwal: Every time we have said that if you have doubts against us, get all the investigations done against us. Government has all the machinery; they have used all their machineries. They have used Income Tax department, CBI, ED but they didn’t find anything against us. But we still invite all the investigating agencies against us but who will investigate Robert Vadra?
Karan Thapar: That is something that you have already set in motion. May be the press will, may be the government will. We have discussed some link whether you were right or improper in going public without giving a chance to respond. Let’s now come to the fact that everything you revealed was revealed 18 months ago by the Economic Times. There is nothing new that you’d to say. So, why did you have to go public that was already in the public domain? What was the need to for yesterday’s press conference?
Arvind Kejriwal: Two things. One is if it was revealed by Economic Times, why it is that the rest of the media did not pick it up? Why it is that the BJP did not pick it up? And even if it was revealed by Economic Times, what is the harm in repeating it? Firstly, I don’t read Economic Times. I was not aware that it had already been revealed.
Karan Thapar: There is no harm. I am just trying to understand your motive. The motive it seems from the beginning of your answer is that because the press didn’t pick it up after Economic Times revealed it, because the BJP didn’t pick it up, it upsets you that the allegations against Robert Vadra is ignored. So you determined to ensure using your celebrity that they would get their attention you think they deserve. In other words, you have shown bias against man. You have gone out of your way to revive allegations that were forgotten because you wanted their help against Vadra.
Arvind Kejriwal: So, what you are saying is that he is being victimised.
Karan Thapar: I am not saying that. I am saying you have the person bias, you have the motivation.
Arvind Kejriwal: What was the motivation?
Karan Thapar: That you wanted to ensure that the allegations made 18 months ago but forgotten and ignored were revived. You deliberately chose to revive them because you don’t like him.
Arvind Kejriwal: It ought to be revived. There are some serious allegations and if the country did not take notice of those allegations at that time, they ought to be revived.
Karan Thapar: Let’s come to the point that every single fact that you revealed was actually first made public in filings to the company by Robert Vadra himself. So, if he is corrupt as you are suggesting, he is hardly likely to incriminate himself by his own files. How do you counter that? You didn’t hire any investigative or spying agency to get these documents. He made it public. You just accessed them from the registrar company.
Arvind Kejriwal: So that is how it happens. You put 10 documents together and arrive at a conclusion.
Karan Thapar: But those men willing file documents against themselves.
Arvind Kejriwal: He is supposed to do that under the company law.
Karan Thapar: But if he is doing it, then it is the credible explanation which is different to your charge of corruption.
Arvind Kejriwal: But if it is a credible explanation, the why doesn’t he respond?
Karan Thapar: He will when he wants to. It’s his prerogative.
Arvind Kejriwal: No, it’s not his prerogative. The people of this country ought to know what’s going on.
Karan Thapar: Under the law, he is innocent until found guilty. You can’t declare him guilty and then demand him to prove his innocence.
Arvind kejriwal: I am not talking of the law. I am talking of the politics of this country.
Karan Thapar: Let’s talk about the morality. Morality requires that you give the people of innocence.
Arvind Kejriwal: I am not calling anyone guilty. I am just saying there are legitimate questions. And the country wants to know the answers.
Karan Thapar: Let me tell you the third reason why they are not necessary because your whole allegations of corruption hinge on the claim that there was a quid pro quo. That Robert Vadra did something that benefited DLF in return to which he was given these assets. But you can’t prove that quid pro quo. You have absolutely no proof of whatsoever. Even the Economic Times 18 months ago had no proof of it and you have got no either.
Arvind Kejriwal: Do you know something called assets disproportionate to known source of income. Would you agree that assets are disproportionate to known source of income?
Karan Thapar: To the sources of income you know about. How do you know that his company has earned from the brass business in Muradabad for decades, may be generations. How do you know that they haven’t earned from that? When he spoke to the Economic Times, unfortunately, he actually did suggest he has been earning money and investing in real estate as an investment. So he does have assets which can explain, if you would have asked him or to wait for an answer.
Arvind Kejriwal: I read that article last evening. Someone gave it to me. If you know a little bit of accounting, if you read the balance sheets of the companies, you have to tell where the money has has come from and how that money has been used. So, if he actually made money out of brass business that would be introduced into the books as his own money. The money is not coming as his own money. The money is being introduced by DLF. His own money is just Rs 50 lakhs.
Karan Thapar: The Business Standard on the front page in addition to your claim says Rs 65 crore that has come as a loan from DLF. The books of Robert Vadra show roughly Rs 55 crore as advance. That may be an advance from one of his companies.
Arvind Kejriwal: That advance was from DLF only.
Karan Thapar: How do you know because Business Standard isn’t sure?
Arvind Kejriwal: You have papers in front of you, I can explain that.
Karan Thapr: Let me put it like this. What I am trying to suggest is that there are sufficient ground to question your honesty and impatience. Give a man a fair chance to answer, if he can’t, go public. I am not saying that you are entirely wrong.
Arvind Kejriwal: We are giving him a chance to explain through you. He is the most inaccessible person in this country.
Karan Thapar: People have a right to be inaccessible if they want to. It’s their prerogative, you can’t deny them. But the point that you haven’t given him a chance and instead you tarred him with suspicion and doubt and you done it in the public eye. And because he is Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, people will believe the worst of him. You knew that.
Arvind Kejriwal: As soon as we did the press conference, he also could done a press conference and explain it.
Karan Thapar: But the fact is if he is not accessible, doesn’t make him guilty. You seem to be presuming that.
Arvind Kejriwal: We are not presuming. We are requesting Mr Karan Thapar to please call Robert Vadra.
Karan Thapar: Do you see what you have done. You now put the onus on Robert Vadra without giving him a chance to explain.
Arvind Kejriwal: So, in your eyes, we have done something wrong.
Karan Thapar: You have done something unfair and morally questionable.
Arvind Kejriwal : Ok, so let’s accept that. Let’s move for the sake argument. Now let’s see can we get response from Mr Vadra.
Karan Thapar: Let me put to you another concern that’s bother us deeply. You held this press conference and you suspicion and doubts about Robert Vadra after you had become a politician. No longer were you moral social activist. You are now a politician, you have announced your party. There was a critical motive. This was what people say a political gambit, a political stunt to boost your party at the cost of Robert Vadra and at the possible cost of his mother-in-law. You used them for your political ambitions.
Arvind Kejriwal: You can say that. You can derive your own conclusions.
Karan Thapar: You know the worst. It is not that you are using this for your political purposes of your own which are selfish but in the process you are deliberately being anti-Congress. You did that in Hisar at the by-elections, you did that in the state elections earlier this year, and now you are doing it against Robert Vadra. You are biased against Congress.
Arvind Kejriwal: You are free to draw your conclusions.
Karan Thapar: And what about your answer?
Arvind Kejriwal: We have gone against BJP also. On August 26, we gheraoed Nitin Gadkari’s house.
Karan Thapar: You also gheraoed Sonia Gnadhi and the Prime Minister.
Arvind Kejriwal: Yes, we did.
Karan Thapar: So, it was not Nitin Gadkari on his own.
Arvind Kejriwal: But we did that. It’s not just that we are targeting Congress. We also gheraoed the CMs’ house. The Raman Singh’s house, Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s house, naveen Patnaik’s house. Because they were all involved in coal scam. Subsequently, Anjali who is one of our activist in Mumbai, she had raised questions against Mr Nitin Gadkari. So how can you say that we are only targeting Congress. We are targeting corruption.
Karan Thapar: I tell you why people think that when you target corruption, you hit it Congress rather than the other parties. There is no dearth of allegations against Nitin Gadkari, in particulat they were there in the newspapers right through this week concerning his alleged role in finance for dams in Maharashtra. Not a word has been revealed by you or your organisation.
Arvind Kejriwal: I think you are very selective in reading the newspapers or watching television. In the last one week, the amount of time that we have spoken on the issue and the kind of evidence we have put in public domain. On Thursday, we put out some letters in public domain.
Karan Thapar: I am echoing here a thought that has occurred to million of Indians.
Arvind Kejriwal: it’s not a question of millions. It’s a question of prejudice glasses Karan wears.
Karan Thapar: You have announced on Wednesday that you will be exposing one of the top politicians. Will it be another Congressman or will this time you make an effort to ensure that it’s someone from the opposition.
Arvind Kejriwal: Let’s wait till Wednesday.
Karan Thapar: Salman Khurshid in public last night on this channel accused you of blackmail.
Arvind Kejriwal: What did I do? Blackmailing is that if I have information against someone and I say that give me this much money otherwise I will put this out in public domain. That is blackmailing. I put out the information in public domain. I didn’t go to Robert Vadra and said give me this much of money.
Karan Thapar: Satyabrata Chaturvedi again on this channel and Rajiv Shukla accused you of acting on behalf of the BJP.
Arvind Kejriwal: BJP says we are Congress agents and Congress says we are BJP agents. We are neutral.
Karan Thapar: Let me end this by putting this to you – I have raised questions about the facts. You have the complete conscience about what have you done?
Arvind Kejriwal: What do you think? I would always say that yes I have a clean conscience.
Karan Thapar: Are you proud of what have you done?
Arvind Kejriwal: Of course.
Karan Thapar: Arvind Kejriwal, a pleasure talking to you.