Priyanka Gandhi Vadra
Congress workers led by party leaders AK Antony, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Ambika Soni, Sushmita Dev and Ahmed Patel, stage a sit-in demonstration against police crackdown on the students of Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) University during their protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019; at India Gate in New Delhi on Dec 16, 2019.IANS | Representational

Moments after Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra labelled an IANS story as "fake news", she was confronted with facts by key union ministers that contradicted her claim.

Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani, backing the IANS story, took a sarcastic dig at the Congress General Secretary saying: "Facts and CONgress can never go 'hand' in 'hand'... The 'fact' that a notice had to be served and dues were not paid speaks for itself...The Congress leader called you Hardeep Puriji coz high command ka order hai."

The onslaught was started by Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, who took Priyanka Gandhi head on stating that facts suggest otherwise to her claim.

"Facts speak for themselves! A powerful Congress leader with much clout in the Party called me on 4 July 2020 at 12:05 pm to request that 35, Lodhi Estate be allotted to another INC MP so that Priyanka Vadra can stay on," Puri tweeted. He also asked her not to "sensationalise everything".

Though Puri has not named the Congress leader in question but is believed to be a part of the Congress's old guard and a Gandhi family loyalist. Government sources suggest that the concerned senior Congressman also made a call to one of the top brass of the BJP, regarding the matter.

Senior BJP MP and former Minister Radha Mohan Singh, had this to say after Priyanka Gandhi's 'fake news' claim, "There is love for the bungalow, but does not want to show it ...... But truth can't be hidden."

The Centre's fact checking of Priyanka came after she branded a IANS story about how PM Modi allowed Priyanka Gandhi to stay in the Lutyens' bungalow, for some extra time following a request, as "fake news". But faced with the Union Minister giving specific details of the call timing from an influential Congress leader, the grand old party jumped to her rescue.

Congress' Communication Department Chief Randeep Singh Surjewala tried to find a way out of the controversy, "Priyankaji fights for the cause of people and need no favours from your ilk. So stop bragging unwarrantedly. The issue is closed."

Netizens question Priyanka's claim

This certainly changed the discourse on social media where people started to question the claim by Priyanka. The Hindu's Political Editor Nistula Hebbar remarked, "Woah! Shots fired!," after Puri's sensational revelation, contradicting Gandhi.

Senior TV Journalists Rohit Sardana posted a screenshot of Vadra's claim and Puri's counter to say, "The ruckus over the bungalow is not over." News 18-Hindi's Managing Editor Amish Devgan too took a subtle dig at Priyanka saying, "Bangle par bhaukal tight hai".

After Twitter started to buzz and many wondered about the identity of the concerned Congressman in Puri's tweet, who he claimed, dialed up to ensure Priyanka and family could stay put at her sprawling 35 Lodi Estate bungalow, the Congress leader attempted to downplay it. She responded to Puri by saying, "If someone called you Mr Puri, I thank them for their concern..."

The Minister further hit back at her saying, "The leader who called me, and many others, is at the very top of the Congress hierarchy...the same political advisor who speaks and acts on your family's behalf. It was when he requested that we decided to give a two month extension in good faith."

The Minister also advised her to "sort out" issues within party before "venting in public". "Streak of entitlement and playing victim don't go well together," he added.

For years, 35 Lodi Estate has been the residence of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, while she was under SPG protection. But recently she the sprawling government bungalow which came to be seen as a VVIP address, has been allotted to BJP's Rajya Sabha member Anil Baluni after she was asked to vacate the bungalow by August 1.

Though she did not occupy any government post, Priyanka Gandhi Vdara, by virtue of her Special Protection Group (SPG) cover, was given a government bungalow. But after her SPG cover was withdrawn, that necessity of a government bungalow also faded away, government sources reasoned.