One of the major issues on which the BJP rose to power in the year 2014 was the issue of corruption which had severely marred the Congress Party back then with scams like Commonwealth, 2G and Coalgate in their kitty and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s famous jibe, ‘Naa Khaaunga Naa Khaane Doonga’ striking a chord with the masses of this country. Now, with the 2019 general elections in touching distance, it becomes imperative to understand how far the Modi government has delivered on its promise of corruption-free governance so that the voters can make an informed choice in the times to come especially when it comes to the issue of a corruption free India.
HW News through this exclusive series of articles will delve into the major scams which have brought the Modi regime under the scanner of the opposition and the media and has considerably weakened its stance on the anti-corruption movement it so vigorously led in 2014. These scams are clubbed into two prominent categories, the ones which directly implicate the Prime Minister and important members of the ruling party like the infamous ‘Rafale Deal’; the miraculous 16,000 times increase in the turnover of Jay Shah’s company, the son of BJP President Amit Shah; Vivek Doval’s hedge fund in Cayman Island, a tax haven, contradictory to the views of his father Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor of India, a close aide of Prime Minister Modi and also the man who in the year 2011 called for a crackdown on tax havens and offshore entities.
The other category of scams are the ones which have taken place under the nose of the Modi government by private firm owners like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi who fled India with crores of money of public sector banks like the State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank. These fugitives have also raised suspicions against the will of the ruling party to fight corruption. We will begin with the two controversies which implicate the two most prominent members of the ruling party, Prime Minister Modi himself and his closest aide and BJP President Mr. Amit Shah.
Rafale Deal: The Rafale deal is a can of worms which does not seem to die down, the opposition has continuously accused the Modi government of corruption and favouritism in the purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts from the French Government. The Congress party has accused the government of causing a huge loss of taxpayers’ money by signing the deal worth Rs. 58,000 crores as the cost of each aircraft is three times more than what the previous UPA had negotiated with France in 2012. It has also claimed that the Anil Ambani led Reliance Defence Limited has been unfairly picked to be the French firm’s Indian partner. The Supreme Court of India has dismissed all the petitions seeking a probe into the alleged irregularities in the deal, and gave a clean chit to the Modi government on all the three aspects of the deal that were challenged in the court i.e. the decision making, pricing and selection of Indian offset partner.
Reality Check: Even after the Supreme Court’s verdict, the Rafale deal is far from a closed chapter as recently the media released a letter of the Defence Secretary of India addressed to the then Defence Minister of India, Manohar Parrikar complaining of intervention by the PMO in the negotiations of the deal with the French government. This absolutely establishes the fact that the PMO was interfering in the deal when it was supposed to go only through the Defence Ministry officials. The comments of the former French President, Francois Hollande that the Indian government had asked the French government to nominate Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Limited has also not helped the cause of the Modi government. Now, the latest controversy which has engulfed the Rafale deal is the report of the CAG which was tabled in the Parliament and the Congress party has alleged conflict of interest of the CAG, Rajiv Mehrishi, as a former union finance secretary and a part of the Narendra Modi government’s internal negotiations in the Rafale Deal.
There is a new development and set of controversies which emerge out of the Rafale deal every single day which only strengthens the fact that there can’t be any fuel without fire. The demand of the Congress party for a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee has been neglected time and again by the Modi government ignoring the fact that a JPC was also constituted to probe the infamous 2G scam and if they have nothing to hide then they should not shy away from a JPC probe. As of now, Rafale deal is not Rafale Scam, especially with the SC’s verdict on its side but with so much contradictory evidence coming up every single day and almost an established fact that the PMO was interfering in the negotiations of the deal, the Rafale Deal, can’t be given clean chit either. In the interest of the country, a JPC should be set up so that the Rafale deal can be probed and the truth of Rafale reaches the people of India.
Jay Shah’s miraculous rise: The Wire, a news portal, in the year 2017 did an exclusive story on BJP President Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah’s company, the Temple Enterprise Pvt Limited and highlighted the miraculous increase in the turnover of the company by 16,000 times in the year following the election of Narendra Modi as the prime minister of India and the elevation of Amit Shah to the post of party president. Company balance sheets and annual reports accessed from the Registrar of Companies by the Wire revealed that in the financial years ending March 2013 and 2014, Shah’s Temple Enterprise Private Ltd. engaged in negligible activity and recorded losses of Rs 6,230 and Rs 1,724 respectively. In 2014-15, it showed a profit of Rs 18,728 on revenues of only Rs 50,000 before jumping to a turnover of Rs 80.5 crore in 2015-16.
The report further highlighted the ugly nexus of politicians and crony capitalist behind Jay Shah’s prolific rise and implicated many in the government who were directly or indirectly responsible for this alleged money embezzlement. Ironically, the story was reported by Rohini Singh, a journalist who in the year 2011 also broke the story of Robert Vadra’s business dealings with DLF on which the BJP took anti-corruption mileage just before the 2014 general election and a déjà vu is running in mainstream media again with the Enforcement Directorate’s recent grilling of Robert Vadra.
Reality Check: This case went into an absolute limbo as Jay Shah proceeded with both criminal and a whopping Rs 100 crore civil defamation suit against the Wire. The founders of Wire snubbed the move publicly as an attempt to intimidate and arm-twist the media but at the same time moving to the court also indicated that Jay Shah was willing to be in a position to prove to the court that he and his company have earned his profits by fair means. Since then the Wire and Jay Shah have been sparring in the courts and even the Supreme Court has suggested them to settle the matter outside the court. The Congress and other opposition parties have also surprisingly gone easy on Jay Shah and his company with the Rafale Deal taking the major portion of the limelight and also a tacit understanding among political parties to go easy on their kith and kin, after all for four and a half years of its tenure, the BJP also did not find time to prosecute Robert Vadra. The corruption cases involving family members of politicians only end up becoming election gimmick and ammunition for the opposition parties during the elections with no concrete actions and that very well might be the fate of Jay Shah also in the future. The only thing which is certain by the information accessed from the Registrar of Companies is that, there indeed was an increase in the turnover of Jay Shah’s company by 16,000 times which he claims is done through fair and honest means and we can only wish that every Indian with or without a political god father achieves such growth in the future.
In the next article, we shall discuss the many fugitives in the Modi regime that do not directly implicate the government of corruption but definitely raise questions on its seriousness to fight corruption and nail the heavy loan defaulters who take the Indian economy and banking system for granted.