Is the BJP President’s Son above Scrutiny?

BJP president Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah, has become the centre of a case of crony capitalism and questions are being raised about business malfeasance. 

According to a well-researched report in “The Wire”, an online news portal, Jay Shah owned a private limited company, Temple Enterprise Pvt Ltd, which had a revenue of only Rs 50,000 in 2014-15 but which rose to a turnover of Rs 80.5 crore in 2015-16, which is a 16,000 fold rise.  The company had unsecured loans of Rs 16.78 crore from a financial services firm.  However, in October 2016, the company abruptly wound up its business.

Another company, Kusum Finserve Pvt Ltd, was set-up in July 2015 which was meant to trade in stocks and shares and imports and exports.  But this company decided to go into the wind energy sector.  The company had raised a loan of Rs 25 crore from a cooperative bank against collateral valued at Rs 7 crore.  Among the properties mortgaged were one of BJP president Amit Shah valued at Rs 5 crore.  The company also received a Rs 10.35 crore loan from a public sector enterprise, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, for setting up a 2.1 MW windmill plant.

A host of questions have arisen about these business activities of Jay Shah – getting unsecured loans, a sudden and dramatic jump in turnover, ostensibly while dealing with export of agri-products, sudden closure of the company, a new venture which enters into a totally new area and getting a financial loan from a public sector enterprise. 

All these facts which have not been contested have raised suspicions about over invoicing of exports, generation of black money and official favouritism. 

Commentators have observed similarities with some aspects of the Robert Vadra case where also unsecured loans and official favouritism were involved.  The response of the BJP and the Modi government has been also similar to that of the UPA government and the Congress. Though Jay Shah is a private citizen, the minister for railways Piyush Goyal held a press conference to defend him.  The BJP leadership is out in force to deny any wrongdoing on the part of their president’s son.

At a time when the Modi government is going after various businessmen and opposition politicians on corruption and charges of laundering black money through investigations by the CBI, ED and the Income Tax department, the way they are handling Jay Shah’s case is in glaring contrast. Not only ministers and party leaders are rallying to the defence of Amit Shah’s son, the additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta is being permitted to represent Jay Shah in his defamation suit against The Wire.  It is significant to note that this permission, bending rules, was given two days before the story was carried in The Wire.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have been stridently maintaining that unlike the previous UPA rule, there are no cases of corruption under their watch. But the Jay Shah case is just one of the growing list of corruption and bribery cases involving the BJP.

In the BJP-ruled states, there have been a spate of corruption scandals.  The biggest and most institutionalised corruption was the Vyapam scam.  Scores of BJP and RSS functionaries have been implicated in the manipulation of the recruitment examinations and fingers have been pointed at chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan himself. In Rajasthan, the mining scandal was exposed in 2015.  The irregular allocation of 653 mining leases led to the loss of Rs 45,000 crore to the exchequer.  The principal secretary of mines to the government, Ashok Singhvi, was arrested for being the kingpin.  But the political links were covered up. 

In Maharashtra, the number two minister in the BJP government Eknath Khadse had to resign after the exposure of a corrupt land deal in Pune.  Another minister, Pankaja Munde, faced serious allegations about irregular contracts being given out worth Rs 206 crore.

The latest exposure has been done by a BJP MP, RP Sharma representing the Tezpur constituency in Assam.  In a sting operation he has charged that almost all the ministers in Assam charge 10 per cent commission for handing out contracts.  He further alleged that the irrigation minister, Ranjit Dutta, took a commission of Rs 87,000 from Sharma’s son to give him a contract. 

The attitude of the BJP in the face of all such charges is to deny any misconduct or bribery.  Coming back to the Jay Shah’s business activities, the Modi government must investigate the affairs of his companies.  The CBI and the ED must be put on the job to at least show that they are not selective about tracking down economic offenders. 

(October 10, 2017)

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