The Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday faced a political storm after a news
website reported that a company run by party chief Amit Shah’s son, Jay Amit Shah, recorded 16,000 times increase in turnover in only a year after Narendra Modi became the prime minister and the senior Shah the party president.
The website, The Wire, said its findings were based on filings with the Registrar of Companies (RoC). The report, The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah, was published on Sunday morning. The Congress and other political parties demanded an official probe into the issue.
In a statement that the BJP released in the evening, Jay said he would be filing civil and criminal defamation
cases against the news
website’s owners, editor and the author of the article in Ahmedabad, where he runs his business, and sue them for Rs 100 crore in damages.
Jay said the report makes “false, derogatory and defamatory imputation” against him by creating an impression that his “business owes his ‘success’ to (his) father Shri Amitbhai Shah’s position”.
Responding to the Opposition’s demands for a probe, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told the media that the title of the report was “mischievous” to defame Amit Shah
and the use of figure 16,000 an attempt to sensationalise the issue. “Jay Shah
carries out a fully legitimate and lawful business on commercial lines which are reflected in income tax returns and transactions in banks,” Goyal said.
The controversy comes at a politically significant moment with election to the Gujarat Assembly barely 60 days away, and the winter session of Parliament scheduled to start in the first half of November.
The report, which seemed to draw a parallel of the current case with that of the alleged land deals by Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, said the turnover of the company owned by Jay jumped from a meagre Rs 50,000 to over Rs 80 crore in a single year. The report also flagged how Jay’s company, whose business is primarily stock trading, turned to generating wind power with a loan from a public sector enterprise.
Goyal said it wasn’t unusual for a company involved in trading of agricultural products to witness an increase in turnover, and that Rs 80 crore was not a very large amount. The minister, who until recently had also handled the new and renewable energy portfolio, said the loan by a public sector enterprise was to support a start-up, and more than 2,000 such loans were disbursed in the year when Jay’s company had also received a loan.
Prime Minister Modi was on Sunday in Gujarat, while Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is to visit the state on Monday. Shah senior led a protest march in the afternoon from New Delhi’s Connaught Place area to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) office in Gole Market to highlight political violence allegedly perpetrated by the Left parties in Kerala. The Left parties termed it an attempt to distract attention from the controversy over Jay’s business dealings, farm distress and joblessness.
website’s report alleged Jay’s company, Temple Enterprises Private Limited, was engaged in negligible activity in financial years ended March 2013 and 2014, recording losses of Rs 6,230 and Rs 1,724, respectively. It alleged the turnover of the company witnessed an “astonishing surge” in the financial year ended March 2015, when the firm received an unsecured loan of Rs 15.78 crore from a financial services firm owned by Rajesh Khandawala, the samdhi (in-law) of Parimal Nathwani, a Rajya Sabha member and top executive of Reliance Industries. It said the turnover of Rs 50,000 increased to over Rs 80 crore in a single year. It said Jay’s company suddenly stopped its business activities in October 2016.
It also reported that Jay’s business ventures received loans from a cooperative bank and a public sector enterprise. It said Jay’s company received an Rs 10.35-crore loan from the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) for a renewable energy start-up and Rs 25 crore worth of finance from the Kalupur Commercial Cooperative Bank, which has influential backers.
Jay said he had taken loans either from NBFCs or non-funded credit facilities from a co-operative bank on purely commercial terms in accordance with the law. “I have repaid the loans by cheques on commercial rate of interest and within the time stipulated. I have mortgaged my family property with the cooperative bank to get the credit facilities.”
However, Congress leader Kapil Sibal asked how Jay’s company had no inventory or assets after a turnover of Rs 80.5 crore within a year? “Will PM ask the CBI to act against Amit Shah’s son?” The Congress leader said it was strange that a Union minister (Piyush Goyal) was defending a private citizen (Jay Shah).
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “We finally found the only beneficiary of demonetisation. It’s not the Reserve Bank of India, the poor or the farmers. It’s the Shah-in-Shah of Demo(netisation). Jai Amit.”
The Aam Aadmi Party also demanded a high-level probe. The Left parties questioned the silence of the Prime Minister on The Wire’s report. “Latest in the series of corruption cases under Modi. Birla-Sahara Dairy, GSPCL, Vyapam, Lalit Modi, rice and mining scams. Why is PM silent,” CPI (M) chief Sitaram Yechury tweeted.
“Modi claimed zero tolerance to corruption and blamed Opposition leaders for corruption. Now his claims have been proven hollow,” CPI leader D Raja said.