Silence is not an option Prime Minister Modi can exercise when faced with allegations of allotment of a large tract of land at a significantly below-market price to a company owned by business associates of Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel's daughter. According to media reports, in 2011 the Gujarat government led by Modi approved the allotment of 245 acres worth about Rs 145 crore for just Rs 1.5 crore. The land is located close to the Gir lion sanctuary in an eco-sensitive zone where no commercial activity is allowed but rules were amended for the benefit of the allottee, Wildwoods Resort & Realties Pvt Ltd, in which Anar Jayesh, a daughter of Anandiben, has acquired an equity stake. Anandiben was the Revenue Minister in the Modi government then and holds the portfolio as Gujarat Chief Minister.
During his stint in Gujarat, Modi had often been accused of handing over public land to industrialists at very low rates. The Adani group was given land for setting up a port and a special economic zone at Re 1 per square metre. The Tatas were given land for the Nano car project at Rs 900 per square metre against the market price of Rs 10,000. The Rahejas got land at Rs 470 per square metre, whereas the Gujarat government charged the Air Force a higher rate of Rs 1,100. Land belonging to an agricultural university in Surat was reportedly passed on to a hotel group. Media reports point out several such deals which have not been properly investigated. The state government had first delayed the appointment of a Lokayukta and then had a court dispute when the Governor made the appointment.
The Congress, which had to defend itself on the controversial Robert Vadra land deal, has mounted an attack against Modi and sought the resignation of the Gujarat CM. Instances of ministerial misuse of power for personal gain or enrichment of relatives as well as cases of conflict of interest are so many and so common but rarely one finds the guilty being brought to justice. The much-touted Gujarat model too is not immune from the vice of family connection.
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