Modi’s latest affidavit and interview reveal he allotted himself government land as Gujarat CM

27 April, 2019

On 26 April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi filed his electoral affidavit to contest the Lok Sabha elections from the constituency of Varanasi. Details in his affidavit, clubbed with his recent public comments, confirm that when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi gifted himself government land in a posh locality in Gandhinagar. The plot he received is now worth over Rs 1 crore, nearly a hundred times the amount he paid for it. Further, the prime minister’s comments indicate that in 2007, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Meenakshi Lekhi, while appearing as the counsel for the state of Gujarat, concealed this fact in submissions to the Supreme Court. Lekhi told the apex court that no fresh land allotments had taken place in Gujarat after the year 2000. Modi first became eligible to receive government land in 2001, when he was appointed the chief minister of Gujarat. He entered the legislative assembly in February 2002, when he won a by-election in the state’s Rajkot-II constituency.

Earlier this month, The Caravan published an article regarding the land assets that the prime minister had declared in his election affidavits since 2007, and the public filings on his PMINDIA website. The article noted that a public interest litigation had recently been filed in the Supreme Court, alleging that, Modi omitted crucial details regarding his assets. The PIL was filed by Saket Gokhale, a former journalist who now works as an independent communications and marketing consultant.

The Caravan reported that in an election affidavit filed in 2007, Modi declared that he was the sole owner of Plot 411, in Sector 1, Gandhinagar, in Gujarat. Mentions of this plot are missing from his subsequent election affidavits—filed in 2012 and 2014—and declarations he has made on the prime minister’s official website every year since he was appointed to the post. Instead, Modi claimed in his affidavits that he owned a quarter of “Plot 401/A,” in the same sector. He listed the area of the plot as 14,125.80 square feet, approximately four times the size of the standard plots in Sector 1. Modi listed his share as 3531.45 square feet—equaling 328.08 square metres.

But our reporting found no public records for any plot “401/A.” This plot is missing from the Gujarat revenue department’s land records for Gandhinagar. We also inquired with several district administration departments including the collector’s office, the sub-registrar’s office, and the mamlatdar’s office—which falls under the district’s collector and is the custodian of land records. Officials either said they had no records available for these plots, or did not respond to our queries despite having been contacted weeks before publishing. Publicly available land records state that Modi is the original, present and sole owner of Plot 411.

Curiously, “Plot 401/A” also appears in election affidavits and public filings by the finance minister Arun Jaitley. In public filings in recent years, Jaitley states that he is a “1/4th” owner of “Plot 401/A.” He states in the affidavit that this land was alloted to him by the mamlatdar in Gandhinagar. Publicly available land records state that Jaitley is the present and sole owner of Plot 401.

The Caravan’s earlier article raised several questions, regarding the discrepancies in the details declared by the prime minister and the public land records in Gandhinagar, and how he came to own this plot. Land in Gandhinagar’s Sector 1 is allotted to members of parliament and legislative assemblies, and public servants, regulated by government resolutions. We reported that it was unclear whether Plot 411 and “Plot 401/A” were separate entities, and that Modi had not clarified how he came to own the land.

We had sent a detailed questionnaire to the prime minister nearly two weeks before the article was published, but he did not clarify any of the queries we raised. But the prime minister has since answered some of our queries, if indirectly—and in part during an interview with the actor Akshay Kumar, released to the public on 24 April.

After The Caravan’s story was released, the BJP put out an “informal note,” titled “The life of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi: an example of simple life, high thoughts.” The note contains glowing praise of the prime minister, describing him as a “man who dedicated his entire life to the country” and whose only policy is “antyodaya”—the upliftment of the weakest in society. The note also addresses the discrepancies in the plot numbers listed in Modi’s and Jaitley’s affidavits and “401/A.” It states: “Four plots purchased by four different persons were amalagamated into one on 25.4.2008. Obviously, the number of the amalgamated plot is different from the separate individual numbers.”

This defense is reflected in Modi’s latest affidavit. He still declares that he is the owner of “Plot 401/A” but adds: “Original Plot Survey No. 411 after amalgamation Plot No. 401/A.”

The “informal” note goes on to list several instances when Modi is said to have donated his personal wealth towards social causes. For instance, it mentions that “upon completion of his tenure as CM of Gujarat, Narendra Modi donated Rs 21 lakh from personal savings for educating Gujarat government staffs’ daughters.”

Kumar referred to the same act of generosity during his highly publicised “non-political” sit-down with the prime minister. “Modiji, I’d like to know … I have heard that when you went from being chief minister of Gujarat to prime minister, you had savings amounting to about Rs 21 lakh, as your bank balance,” Kumar said. “You distributed this among the daughters of your staff members.”

Modi's latest election affidavit.

Modi clarified that though he had in fact given Rs 21 lakh, it was a part of his savings and not the entirety. He then went on to discuss the land asset he had procured during his tenure. In Gujarat, he said, “Sarkar ki taraf se MLA ko ek plot milta hai”—an MLA gets a plot from the government. Modi added that the land has to be purchased, but is offered to MLAs at a subsidised cost. “I told the party … I’d like to give it to you, because I don’t want it.” This process of handing it over was ongoing, Modi continued, when he found out that the Supreme Court was hearing a case regarding the allotment of land in the state. “There was some issue with the land being prohibited from giving away … I don’t know for sure as I don’t take too much of an interest in such subjects. However, once the issue is settled I have decided to give away the plot to the party,” the prime minister said. Government land records, however, state that the land is meant for “residential/charitable” purposes.

It is important to note that at the time that Modi says he was alloted government land on account of being an MLA, the government in question was his own—he was appointed chief minister in late 2001, and became an MLA in February 2002. In his 2007 affidavit, he had listed the date of purchase of Plot 411 as 25 October 2002. This detail is repeated in his latest affidavit, for plot “401/A.” Modi notes that he purchased the plot for Rs 1.3 lakh, and that he invested Rs 2.47 lakh in construction on the land. The current value of the land, Modi writes, is Rs 1.1 crore.

In his interview with Kumar, the prime minister gave the impression that he did not wish to own any land. If Modi is to be believed, it is unclear why he agreed to purchase the land. Further, if he wished for the plot to be given to the BJP, it is unclear why he agreed to its amalgamation with three other plots.

The Caravan had reported earlier that the process of allotment of government land in Gujarat had come under the scrutiny of the courts in 2001, when the Gujarat high court took suo moto cognisance of a complaint alleging misuse of such land, in violation of the resolutions governing their allotment. In 2001, the court issued a stay on the sale and transfer of government-allotted plots, but its order was, in turn, stayed by the Supreme Court. Over the next few years, appeals and fresh cases related to the dispute were filed before the Gujarat high court and the apex court. In August 2017, noting that the high court had failed to decide on the matter, the Supreme Court transferred the pending cases to itself. As the prime minister told Kumar, the matter remains pending.

Among its orders on the cases, the Supreme Court recorded an important observation. In a 2012 order, the court recorded that the Gujarat government’s counsel—the advocate and BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi—submitted that the state “has not made any afresh allotments after the year 2000” and that the entire procedure for allotments was being reexamined. If, as the prime minister admitted to Kumar, he was allotted government land after being elected an MLA in 2002, a grave concern emerges: why did Lekhi conceal this fact before the Supreme Court? We called Meenakshi Lekhi and sent her an email questionnaire, but did not receive a response.

Revenue-department records for the plots in Sector 1 show that these are governed by “K-4”—a government directive stating that sale or transfer of these plots can only take place with the permission of the district collector. We had contacted SK Langa, the district collector, during our reporting for the previous article, asking about the ownership histories of the plots 411, 401 and 401/A. Despite repeated follow ups, Langa did not respond to our queries. The Caravan contacted Langa again in light of Modi’s latest admissions, and their discordance with Lekhi’s submission. He said that he was busy with election duty. Langa added that the records pertaining to these plots were with the district administration’s roads and buildings department, and that he would provide them at a later date.