A public-interest litigation filed today in the Supreme Court of India claims that Prime Minister Narendra Modi omitted crucial details regarding land assets in his election affidavits. The petition has been filed by Saket Gokhale, a former journalist who now works as an independent communications and marketing consultant. 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, however, missing from Modi’s subsequent election affidavits—filed in 2012 and 2014—and declarations he has made on the official prime minister’s website every year since he was appointed to the post. Publicly available land records state that Modi is the present and sole owner of Plot 411.
In the affidavits and filings since 2012, Modi has declared that he is a “1/4th” owner of “Plot 401/A” in the same sector. At the time of publishing, no such plot was listed in the Gujarat revenue department’s land records for Gandhinagar.
Curiously, this same plot of land makes an appearance in the election affidavits and public filings of the finance minister Arun Jaitley. In a 2006 election affidavit, Jaitley declared that he was the sole owner of Plot 401, in Sector 1, Gandhinagar. This plot does not appear in his subsequent filings. In his election affidavit for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and his public declarations as a minister in Modi’s cabinet, Jaitley listed himself as a “1/4th” owner of the same plot as the prime minister—“Plot 401/A.” Jaitley states in the affidavit that this land was alloted to him by the mamlatdar in Gandhinagar—an office under the district’s collector that is the custodian of land records. Publicly available land records state that Jaitley is the present and sole owner of Plot 401.
For several weeks now, The Caravan has been attempting to verify the veracity of the assets declared by Modi in election affidavits and public declarations since 2007—in particular, of how he came to own the Plot 411, and to trace the origins of the “Plot 401/A.” The petition filed in the Supreme Court raises questions about Modi’s ownership of government land in Gandhinagar. Documents accessed by The Caravan raised questions not only about the accuracy of the land details listed in Modi’s affidavit, but also about how he came to own this land—plots in the area are allotted by the state government to members of parliament or the legislative assembly, and public servants. In 2012, while the Supreme Court was hearing an appeal regarding land allotments to government servants in Gujarat, Meenakshi Lekhi, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader who was then the counsel for the state, submitted to the apex court that the Gujarat government had not made any fresh land allotments since the year 2000. Modi was first appointed the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001, and entered the legislative assembly in February 2002, after he won a by-election in the state’s Rajkot-II constituency.