Busted

Why Nitin Gadkari’s denial of connection to Scania bus was an outright lie

06 April 2021
Nitin Gadkari, the union minister for road transport and highways, had denied any connection to the SVT report that said the Swedish vehicles manufacturer Scania had gifted him a luxury bus in hopes of receiving an assignment in India. But the bus was seen in a Nagpur compound linked to him, and a company that used the bus has deep business connections to companies helmed by his sons, Sarang and Nikhil.
Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times/Getty Images
Nitin Gadkari, the union minister for road transport and highways, had denied any connection to the SVT report that said the Swedish vehicles manufacturer Scania had gifted him a luxury bus in hopes of receiving an assignment in India. But the bus was seen in a Nagpur compound linked to him, and a company that used the bus has deep business connections to companies helmed by his sons, Sarang and Nikhil.
Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

On a July afternoon in 2018, in Nagpur, I entered a factory compound owned by Purti Solar Systems Private Limited, a company associated with the union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari. The minister had recently been accused of illegally acquiring the plot and mortgaging it to secure a massive loan. The compound appeared abandoned—the plants had grown wild, the factory seemed to have shut down a long time ago, the equipment outside it lay in a state of decrepitude, and there was not a worker in sight. Yet, confusingly, the compound also had a large white bus parked inside—a Scania Metrolink.

Nearly three years later, on 10 March 2021, a Swedish news channel named SVT reported that Scania, a Swedish commercial-vehicles manufacturer, had “gifted” Gadkari a luxury bus, “a repainted Metrolink HD with dark red leather seats,” for his daughter’s wedding, in December 2016. Having accessed an internal investigation at Scania, SVT reported further that “sources also provided information to the German vehicle manufacturer Volkswagen, which owns Scania, that the bus was a gift to an Indian minister with the aim of getting an assignment in India.” In the wake of the report, Gadkari denied association with “any Scania bus” or “any firm or individual” connected to it. But The Caravan’s investigation demonstrated beyond doubt that the union minister lied outright—the bus was found in the plot linked to Gadkari, and companies to which the bus was connected have deep business relationships with his sons, Sarang and Nikhil.

The SVT report—jointly investigated with the organisations ZDF and Confluence Media, from Germany and India, respectively—noted that Scania had sold the bus “via a dealer, to a company with close links to the Gadkari family.” Hans-Åke Danielsson, Scania’s press manager and senior advisor, told me that the company had sold a Metrolink HD bus to a Bengaluru-based dealer, TransPro Motors Private Limited, in 2016. He added that according to Scania’s own “investigations,” TransPro “rented out” the bus to another Indian company, Sudarshan Hospitality Management Services Private Limited.

Given its conspicuous presence, I had recorded a video of the bus in the Purti Solar Complex compound. The video clearly shows two decals on the bus—one, next to the driver’s door, reads “Scania metrolink” and the other, in large bold letters across the side of the bus, reads “Sudarshan Hospitality.” Official records, including the registration certificate of the bus, further indicate that the bus in the Purti Solar Complex compound was the same one that Scania reportedly gifted to Gadkari.

Kaushal Shroff is an independent journalist. He was formerly a staff writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: Nitin Gadkari Nagpur The Ministry of Corporate Affairs
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