From ‘kaamdar’ to ‘daagdar’: PM Narendra Modi is no longer ‘Mr Clean’

The Hindi phrase ‘Khaunga aur Khaane doonga” (will gobble and let others gobble) is being used to mock PM Modi’s vow that he would not allow himself or others to bleed India’s exchequer white

Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Uttam Sengupta

Prime Minister Narendra Modi likes to describe himself as a ‘Kaamdar’ (one who rises by virtue of his work) as opposed to his rivals who he gleefully describes as ‘Naamdar’ (those who rise by virtue of their name). But with one disclosure after another hitting the headlines, he is clearly no longer Mr Clean. Unless his name is cleared following an independent probe into the 36 Rafale fighter jet deal, he will now remain under a cloud.

It is indeed a miracle that Narendra Modi managed to preserve his clean image for so long. His incredibly expensive election campaign mounted in 2013-14 would have raised eyebrows at any other time. But while Modi as ‘PM-in-waiting’ flew around the country in a private jet that belonged to the Adani Group of industries (nobody quite knows who or when any payment was made for Modi to address over 400 rallies), even after winning the election, he chose to fly into the capital in the private jet.

The dizzying rise in the fortunes of the Adani Group in the last decade and a half coincided with the rise in the political fortunes of Mr Modi. And with the Adani Group promoting the annual event on ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, the bond between Mr Modi and the Adanis was hardly a state secret.

Modi’s industrialist friend accompanied him on foreign visits

But eyebrows were still raised when reports surfaced saying that industrialist Gautam Adani was not only accompanying Prime Minister Modi on his foreign visits but that the industrialist was also being accommodated on the same floor where the Prime Minister was staying, in an apparent breach of protocol. He also accompanied Prime Minister Modi to Australia, where the Adanis wanted to invest in a coal mine, port and a railhead. He shared with the Prime Minister the high table along with the then chairperson of State Bank of India, Arundhati Bhattacharya amidst growing buzz that SBI would be underwriting the group’s investment down under.

Since then several reports have surfaced alleging undue favours granted to the Group by the Government, despite legal notices, threats to sue and ‘cease and desist’ notices issued by the Group to the media.

Payoffs to then Gujarat CM mentioned in Sahara Papers

The Supreme Court came to the rescue of Prime Minister Modi in the ‘Sahara Papers’ scandal. Although the papers were seized by the Income Tax department during a search and seizure operation from the offices of Sahara, and although the papers specifically named the then Gujarat chief minister by name as well as office in transactions running well over ₹50 Crore, the apex court felt that names merely figuring in papers did not implicate people in high offices. The same logic did not extend to other cases though and the argument that the seizure at least called for an investigation was also brushed aside by the court.

A secretive PMO under PM Modi

The fact that PM Modi has packed the PMO with Gujarat cadre officers, trusted and handpicked, betrays either insecurity or a malafide intent to gloss over omissions and commissions. It is also no longer a secret that the PMO is less than willing to part with information in response to RTI applications and that the day a Central Information Commissioner ordered the PMO to disclose details of the PM’s degree, the Commissioner was divested of his jurisdiction over the PMO. What does the PMO have to hide?

That famous monogrammed suit worth a whopping ₹10 lakh

The monogrammed suit allegedly worth ₹10 lakh that was stitched in London and worn by Prime Minister Modi while lovingly pouring tea to the visiting US President Barack Obama, is of course history. But while the suit was passed off as a gift and hurriedly auctioned in Gujarat, the misdemeanor of a public servant accepting such a gift was never addressed. That the malaise continued under the PM’s watch was revealed when Hasmukh Adhia, a Gujarat cadre officer and the then Revenue Secretary, hurriedly returned several gold coins which had allegedly been delivered at his official residence by way of a Diwali gift. But despite the heavily guarded New Motibagh complex housing senior bureaucrats and surveillance by CCTV cameras, no inquiry was conducted.

Questionable deals, schemes, appointments and connections waiting to unravel

Under the PM’s watch, public sector ONGC has been arm-twisted to bailout a debt-ridden Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) and public sector Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) forced to buy stakes in IDBI Bank, both questionable deals which are waiting to unravel.

Any cursory inquiry into the contracts given to execute Modi Government’s flagship schemes is likely to open a Pandora’s box. And while the CAG has discreetly pointed to some of the skeletons, many more are rattling in the cupboard.

There is also a brewing scandal in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) where in an unprecedented action, Special Director—another Gujarat cadre officer Rakesh Asthana, apparently under inquiry for corruption—has complained to the Central Vigilance Commission against the CBI director Alok Verma. Examples of misuse of the CBI by the PMO are tumbling out one by one and the internal feud can open the floodgates sooner or later. Why would an honest Prime Minister tinker with the independence of the investigating agency?

While the PM has never been able to satisfactorily explain his connections with Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Jatin Mehta, Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, all of them fugitives who have acquired foreign citizenship, one of the final nails in his reputation is the information being revealed on the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Did a pleased PM reward the man who called him the ‘King of Kings’ with the Rafale contract?

Didn’t Anil Ambani describe the Prime Minister as the ‘King of Kings’? The pleased monarch appears to have rewarded the younger Ambani with the offset contract in the Rafale deal. So, what if the younger Ambani owes thousands of crores to the banks? And yes, the honest Prime Minister will neither speak on the Rafale deal nor reveal the list of top 100 defaulters identified by nationalised banks.

Possibly irked by jibes at heading a ‘Suit Boot Ki Sarkar’, the Prime Minister roared the other day that he is not afraid of being seen with industrialists. But while all Prime Ministers in the past have been seen with industrialists, Mr Modi is seen to be perfectly at home with them.

Modi is clearly under no obligation to dispel all the doubts yet. But for his own image, built up at a cost of over ₹5,000 crore of public money spent on publicising him, the sooner he does it, the better it is for his and his party’s political health.

Rejoinder from Adani Group

Dear Mr Editor,

With respect to your story “From ‘kaamdar’ to ‘daagdar’: PM Narendra Modi is no longer ‘Mr Clean’.

Investigative journalism is always appreciated when presented with facts and substantiated with evidence. But it seems that the Adani Group has been unnecessarily dragged in this story. While these facts are available in the public domain please read the point-by-point clarification to your story;

In the 2nd paragraph of your story, you have mentioned that Mr Narendra Modi during his election campaign flew in private jet of the Adani Group

The Adani Group runs non-scheduled flight operations (NSOP) with a fleet of four aircrafts which are operated under Karnavati Aviation and the services are available on commercial basis much like the Congress using GMR aircraft. A clarification on the same was  given by the group chairman Mr Gautam Adani way back in 2016..

Political parties should not unnecessarily drag corporates into their politics: Gautam Adani

In the 3rd paragraph, you have mentioned about the dizzying rise in the fortunes of the Adani Group under political fortunes of Mr Modi.

Adani Group was formed in 1988, and over its 30 years journey, the group has witnessed growth under Congress regime as well, or for the matter of fact more under Congress then under BJP. In the above mentioned interview, Mr. Gautam Adani has clarified the same. Please refer the quotes mentioned below.

“In our case, we have been working with every political party. We are working in Congress-ruled states with all our sincerity. No infrastructure building can happen without state government support. We always go where the state is supporting and interested in development.

We do not go anywhere where we are unwanted. In Rajasthan, it was the Ashok Gehlot government that gave us land. We were in Congress-NCP ruled Maharashtra. We were there in three states —Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Two were Congress-ruled till recently.”

Today we are practically operating out of all the states of India, be it Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Chattishgarh, West Bengal , Jharkhand, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, etc. We are a serious infrastructure entity with a successful track record of implementing and operating large infrastructure projects across the country. We would like to put on record that we are getting sufficient support from all the states and this is understandable as this sector is the priority sector for the government and the backbone of growth for the economy. The scale of our interactions with government of Gujarat is little higher as we have our headquartered here.

And lastly your story also talks of Mr. Adani breaching protocol by travelling with Prime Minister to Australia and the high table was also chaired by the then Chairperson of SBI, Mrs Arundhati Bhattacharya.

You can find the response from SBI which clearly states that they never agreed to Adani group’s Australian coal project. An MOU was signed between Adani Group and SBI to assess to project viability and this was not done under the presence of Prime Minister.

SBI says never agreed to fund Adani Group's Australian coal project

Here is a another news update that substantiate our point.

Went on 4 of PM's 18 foreign visits: Adani

Paresh Chaudhry

Group President - Corporate Brand Custodian| Adani Group

This article was updated at 5.39 pm on September 28, 2018 to add a rejoinder from the Adani Group

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Published: 22 Sep 2018, 5:19 PM