Gujarat CM fights stain of nepotism

Gujarat CM fights stain of nepotism

A lot has been written and decibel levels broken by t he Congress in Gujarat and now nationally, in the case relating to the sale of 422 acres of land reportedly with the involvement of Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s daughter Anar Patel. 

The land deal in contention began in 2010, when a firm, the Wild Wood Resorts and Realities Private Limited (WWRRPL) was allotted 246 acres of land near Gir sanctuary for Rs 15 per square metres or roughly about Rs 60,000 per acre. The land was allotted by the state government to promote economic activities in the region. 

At the time of land allotment, according to the Congress, the WWRRPL was 55% owned by a Dubai-based businessman Sanjay Dhanak, while remaining 45% was held by an unknown Dubai-based family. Later the 45% stake of Dubai-family was acquired by a person named Dakshesh Shah. Other than the 246 acres allotted to Wildwoods, it was also granted permission to purchase another 176 acres of agricultural land and its land use changed to non-agricultural usage.

Post land allocation, Dhanak somehow decided not to go ahead with the project and sold his 55% stake to Dakshesh Shah. The next chapter in the saga is whether Anar Patel, took any back door entry in to the deal. This was attributed to takeover of WWRRPL by Dakshesh Shah and his partner Amol Shripal Sheth in the year 2011-12. They did so through their companies Parshva Texchem Limited and Anil Infraplus Ltd.

Both these companies were said to be co-investors in firms where Anar Patel has substantial stake. Even Anar has publicly accepted being business partners with Shah and that Shah had invested in her firm Relish Pharma through Parshva Texchem. 

The CM’s daughter, who has business interests in retail, consulting and pharmaceutical sectors, has Dakshesh Shah holding 50% in Anar Projects.

Besides, Shah’s company Parshva Texchem is also a substantial stakeholder in Anar’s another company – Relish Pharmaceuticals. Both, Shah and Anar are also directors in both these companies. 

Several documents filed with the Registrar of Companies too surfaced and have been quoted by Anar’s detractors to show a series of transactions between all these companies and establish a link between her and WWRRPL. Though both Anar and Shah have been claiming that there have been no financial dealings between Wildwoods or their other firms, several documents have been quoted to put forth a different narrative. Several financial transactions and inter-company loans between firms owned by Shah, Anar and Sheth too have become public.How much did the land actually cost? The detractors have also alleged undue benefit to Anar Patel and her partners with regards to cost of land allotted. “This land is situated near Gir Sanctuary, where an acre of land usually fetches Rs 50 lakh,” Arjun Modhwadia, senior Congress leader claimed. 

In Rajya Sabha too, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said that while the land was allotted to Wildwoods at Rs 15 per sq m, Muralidhar Gau Seva Trust running a cow shelter in the same area was offered the land at Rs 671 sq m. The trouble over monies paid arose as Sanjay Dhanak and Dakshesh claimed that they did not recollect how much was paid for the 422 acres of land. Surprisingly without knowledge of monies paid, Dakshesh Shah, countered the allegations about the claims of value of land being high!

Land use imbroglioAllegations of subverting legal process to facilitate sale of land have also been levied in the deal. Congress alleged that the land was allocated when Anandiben was a minister of revenue, the nodal authority for any land all-otments or land use change. Th-ey also alleged that the local administration and the Council of Ministers had shown “promptness” in aiding WWRRPL acq-uire the land that falls in the eco-sensitive zone where construction of any kind was prohibited. 

Later, the Congress leader charged the state government with changing the rules relating to the construction to ensure that WWRRPL would be eligible to get permission to construct on the land. “This is the clear case of corruption by the chief minister to benefit her children,” Modhvadia alleged. Dakshesh on the other hand claimed that WWRRPL has not been granted any permission by the state government.

The detractors point out that the deal is similar in modus operandi to telecom spectrum sale during the UPA government wherein companies that bid and won the spectrum eventually appeared to be the fronts for other beneficiary companies to whom they were sold off. 

“Here Anar’s partner Shah acquired the land by buying out WWRRPL through companies where he and Anar were partners. However, to establish this conclusively a detailed probe is a must,” an Anandiben Patel detractor within the party said. Officially, the party states that all the rules had been followed  and that there was no irregularity or illegality. 

While Anar Patel has stated her position through social media in the past, she and her CM mother are maintaining silence for now. As for the BJP, it hopes that as it is already fighting on many fronts, including Patel quota stir, this land controversy episode better die sooner rather than later.

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