Was there corruption in Modi's Gujarat?
Along with a narrative of development, the story that Modi is an incorruptible politician helped propel him to power in 2014. In assessing this claim, it is worth noting that during his tenure in Gujarat, Modi's government worked extremely hard to water down anti-corruption measures in the state, pushing through a bill minimising the powers and indendence of the Lokayukta, or anti-corruption ombudsman. Under this bill, the state government both appoints the Lokayukta and can choose to accept or reject the Lokayukta's findings. Subsequent to this decision Gujarat effectively had no independent anti-corruption body.
Consistent with weakening anti-corruption bodies, Modi's Gujarat government was accused of being involved in or reluctant to probe a long list of acts of corruption. For example, the deal between the Modi government and the Adani group, where the most expensive electricity supplier was chosen over other competitors in a "closed-door" deal. Theft of natural resources is another major theme: for example the Modi government gave away large stakes in Gujarat's natural gas to a company which existed only on paper. Similarly, a Rs. 54-crore illegal limestone mining case resulted in Gujarat BJP Water Resources and Agriculture Minister Babubhai Bokhiria being sentenced to three years' imprisonment. Bokhiria retained his post in the state government despite the conviction.
Another high profile BJP politician involved in mining-related corruption - this time in Karnataka - was BS Yeddyurappa, declared to be corrupt by the BJP itself. Yeddyurappa began his fourth term as Karnataka's Chief Minister in 2019. Uncovering these scandals can be deadly: environmentalist and social worker Amit Jethwa was murdered after filing court cases against the illegal mining lobby, including a BJP MP. In November 2013, after a CBI probe, BJP MP Dinu Solanki was arrested for Amit Jethwa's murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2019.
More generally, the high level of criminality and corruption in Gujarat politics was documented in 2012 by the governmental and electoral reform body "Gujarat Election Watch". This criminality spread across the political spectrum, but BJP politicians were well represented amongst politicians facing or convicted of criminal charges, with six of the ten MLAs in Gujarat with the most serious declared criminal cases belonging to the BJP. Leaving aside corruption within the BJP, several BJP allies were linked to high profile corruption scandals.
Modi's personal abuses of power are also illustrated by the "snoopgate" scandal with the BJP admitting that Modi had used the state government machinery to spy on a young woman without her knowledge.
Honesty/transparency in our news pages.