Why should we take ‘The Wire’ story on Jay Amit Shah serious?

On Sunday, October 8, the independent news website The Wire published an investigative report titled “The Golden Touch of Jay Amitbhai Shah” by journalist Rohini Singh alleging an exponential “16,000 times” growth of a company, Temple Enterprise, co-owned by Jay Shah, son of BJP national president Amit Shah, “after” Narendra Modi became the prime minister.The report created ripples on social media within minutes of being published.

Key highlights:

  • Turnover of a company owned by Shah’s son increased 16,000 times over in the year following election of PM Narendra Modi
  • Revenue from company owned by Amit Shah’s son jumped from just Rs 50,000 to over Rs 80,00,00,000 in a single year
  • Firm of Amit Shah’s son, whose business is chiefly stock trading, turns to windmill generation with PSU loan
  • Do a story on Amit Shah’s son’s ‘honest, legal, bonafide’ businesses and ‘he shall reserve right to prosecute you’, his lawyer warns The Wire

The report also talks about Shah’s another company Kusum Finserve, a limited liability partnership, incorporated in July 2015. It says Kusum Finserve got inter-corporate deposits from KIFS Financial worth Rs 2.6 crore in FY 2014-15, and an unsecured loan of Rs 4.9 crore.

The report further speaks about the LLP availing Rs 10.35 crore loan from a public sector enterprise, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA). In response, Shah’s lawyer has been quoted as saying: “The loan taken from IREDA for setting up a 2.1 MW wind energy plant is based on the equipment prices prevailing at that point of time as per industry standards (approx Rs 14.3 crore) and duly appraised and sanctioned in the normal course of business. The outstanding loan as on 30-06-2017 is Rs 8.52 crore and interest and repayment of loan are regular.”

The Reactions

 The Congress party held a press conference by former Union Minister Kapil Sibal. This was normal political outcome of an investigation. On the other hand, it was dismissed by the BJP, with Union minister for railways Piyush Goyal, termed the allegations as “derogatory, defamatory, hallowed and baseless”, adding there’s “absolutely no substance whatsoever”. Goyal said: “Mr Jay Shah, son of Amit shah, has decided to file criminal defamation suit against the author, editors and the owners of The Wire. They shall be prosecuted for criminal defamation and sued for an amount of Rs 100 crore in the Ahmedabad court.”

The BJP, of all parties, should know this best as it has followed a similar protocol in the past not just with allegations against Robert Vadra, but post various other media investigations including the Coal scam and the 2G scam which led to the downfall of the UPA.

A website which is unabashedly pro-Modi government, OpIndia.com, published a rebuttal saying that while The Wire story mentions the revenue, it fails to mention the “expenses incurred”, which the site puts at Rs 81.99 crore, with a net loss of Rs 1.48 crore. It held story as “low on facts, high on innuendo”, because, according to it, “revealing such information would puncture the entire narrative that Jay Amit Shah’s business was successful just as Modi came into power”. OpIndia also adds that NBFCs such as KIFS, owned by Khandwala, are in the business of extending loans greater than the sums of their net revenues because that’s “their job”.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “We finally found the only beneficiary of Demonetisation. It’s not the RBI, the poor or the farmers. It’s the Shah-in-Shah of Demo. Jai Amit”.  The Aam Aadmi Party said the case showed the symptoms of being a “classic case of money laundering”. The CPI(M) , Samajwadi Party and RJD too used the report to attack the BJP, Amit Shah and Modi.

Jay Amit Shah in the concluding statement of his claim of defamation said, “If anyone else republishes/re-broadcasts the imputations made in the said article, whether directly or indirectly, such person or entity will also be guilty of the very same criminal and/or civil liability.”

An investigative report like any other report should have been the subject of discussion, criticism, arguments, debate, these being the fundamentals of journalism. The media did not need a threat, it had already obliged. This is basic, ethical journalism where a reporter needs to worry about the facts in her story and not the consequences of it, not the smear campaign, nor the character assassination.

Jay on Monday filed the defamation suit of Rs 100 crore against the author, editor and owner of ‘The Wire’ before the Ahmedabad court, for alleging huge growth in his firm’s turnover in a year but Ahmedabad Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of the defamation suit.

Moreover, disenchanted BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha on Wednesday hit out at the central government and the party over their handling of allegations of financial fraud levelled against party chief Amit Shah’s son, and said both the BJP and the government have lost the moral high ground on fighting corruption. “The manner in which a central minister (power minister Piyush Goyal) jumped into the fray in defence of Jay Shah was not called for. He is not the chartered accountant of Jay Shah’s firm,” said Sinha.

While Jay Shah is being defended as a “private citizen” and is being shielded for his “fundamental right to privacy” (ironical, given the government’s official stand on the privacy battle fought in the Supreme Court very recently), the fact that he’s related to a very public figure being the son of the BJP national president Amit Shah is enough to bust that claim, which is why he must be ready to be held up for public scrutiny.

With inputs from The Wire



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