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Liquor and land lash at Modi image

New Delhi, April 18: The Congress is increasingly hitting the Gujarat government with corruption charges, realising that Narendra Modi’s appeal owes much to his success in projecting an image of probity in public life.

Rahul Gandhi has for some time been talking about the large tracts of land given cheap to the Adani group of industries in Gujarat. Now Congress spokespersons have mounted a sustained attack on Modi’s image, complaining the media was not showing enough interest in the BJP mascot’s “scandals”.

Rahul had told an interviewer yesterday: “Modi has a strong predilection for crony capitalism and we must challenge him on it. Apart from the crores lost to crony capitalism, such favouritism also signals to the rest of the world that India is not a level playing field.”

The Congress today alleged that “dry” Gujarat generated huge sums of black money through the illicit liquor trade and land allotments. It asked who was the main beneficiary and whether Modi would set up special courts to probe the racket.

The party noted that Modi and L.K. Advani had stopped talking about black money in this election after harping on it for a long time, and argued that this was because the BJP’s entire campaign was based on black money.

Kapil Sibal alleged that Gujarat’s illicit liquor trade was worth Rs 30,000 crore in black money, and that Ahmedabad alone accounted for Rs 1,500 crore of it.

“Modi’s administration, far from doing anything about it, benefits from it. Surat guzzles 50,000 litres per day and almost 70 per cent of the 18,000-plus villages in the state brew their own country liquor. The ban on liquor is not lifted because of vested interests. Prohibition, as a policy, brews corruption,” Sibal said.

“Posting of police officers in lucrative areas involves money. The liquor mafia feed both politicians and police. Modi says he will set up fast-track courts to inquire into crimes; will he do the same for the illicit liquor trade in Gujarat?”

Sibal noted that Modi had retained the home portfolio and alleged he was involved in transfers and postings involving huge transactions.

“Despite all these, the BJP makes a song and dance about black money. Modi should also speak on Ramdev, another champion of black money, who was caught discussing election funds with a BJP candidate in Alwar,” he said.

“Gujarat was looted. The revenue minister of Gujarat admitted in the Assembly that 14,305 acres of land was given to Adani at a rate of Rs 2 to Rs 25 per square metre. Will Modi set up a commission to probe this loot if he becomes the Prime Minister?”

Raising the question of illegal land allotment had its flip side too: Sibal was grilled on charges relating to grant of land to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s husband Robert in Haryana and Rajasthan.

Sibal said the law should catch up with anybody engaged in illegalities but here the question was that a chief minister was benefiting from the illicit liquor trade and illegal land deals, which the nation could not ignore in election season.