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Lalit Modi was single window to CM Vasundhara Raje

A close aide of then Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Mr Modi twisted arms, broke laws and recreated rules to have his way.

, ET Bureau|
Apr 21, 2010, 03.46 AM IST
JAIPUR: The meteoric rise of Mr Lalit Kumar Modi may not be as inspirational as other Marwari businessmen from the Shekhawati region, but it is a story of controversies, autocracy and power-broking. Unlike his compatriot businessmen who had to leave Rajasthan to enter the big league, Mr Modi found his fortune in his native place.

Mr Modi’s flight to fame took off from Rajasthan. From a not-so-successful businessman to modern cricket czar, Mr Modi covered a long distance in the shortest time.

A close aide of then Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Mr Modi twisted arms, broke laws and recreated rules to have his way. For people looking for an access to the Vasundhara Raje government, Mr Modi was the single window. His proximity to the chief minister won him more foes than friends.

His detractors labelled him Mr Fixer for his alleged involvement in major land deals during the Raje regime. “The president’s suite in Ram Bagh Palace was the alternate CMO (chief minister’s office). All land deals and major investment decisions in the state would happen only after the consent of Mr 10%. Even transfers of key bureaucrats and important cabinet decisions were to happen with his consent,” said a senior bureaucrat.

Land deals were a just part of extended portfolio of Mr Modi in the Vasundhara regime. He is alleged to have had complete control over the government’s apex investment attraction body — Board of Infrastructure Development and Investment (BIDI). Bidi during the tenure of Ms Raje cleared 96 projects which are under the scanner of the present government. These include big ticket infrastructure projects including a dozen Special Economic Zones, Appu Ghar and other projects. “Most of these projects had come through Lalit Modi and were granted heavy concessions by the then chief minister Vasundhara Raje who was the chairperson of BIDI,” says a senior bureaucrat.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot stubbed out BIDI saying that decisions taken by it have led to controversies. An enquiry into BIDI deals will bring several bureaucrats under scanner; a few of them have already been superannuated.

Mr Modi was also instrumental in the clearance of three hotel projects in Udaipur. These lake side hotel projects — Laxmi Vilas Palace, Hotel Vision promoted by Leela Group and Hotel Radisson Plaza Resort & Spa — were turned down by Udaipur local bodies citing ecological danger to the lakes. “Lalit Modi intervened and used his ‘veto’ against the local body to get the clearance from the state government,” the official added.

“Mr Lalit Modi used the then state minister for urban development, Mr Pratap Singh Singhvi, to great effect to finalise land deals. “Minister’s son-in-law Vishal Bohra is said to be the conduit of Modi. All land deals and land conversions would go through his him only. The nexus siphoned off millions during Raje’s tenure,” another official added.

Mr Modi had a telling impact on the bureaucracy of Rajasthan. Right from appointment to transfer and to snubbing bureaucrats, he was at the helm of affairs. “Modi would interview bureaucrats for key positions like Jaipur Development Authority Commissioner before the appointment. His nod was must for such appointments,” said a bureaucrat who worked closely with Mr Modi.

Mr Modi is also facing inquiry into the purchase of heritage havelis in the protected zone near Amber fort. Raje government, in 2006, had floated Amber Development and Management Authority with the chief minister herself as one of its promoters. The authority had sold two heritage properties to a company having Lalit Modi and his wife Minal on its board. According to a gazette notification in 1974, these havelis were given heritage status.

As the Rajasthan Cricket Association president, Mr Modi set up Rajasthan Cricket Academy for grooming cricketing talent in the state. While the academy would have practice sessions in day time, it was the action ground for party animals in nights. “RCA used to rent it out for parties and other purposes. It was in strict violation of Rajasthan high court’s order that stadium cannot be used for any activity othe than sports. The sporting building was not less than a five star hotel,” said an RCA functionary.
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