The latest raids by Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Rajasthan on people close to CM Ashok Gehlot is not the first in the series of such overarching spectacles by the probe agencies.
The recent action on Rajasthan Congress president Govind Dotasra and Independent MLA Om Prakash Hudla (fielded by the Congress this time) take the number of those close to Gehlot, facing different cases, to nine, though no arrests have been made since the start of action in 2020.
Agrasain Gehlot, CM’s brother
Premises linked to Agrasain in Jodhpur were raided in July 2020, at a time when the Gehlot government was trying to survive following a rebellion by Sachin Pilot. The ED conducted countrywide raids as part of an alleged scam in import of fertilisers later distributed to farmers at subsidised rates, and multiple properties of Agrasain’s company Anupam Krishi.
The Congress has accused the BJP of having a hand in the July 2020 rebellion.
As per ED, between 2007 and 2009, Agrasain, an authorised fertiliser dealer, bought the same at subsidised rates and sold it to companies instead of farmers. The companies allegedly exported the fertilisers then to Malaysia and Singapore as industrial salt.
In June 2022, Agrasain’s properties were raided again in the case, this time by the CBI.
Vaibhav Gehlot, CM’s son
Vaibhav’s name came under Central agencies’ scanner during the July 2020 crisis, with the Income Tax Department searching nine offices of two firms – Mayank Sharma Enterprises (MSE) and Om Kothari Group. MSE is owned by the family of Ratan Kant Sharma, who in March 2011 had acquired half the shares in Sunlight Car Rentals Private Ltd, a company floated by Vaibhav, and remained its shareholder till March 31, 2016. MSE runs the luxury hotel Le Meridien in Jaipur. Sharma is also the promoter of Triton Hotels and Resorts Private Limited, which runs Fairmont, a luxury hotel on the outskirts of Jaipur, which was also raided by the ED and where Vaibhav was reportedly employed once.
Vaibhav has now got a summons by the ED under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), reportedly in connection with the same case.
In March 2022, Vaibhav faced an FIR of alleged cheating, breach of trust and intimidation.
Rajendra Singh Yadav, MoS (Home)
Yadav has been raided by both the IT and ED for alleged irregularities in supply of mid-day meals during the pandemic, with firms run by Yadav’s sons allegedly supplying some of the materials.
While the IT raids were conducted in September 2022, the ED raids happened last month.
Yadav has denied the charges. “Now if a central agency purchases the material at a more expensive or cheaper price (from a firm) or a scam was committed, what does the third party have to do with it?” he said. “If someone takes sweetmeats from halwai and then feeds it to a buffalo or a human, how does it concern the halwai?” he quipped.
Dharmendra Rathore, Gehlot’s close aide
Rathore too first saw action against him during the 2020 crisis, when IT raided his offices and properties. He had been appointed chairman of Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation in February 2022. On May 17, 2022, while speaking to reporters about Azadi Gaurav Yatra organised by Rathore in Jaipur, Gehlot had said: “Ye bhi famous ho gaye, inke bhi chhapa pad gya (Rathore has also became famous, he has also been raided).”
Rajiv Arora, Gehlot’s aide
The founder and owner of Amrapali Jewels, Arora also came under IT scanner during the 2020 crisis. A Congress veteran, he was among the founding members of NSUI in Rajasthan and is a former Congress vice-president.
He has also served under different Congress governments in various roles, and is currently the Rajasthan Small Industries Corporation chairman.
Lokesh Sharma, Gehlot’s OSD
Sharma faces an FIR filed by Union minister Gajendra Singh, in 2021 over “unlawfully intercepting” telephone conversation, in connection with which the Delhi Police has issued summons to him multiple times since. So far, he has appeared five times, while the case continues to be heard in the Delhi High Court.
Defending him, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal had said during a debate in the Assembly: “If Lokesh Sharma gets something and forwards it on a WhatsApp group, what sin has he committed? Don’t you do it too? And why shouldn’t he send?…You say that Lokesh Sharma made the clippings. Give evidence.”
After the latest round of questioning on October 10, Sharma told journalists: “I have always said I have no direct connection with the phone tapping issue. I received audio clips through social media and circulated them, because in the conversations, there was a conspiracy to topple an elected government.”
Mahesh Joshi, Cabinet minister
During the 2020 crisis, Joshi was Gehlot’s Man Friday, which led to his elevation as a Cabinet minister in November 2021. In 2021, Joshi was summoned by Delhi Police in an FIR, but he skipped it. Last year, an FIR was lodged against his son Rohit in an alleged rape case.
In her FIR, a Jaipur-based woman accused Rohit of raping her on multiple occasions between January 8, 2021, and April 17, 2022. A petition filed by him in the High Court to quash the FIR has said that their relationship was “consensual” and she was “blackmailing” him.
Govind Singh Dotasra, Rajasthan Cong president; Independent MLA Om Prakash Hudla
On Thursday, the ED landed for raids on locations linked to Dotasra and Hudla. Gehlot posted on social media soon after that the ED’s action against Dotasra and summons to his son came just a day after his government announced guarantees for women as part of the poll campaign.
The raids on Dotasra and Hudla are said to be in connection with the 2021 Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers paper leaks.