Who’s Afraid Of Vipul Chaudhary? The Story Behind His Arrest

| Updated: September 26, 2022 8:28 pm

Former Gujarat Minister Vipul Chaudhary and his Chartered accountant Shailesh Parikh were sent in judicial custody last week after a Mehsana court refused to grant further police remand. Both are facing charges of alleged financial irregularities to the tune of over Rs 750 crore during Chaudhary’s tenure as Dudhsagar Dairy chairman.

The state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) FIR accuses Chaudhary, Parikh, and Chaudhary’s wife and son of offences of cheating, forgery, fraud, and criminal conspiracy under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In a related development, members of the Chaudhary community, who identify themselves as Arbuda Sena, have hit the streets demanding an immediate release of Chaudhary. 

There’s obviously more to Chaudhary’s arrest, the Arbuda Sena, and why he is relevant to Gujarat politics. Vibes of India dives deep into the issue.

THE STRANGE SILENCE

The most obvious questions that the FIR against Chaudhary and others throws up is that the FIR itself was registered way back, in 2013. The alleged corruption was committed between 2005 and 2012, when Chaudhary was with the BJP.

Chaudhary headed the Dudhsagar Dairy from 2005 to 2016. Controlling this power centre is no small feat — he was heading a network of 5.2 lakh farmers in Gujarat. To understand his clout, we need to look at the scale of the Dudhsagar Dairy itself. The dairy collects milk from 4.5 lakh milk producers through 1,150 village cooperatives. These cooperatives have always played a crucial role in being a catalyst for political parties to win elections and mobilise crowds.

WHO IS VIPUL CHAUDHARY?

Born on November 1, 1966, Chaudhary was a student leader at Ahmedabad’s LD Engineering College – considered a learning ground for many Gujarat politicians – and was a staunch supporter for former Chief Minister Shankersinh ‘Bapu’ Vaghela. Under Vaghela’s guidance, Chaudhary joined the RSS in 1983 and the ABVP in 1985. Ten years later, in 1995, he won his first major election when he was elected MLA from Mansa on a BJP ticket.

Chaudhary rose to become the rural development minister in the state but quit the BJP when Vaghela rebelled and formed his Rashtriya Janata Party. When Vaghela again became the chief minister with the Congress’ support in 1996, Chaudhary was rewarded for his loyalty. He was only 30 years old when he was appointed the minister of state for Home. He remains the youngest Home minister the state has had.

Eleven years later, in September 2007, Chaudhary returned to the BJP in the presence of then CM Narendra Modi. At a public event in November that year, he touched Modi’s feet. The BJP was only too happy to have a man who had a direct influence over the 15-lakh strong Chaudhary community in its fold.

Political observers say that the Chaudhary community could sway the results in at least 15 Assembly seats in north Gujarat. Primarily into dairy and farming, the Chaudharys are a sub-caste of the Patidar community and call the shots in north Gujarat economically and as a result politically, thanks to their control over the dairies of Sabarkantha, Banaskantha and Mehsana.

WHY TARGET VIPUL CHAUDHARY NOW?

Activities of the Arbuda Sena – formed as recently as February this year – haven’t gone down well with the top mandarins of the state. 

Arbuda Sena is named after Chaudhary community’s kuldevi Arbuda mataji. This vast army, the Arbuda sena was set up without the BJP permission and at grass root level, the Arbuda sena was reportedly working against the BJP. 

The Arbuda Sena members openly talk about the mobilising power of their community ahead of the Assembly elections. In such a short time, the Arbuda Sena managed to organise 83 public gatherings under the guidance of Vipul Chaudhary. He was arrested on the midnight of September 14 immediately after a public gathering in state capital Gandhinagar.

Jayesh Chaudhary, general secretary of Arbuda Sena, made no secret of the community’s plans. “We are a powerful community, yet we have no representation in the state — be it in the panchayats or the Assembly. We are not given any government position, hence this is an attempt to mobilise our community and get our rightful place in the system.” At any gathering, the crowds swell to around 30,000 community members, who call themselves ‘sainiks’ of Arbuda Sena.

Jayesh Chaudhary, general secretary of Arbuda Sena

The Arbuda Sena is massively focused on young voters. Over 60,000 youths are registered with the Sena, which routinely holds training exercises for them. The last such youth programme was conducted in Ambaji where over 18,000 youngsters were trained. Taking a dig at the BJP, Jayesh Chaudhary said, “Political parties feel threatened by the growing popularity and strength of Arbuda Sena. Vipul Chaudhary has become the man who could tilt the Gujarat Assembly elections in favour of whichever party he prefers. This has pinched the BJP and it wants to break up the unity of Arbuda Sena. That’s why this plan of showing Vipul Chaudhary in a negative light and filing cases against him,”

CONGRESS JUMPS IN

The Gujarat BJP spokesperson, Yagnesh Dave, refused to comment on “anything related to Vipul Chaudhary” but the Congress national spokesperson, Shaktisinh Gohil, used Chaudhary to target the BJP. 

Gujarat BJP spokesperson, Yagnesh Dave

Congress Party national spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said, “Vipul Chaudhary always claimed that Modi ji is his Guru. He used to publicly touch Modi’s feet. He often funded the BJP  programmes conducted in North Gujarat. Some of Vipul Chaudhary’s public appearances also have Anandiben Patel. In one incident, a day after Varghese Kurian’s demise PM Modi went on stage saying, I called Vipul last night saying that we should cancel this programme due to Mr Kurien’s demise. But Vipul wanted to carry on with the morning event and therefore, here I am,”

“Today this same, Vipul is in jail for a Rs 800 crore fraud–conducted between 2005-2016. Till 2014, Modji was the CM of Gujarat. If our PM says that Main Khata Nahi, Khane Deta Nahi to phir Vipul Chaudhary 800 crore kese kha gaya. The truth is Modi ji crore se kam khate nahi. If someone speaks against BJP then Modi ji doesn’t spare them. Dudhsagar is a cooperative society registered under the government. State government has the power to cancel the registration of a cooperative if it is involved in any corrupt activities. My question is, can such an act of corruption be done by Vipul Chaudhary alone?” adds Gohil.

Congress Party national spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil

 
Senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia
 told Vibes of India “Vipul Chaudhary’s dominance in cooperatives is massive. He is important politically and socially. BJP wants to control him and therefore these raids and allegations. BJP wants a remote-controlled politician to just hold a post and not take decisions independently, on the contrary Vipul is not submissive. This will lead to a huge loss for the BJP. The saffron party is underestimating the power of Vipul Chaudhary. This will ultimately benefit other political parties. Chaudhary samaj will definitely look for alternatives.

Senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia 

WILL AAP AIM FOR VIPUL? 

If the BJP thought that the Chaudhary community would be cowed down after Vipul’s arrest, then the thinking was way off the mark. In fact, within 24 hours of Chaudhary being detained on September 14, more than 5,000 community members signed on an appeal opposing his detention and handed it over to the collectors of nine districts.

Even in Chaudhary’s absence, the Arbuda Sena has been conducting gatherings to demand his release. Over 30,000 people gathered in the recent sabha in Bhiloda village, convinced that their ‘son’ has done no wrong.

Arbuda Sena

Political circles are abuzz with speculations that Chaudhary could be planning to shift gears and become a part of the third front AAP? This has been categorically denied by the Arbuda Sena members. Some political observers say that Chaudhary was planning to be an independent leader and AAP was not on his radar, but his arrest will benefit the AAP. Arbuda Sena member Karsan Chaudhary said, “Vipul Chaudhary’s arrest is a political gimmick. He is innocent and his arrest will lead to losses for the BJP. AAP will be the ultimate beneficiary in this scenario.”

Charges against Vipul Chaudhary

The ACB has alleged that Chaudhary misused his powers as chairman of the Dudhsagar Dairy and undertook building capitalisation, publicity, purchases of milk coolers and other works without tendering processes.

The ACB has also allegedly found 66 bank accounts, including five in Chaudhary’s name, 10 in the name of his wife, six in the name of his son, and other accounts associated with companies and limited liabilities partnerships (LLPs), that have seen a transaction of nearly Rs 100 crore. Further investigation in this regard is ongoing, the ACB stated.

Arbuda Sena

The ACB alleges that Chaudhary collected ill-gotten funds through 31 companies. Four such companies have been found to be registered with the Registrar of Companies (RoC). The four companies’ addresses were found to be fake, with the ACB finding that no such business existed. It has also been alleged that Parikh, as a chartered accountant, was aware that these companies existed only on paper and despite knowing the same, audited these companies, allegedly assisting Chaudhary in his alleged criminal activities.

In  2011-12, Chaudhary allegedly conducted transactions of Rs 4.25 crore from his HUF account of which Rs 2.95 crore was transacted abroad, which the agency is probing. ACB officials said that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been informed of the suspected irregularities.

 

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