'Close' to Modi, exempt from taxes: Torrent Group bought electoral bonds worth Rs 185 cr

Sudhir Mehta’s company was exempt from paying property tax worth Rs 285 crore by then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in 2019.
Sudhir Mehta with the Torrent Group logo
Sudhir Mehta with the Torrent Group logoShambhavi Thakur

Five years ago, then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis granted a company exemption from paying property taxes of Rs 285 crore.

After the Election Commission released SBI’s data on electoral bonds last night, we now know the same company bought electoral bonds worth Rs 185 crore from May 7, 2019 to January 10, 2024.

This is the Torrent Group, whose subsidiaries – Torrent Power Ltd and Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited – are listed on the PDF uploaded on the EC website as purchasers of electoral bonds. 

Crucially, the group’s chairman emeritus Sudhir Mehta is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Newslaundry also learned that from 2007 until around 2014-15, the company donated over Rs 33.11 crore to the BJP.

Here’s what we found.

Mehta, sitting next to Modi, as part of a delegation to Japan
Mehta, sitting next to Modi, as part of a delegation to JapanWebsite of Parimal Nathwani
Mehta with Modi in July 2012
Mehta with Modi in July 2012Website of Parimal Nathwani

‘Close ties’ through the years

On May 7 and May 10, 2019, Torrent Power and Torrent Pharmaceuticals bought electoral bonds worth Rs 14.9 crore, as per last night’s data.

Weeks later, on May 27, 2019, the state government issued a government resolution that said the Bhiwandi Municipal Corporation need not collect property tax worth Rs 285 crore, including interest and fines, from Torrent Power. 

The resolution said: “As the state government has come to the conclusion that recovering such property tax is not ultimately in the interest of the citizens of Bhiwandi, the state government is directing the municipal corporation to withdraw all proceedings to recover property tax from Torrent Power.”

The resolution was issued after Torrent Power informed the state government that recovering property tax would lead to “higher tariffs that would not be in favour of citizens”. Soon after, local citizens started a campaign accusing Torrent Power of running “mafia kind of operations” in Bhiwandi. 

The Torrent Group, estimated at Rs 37,000 crore, was started in the 1940s by Uttambhai Nathalal Mehta. Headquartered in Ahmedabad, its current chairman is Sudhir Mehta. 

Mehta and industrialist Gautam Adani are “old friends” of Prime Minister Modi. They stood by him when the Confederation of Indian Industry came down heavily on Modi in 2003 when he was chief minister, shortly after the Gujarat riots. As part of the Resurgent Gujarat Group, they issued a statement urging CII not to make a “concerted attempt to tarnish the image of the state”. The statement described the riots as “an unfortunate social mishap”. CII then apologised to Modi.

After Modi became prime minister in 2014, Torrent Pharmaceuticals was the first company to secure an exemption from price control for its newly developed drug under a new drug pricing policy. Mehta and Adani were subsequently part of Modi’s 17-member delegation at the Indo-US CEO Forum between Barack Obama and Modi in Delhi in January 2015. They were also part of Modi’s delegation to Australia in November 2014.

This report is part of a collaborative project involving three news organisations – Newslaundry, Scroll, The News Minute – and independent journalists.

Project Electoral Bond includes Aban Usmani, Anand Mangnale, Anisha Sheth, Anjana Meenakshi, Ayush Tiwari, Azeefa Fathima, Basant Kumar, Dhanya Rajendran, Jayashree Arunachalam, Joyal, M Rajshekhar, Maria Teresa Raju, Nandini Chandrashekar, Neel Madhav, Nikita Saxena, Parth MN, Pooja Prasanna, Prajwal Bhat, Prateek Goyal, Pratyush Deep, Ragamalika Karthikeyan, Raman Kirpal, Ravi Nair, Sachi Hegde, Shabbir Ahmed, Shivnarayan Rajpurohit, Siddharth Mishra, Supriya Sharma, Tabassum Barnagarwala and Vaishnavi Rathore.

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