With political parties using him as punching bag in the highly charged election campaign, Adani Group head Gautam Adani on Sunday said he got no special favours from Narendra Modi and his group has since 1993 acquired only barren waste land for infrastructure projects.
The $8.7 billion ports-to-energy Adani Group began acquiring land near the coastal town of Mundra in Gujarat way back in 1993 and only one-third of a total landbank of 15,946 acres was acquired when Modi was Chief Minister, he said.
"Not a single acre has been taken from any farmer... We went to Kutch when no one looked there and acquired only barren and dessert-like land that was not suitable for agriculture," Adani said in an interview.
Indian entrepreneur Adani used the land to build India's biggest port, which loaded and unloaded a record 100 million tons of cargo in the year that ended on March 31, and the nation's biggest coal power station in the private sector, he said, adding that his group did not buy land at cheap rates to sell it to make profits.
"When we began acquiring land at Mundra in 1993, (Chief Minister) Chimanbhai Patel charged us 10 paisa per square meter. (BJP government led by) Keshubhai Patel (in 1995) charged us Re 1 per sq mt and Shankersinh Vaghela (led Rashtriya Janata Party) in 1996-07, charged Rs 1.5 per sq mt.
Under Mr Modi, we got some 5,000 acre of land at an average of Rs 15 per sq mt rate," he said.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has in his political meetings used alleged largesse to industrialists like Adani to attack Modi. At a recent rally, Gandhi claimed that Modi had given Adani land for Re 1, the price of a toffee.
AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal too has alleged a nexus between Modi and industrialists like Adani and Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani.
Adani, 51, said he does not want to get involved in the political slugfest but facts are different than what is being portrayed.
"Modi became Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001 and we got first land under him in 2006 to set up a special economic zone (SEZ) under UPA government's SEZ policy. We wanted 10,000 acres but got only 5,000 acres. Now people are comparing the price we paid 20 years back for barren, non-agriculture land with the market rate of a land that has been developed with all facilities like road and electricity," he said.
He said Modi, who is BJP's prime ministerial candidate, is helping industries through policy. "Modi government has not flouted any rule or regulation to help anyone. No special favours have been granted to Adani."
Adani Group, he said, has worked with state governments in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Haryana for acquiring land for projects.
A school dropout, Adani moved to Mumbai at the age of 16 to try luck. He initially dabbled in diamond trade before returning to his home state Gujarat to run a small plastic factory owned by his brother.
Eventually, he set up his own import and export business, Adani Enterprises in 1988. Few years later he borrowed heavily and invested in Mundra's vast swathes of marshy wasteland to build India's largest port.
In Mundra, Adani also built India's largest privately- owned power plant, producing 4,620 MW of power, and a 64-km railway connecting the port to railway network.
Adani has also gone abroad, including buying mines, ports, and railways in Australia and Indonesia.
Adani plans to double his group size by 2020. Mundra port capacity will be doubled to 200 million tons; electricity generation capacity will be raised from 8,620 MW to 20,000 MW and the group will mine 200 million tons of coal.