The Congress on Friday alleged that the scandal involving Swedish bus maker Scania, which had to shut down its operations in India following reports that it paid bribes to win contracts between 2013 and 2016, is linked to an Ahmedabad-based bus manufacturer which supplied customised luxury buses for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP’s campaign during the 2014 general elections.

At a press conference in the AICC headquarters, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera alleged that Siddhi Vinayak Logistics Ltd (SVLL), one of the service partners of Scania in India, is being protected by the ruling BJP despite having been the largest defaulter of Bank of Maharashtra.

Ahmedabad-based SVVL is run by businessman Roop Chand Baid who had announced a partnership with Scania in 2014 to launch luxury bus services comprising of “in-house restrooms and pantries, and ultra-luxurious facilities like personal LCD screen with USB compatibility and Sennheiser headphones along with mobile/laptop charging points and Wi-Fi Connection.” Connecting Baid with recent revelations of Scania CEO of Scania Henrik Henriksson, who admitted to “wrongdoings in India” by a few individuals in the company, the Congress spokesperson said SVVL grew with an annual turnover of ₹1,500 crore in the past few years which amounted to an 80 per cent annual growth.

“One of its greatest achievements was the tie-up with the Modi’s campaign to which they were supplying specialised video trucks fitted with 3D projection technology. On one hand, while the company was enjoying an increased annual turnover, it was also under immense pressure to service its mounting debts. Requests to repay the debt were met with a response that the company is busy in helping Modi with specialised vehicles for the 2014 elections. This was seen as a method to showcase their strong political connections,” Khera said citing the letters written by Roop Chand Baid to Bank of Maharashtra.

Jaitley apprised

Khera said in a February 2015 report, Bank of Maharashtra highlighted that SVLL was its largest defaulter.

“Despite being a defaulter, the fact that the company had friends at the highest echelons of power, meant that neither were the loan accounts tagged as NPAs nor were they classified as wilful defaulters. But what is extremely critical to note here is that Bank of Maharashtra is primarily a rural bank wherein more than half of its depositors are farmers and pensioners from tural Maharashtra,” Khera said.

He added that senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has in April 2016 apprised the then finance minister Arun Jaitley about the mis-happenings.