Viral message targeting PM Modi’s family is a work of fiction

A message widely circulating online alleges that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s siblings and cousins have had massive financial benefits owing to the PM’s stature. The message has been…

A message widely circulating online alleges that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s siblings and cousins have had massive financial benefits owing to the PM’s stature. The message has been shared on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.

Vinay Kumar Dokania, national social media coordinator of Congress, was among those who circulated the message that begins with, “…Here are some interesting, but little known facts on the Modi family”. (archived link)

Twitter user Radha Charan Das also posted the claim on a tweet-thread and took it down after 3,500 retweets. (archived link)

The viral message makes varied claims about PM Modi’s family members. For instance, it alleges that his elder brother Somabhai Modi (75) is now “chairman of the recruitment board in Gujarat” while younger sibling Pankaj Modi (58) is “vice president in the recruitment board”. It further says that Prahlad Modi (64) owns car showrooms across Ahmedabad and Vadodara. Several claims have also been made about the wealth of the prime minister’s cousins and uncles. The full text of the message has been added at the end of the report.

Viral message tweaked a 2016 article published in India Today magazine

Our preliminary research revealed that in 2016, India Today magazine published a feature story on PM Modi’s immediate and extended family. The story was authored by former deputy editor at India Today Uday Mahurkar who was recently appointed as information commissioner by the Government of India (GOI). Mahurkar wrote how the prime minister’s family comes from a humble background that has largely remained unchanged despite PM Modi’s rise to power. The article elaborates how PM Modi has kept his personal and political life distant. The images in the article were clicked by Ahmedabad-based Shailesh Raval, former principal photographer at India Today.

Alt News spoke with them both. Mahurkar stood by his story while Raval added, “I knew them in the capacity of a photojournalist, I don’t know them personally thus, I can’t say what they are doing now. However, the allegations in the viral message seem to be false based on personal interaction with PM Modi’s extended family.” On December 18, Mahurkar quoted-tweeted the viral tweet by Das and pointed out that it is false.

In 2017, the above mentioned India Today article was transformed into a listicle by pro-Modi propaganda Facebook page ModiNama. This post lists eight family members of PM Modi.

1. Somabhai Modi (75), retired from the post of an inspector in public health department. Today, he lives in a small…

Posted by ModiNama on Sunday, 22 October 2017

The viral message has tweaked ModiNama’s post and added fictitious claims. Despite the post being three years old, the ages of all family members are the same in the viral message. Moreover, their early occupations are also identical.

CLAIM 1: Somabhai Modi is chairman of the recruitment board in Gujarat

FACT-CHECK: Somabhai Modi is PM Modi’s eldest brother. A cursory look at the claim that he is “chairman of the recruitment board in Gujarat” itself suggests it cannot be true. The message merely says “recruitment board” without stating which one. Any state government would have separate recruitment boards for different departments. There cannot be just one board in-charge of all. An advanced Google search in both English and Gujarati across Gujarat government websites shows that the principal recruitment boards are in the railway, police (lokrakshak) and education departments.

The top officials in these recruitment boards can be found on their respective sites. However, since the claim doesn’t specify which board we performed multiple advance search (restricting the results to government sites) on Google with different combinations in which Somabhai Modi’s name can be written in English. This led to no results.

1. “Somabhai Damodardas Modi”
2. “Soma Damodardas Modi”
3. “Somabhai Modi”
4. “Soma Modi”

His name does not appear in any Gujarat government website that identifies him as chairman of any recruitment board. It is improbable that the chairman’s name would not be featured on state department websites or reported in the media.

CLAIM 2: Amrutbhai Modi is the largest real estate businessman in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.

Fact-check: Amrutbhai Modi is PM Modi’s elder brother. As per real estate website PropertyTiger, the largest total housing projects in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar are led by Godrej Properties (128 projects) and Shobha Limited (154 projects) respectively.

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Godrej Properties and Sobha Limited are founded by billionaires Adi Godrej and Puthan Naduvakkatt Chenthamaraksha Menon respectively. Had Amrutbhai been the largest real estate businessman in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, his name would be traceable. However, no media reports or real estate websites have identified him.

CLAIM 3: Prahladbhai Modi has Hyundai, Maruti and Honda showrooms in Ahmedabad and Vadodara

ANALYSIS: Prahladbhai Modi is the prime minister’s younger brother. Alt News mapped the number of Hyundai, Maruti and Honda showrooms in Ahmedabad and Vadodara. We found the total number of authorised dealerships of the car manufacturers in both cities — Maruti (12, 5); Hyundai (13, 5); Honda (6,1) — respectively.

Alt News spoke with officials at Honda’s authorised dealerships in Vadodara and Ahmedabad. They informed that none of the showrooms is owned by Prahlad Modi.

Sharad Nagar, who has three decades of experience in the automobile sector and is a former CEO of an Ahemdabad-based Maruti showroom, said, “As per my knowledge, none of the showrooms is owned by PM Modi’s family or extended family. I can categorically say that this claim is baseless and false.”

CLAIM 4: Pankajbhai Modi is with Somabhai as the Vice President in recruitment board.

FACT-CHECK: Pankajbhai is PM Modi’s younger brother and this claim has been fact-checked earlier in the report. As Somabhai Modi cannot be chairman of “recruitment board” in Gujarat, the question of Pankajbhai Modi being vice president alongside Somabhai doesn’t arise.

CLAIM 5: Bhogilalbhai Modi is an owner of Reliance Mall in Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara.

FACT-CHECK: Bhogilalbhai is a cousin of PM Modi. Reliance Mall is a sub-brand of Reliance Retail. Alt News spoke with senior management at Reliance Industries Limited and the official confirmed that Reliance Malls can’t be own by individuals because the company does not practice the franchise system.

According to a recent Business Today report, “Reliance Retail, the retail arm of Reliance Industries, has issued a warning against fraudulent websites seeking franchisees in the name of its online portal, JioMart.”

Since the company does not offer franchises, there is no question of Bhogilalbhai Modi or anyone else owing Reliance Mall.

CLAIM 6: Arvindbhai Modi is a contractor of steel to real estate and major construction companies.

ANALYSIS: Arvindbhai is also a cousin of prime minister Modi. While Alt News did not find any references suggesting he is a steel contractor, it must be pointed out here that the claim in itself is vague. It neither mentions a company name nor informs about Arvindbhai Modi’s purported clients.

CLAIM 7: Bharatbhai Modi owns Agiaras Petrol Pump in Ahmedabad.

ANALYSIS: Alt News searched for ‘Agiaras Petrol Pump‘ on Google Maps and found that it doesn’t exist. However, we did find one Agiyaras Mata Temple in the Chanakyapuri locality of Ahmedabad which has no petrol pump by that name within a five-kilometre radius of the temple. In the likelihood that the petrol pump has not been listed on Google Maps, lack of media reports also suggests that the claim is false. Bharatbhai Modi is a cousin of PM Modi.

CLAIM 8: Ashokbhai Modi is a partner with Bhogilalbhai in Reliance [Mall].

FACT-CHECK: We have already established in fact-check 5 that Reliance does not have a franchise model, therefore, PM Modi’s cousin Ashokbhai Modi cannot be a managing partner at Reliance Mall with Bhogilal Modi.

The remaining claims in the message are not clearly defined thus cannot be contradicted with facts. For instance, the claim that Ramesh Modi “owns five schools” is extremely generic — neither the names of the schools are given nor their location. There are thousands of schools in the country thus, making the claim impossible to be fact-checked unless Ramesh Modi himself produces evidence contracting the message. But assuming that the claim is false, how does one produce evidence of something that doesn’t exist? This is a classic example where a lie so enormous is manufactured that people believe that at least some portions of it may be true. Certain facts published in the past (names of the family members and their approximate ages) have been presented with false claims to make the message look authentic. This is a common method applied by both sides of the political spectrum to inject credence into rumours and hope that personal biases lead to belief.

Full text of the viral message:

1. Somabhai Modi (75 yrs) retired health officer, is currently Chairman of the recruitment board in Gujarat.

2. Amritbhai Modi (72 yrs) earlier employed in a private factory, is the largest real estate businessman in Ahmedabad & Gandhinagar.

3. Prahlad Modi (64 yrs) had a ration shop, currently has Hyundai, Maruti and Honda Four Wheeler Show Rooms in Ahmedabad & Vadodara.

4. Pankaj Modi (58 yrs) earlier in the Information Department, today is with Somabhai as the Vice President in the recruitment board.

5. Bhogilal Modi (67 yrs), who was the owner of a grocery store, today is owner of Reliance Mall in Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara.

6. Arvind Modi (64 yrs) was a scrap dealer and is a now a contractor of steel to real estate & major construction companies.

7. Bharat Modi (55 yrs) was working at a petrol pump. Today, he owns the Agiaras Petrol Pump in Ahmedabad.

8. Ashok Modi (51 yrs) owned a kite and grocery store. Today, he is a partner with Bhogilal Modi in Reliance Mall.

9.Chandrakant Modi (48 yrs) was working in a http://Gaushala.Today,he has 9 large dairy production centers in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar.

10.Ramesh Modi (57 yrs) who was working as a teacher, today owns 5 schools, 3 Engineering colleges, Ayurveda,Homeopathy, Physiotherapy colleges & Medical colleges.

11. Bhargava Modi (44 yrs) who was working at a tuition centre, is a partner in Ramesh Modi’s institutions.

12. Bipin Modi (42 yrs) used to work in Ahmedabad Library. Today, he is a partner in a book publishing firm supplying school books from KG to Standard 12.

1 to 4 are PM Modi’s brothers.
5 to 9, Modi’s cousins.
10 Jagjivan Das Modi, uncle’s son.
11 Bhargava Kantilal and 12 Bipin are sons of Jayantilal Modi, PM’s youngest uncle.

This post was originally published on Radio Free.

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