Opposition parties take out protest march to seek Enforcement Directorate investigation against Adani Group

Proceedings in Parliament remained paralysed for the third day, with the BJP insisting on Rahul Gandhi’s apology for his ‘democracy under attack comment’

Updated - March 16, 2023 12:13 am IST

Published - March 15, 2023 04:54 pm IST - New Delhi

Opposition Leader in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and other opposition MPs during a march from Parliament House to Enforcement Directorate (ED) office.

Opposition Leader in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and other opposition MPs during a march from Parliament House to Enforcement Directorate (ED) office. | Photo Credit: PTI

As the logjam in both houses of Parliament continued for the third straight day on Wednesday over the Bharatiya Janata Party’s insistence that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi apologise for his “democracy under attack” comment, Opposition leaders of at least 16 parties took out a protest march to hand over a complaint to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the Adani Group controversy.

The march, that started from the main gate of Parliament at 12:30 p.m., was stopped by the Delhi Police at Vijay Chowk, barely a few hundred metres away. Subsequently, the complaint was emailed to the ED office.

The Trinamool Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were the two prominent parties that neither signed the joint memorandum nor took part in the march against the Gautam Adani-led conglomerate.

Congress president and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters that when someone questioned the state of democracy in a seminar or debate, the government termed them “anti-national” but the Opposition leaders were not allowed to proceed to the ED office.

“A man who started his career with ₹1,650 crores, his net worth reached ₹13 lakh crore. Therefore, we want an inquiry. What is the relation between the Prime Minister and Adaniji?” Mr. Kharge asked.

In the four-page letter to ED Director S.K. Mishra, Opposition leaders said that the agency “cannot turn around and abdicate its jurisdiction”. They urged the Central investigation agency to initiate a probe into the allegations of corrupt practices, including money laundering through off-shore shell companies.

“This case involves serious and far-reaching charges of corporate fraud, political corruption, stock-price manipulation through fraudulent means, and the misuse/monopolisation of public resources to benefit a single corporate group,” read the memorandum.

Several Opposition leaders, including Mr. Gandhi, also targeted the Narendra Modi government over a media report that claimed that an Adani Group investor, who is registered in Mauritius, is a co-owner in a defence-related firm of the Adani Group.

“India’s missile & radar upgrade contract is given to a company owned by Adani & a dubious foreign entity called Elara. Who controls Elara? Why is India’s national security being compromised by giving control of strategic defence equipment to unknown foreign entities?” Mr. Gandhi asked on Twitter.

While the Opposition stepped up its aggression on the Adani issue, the BJP demanded that the former Congress chief must apologise for his comment in London that “democracy was under attack”. The BJP’s insistence lead to disruption in both the houses of Parliament.

As soon as the Lok Sabha assembled for the day, members of the Treasury benches raised slogans demanding an apology from Mr. Gandhi, while Opposition members trooped into the well with placards demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the allegations against the Adani Group.

While Speaker Om Birla urged members to utilise the House to holding discussions and dialogues, Union Minister Piyush Goyal urged the speaker to suspend the members from the proceedings if they did not allow the house to function.

“Placards and sloganeering is never allowed in the House. Go back to your seats. I will give you adequate time to speak,” Mr. Birla told the members.

As sloganeering continued, the Speaker adjourned the House till 2 p.m. When the Lok Sabha resumed, the Inter-Services (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill, 2023 was introduced by Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt.

As Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi sought an apology from Mr. Gandhi, ruling party members resorted to slogans like “Rahul Gandhi sadan me aao (Rahul Gandhi come to the House)”.

Soon after, the Chair adjourned the House for the day.

Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has written to Mr. Birla to express concern about “government-sponsored disruptions” in the House.

The Rajya Sabha too witnessed a similar scenes. The Upper House adjourned for the day, three minutes after it convened for the post-lunch session, amid Treasury benches slogans that said “Rahul Gandhi maafi maango (Rahul Gandhi apologise)”.

Mr. Kharge, who stood up to inform the House about the Opposition’s attempted march to the ED headquarters to seek investigations into the alleged stock manipulation by the Adani Group, couldn’t speak in the din.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar appealed to the Leader of House Piyush Goyal asking him to control the members of Treasury benches who were raising the slogans.

Speaking to reporters outside the Parliament, the Trinamool Congress’ Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien said, “This is the third day in a row that the BJP MPs have disrupted the Parliament proceedings on the directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. Why is the government so scared of Opposition voices in Parliament?”

Earlier, in the day, even before Mr. Dhankhar could give ruling on the 11 notices that he had received under Rule 267 for suspension of business, the BJP members raised the apology demand. This led to a ruckus as Opposition members rejected the demand and the Chair was forced to adjourn until 2 p.m.

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