Alleging that government policies are “tailor-made” to favour the Adani group, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain his “relationship” with business tycoon Gautam Adani.
Participating in the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address in the Lok Sabha as the first speaker from the Opposition benches, Mr. Gandhi asserted that “magic” had happened after Mr. Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, with Mr. Adani seeing a meteoric rise from the 609th position in the global billionaire’s list to becoming the world’s second richest person.
In a sharp response, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju asked the Congress leader not to make “wild allegations” without providing proof or giving authenticated evidence.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla also urged the former Congress chief not to display two photographs, one that showed Mr. Modi with Mr. Adani inside a plane, and another showing Mr. Modi getting down from a plane that sported the Adani logo.
Foreign policy benefits
Mr. Gandhi mounted a scathing attack on Mr. Modi for allegedly favouring the Adani group and asked how much money the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) received from the ports-to-power conglomerate through electoral bonds over the past 20 years.
Citing examples of the Adani group signing business deals with countries such as Israel, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka among others, the Congress leader alleged that “India’s foreign policy is Adani foreign policy”.
He argued that institutions such as the Harvard Business School should use Adani as a case study on “on how to use government power to build individual business”.
“Pradhan Mantri ji, How many times did Adani ji join you later on a visit? How many times Adani ji travelled to a country immediately after you visited the country? How many times Adani ji bagged a contract in a foreign country after your visit there?” asked Mr. Gandhi, who represents Kerala’s Wayand constituency in the Lok Sabha.
“There should be a case study by business schools such as Harvard on the relationship between business and politics... The PM should get a gold medal in this,” he added.
The Wayanad MP claimed that the relationship between Mr. Adani and Mr. Modi started when the latter was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. At a time when most of the country was questioning Mr. Modi, Mr. Adani stood shoulder to shoulder with him, was loyal and helped the then-Gujarat CM build the idea of a resurgent Gujarat, claimed Mr. Gandhi.
“Then the real magic starts, when the PM comes to Delhi and the real magic begins in 2014. In 2014, he was in 609th spot on the list of richest people and climbed to the second spot,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi said that during the course of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, many people had asked him how Mr. Adani’s net worth increased from $8 billion to $140 billion between 2014 and 2022.
‘Adani gets public money’
“I was asked by the people during the yatra as to why LIC’s money is being put in the Adani group. They also asked, Adani’s shares which are volatile, why LIC’s funds are being put in it. I want to say, how do the government and PM help Adani -- thousands of crores of [money from] public sector banks is given to Adani,” he said.
The Congress leader accused the Modi government of changing rules to give away six airports to the Adani group. “Mumbai airport was taken away from the GVK group using agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, and was given to Adani by the government of India,” Mr. Gandhi alleged.
Senior BJP leaders -- including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, his deputy Arjun Ram Meghwal, and Mr. Rijiju -- strongly objected. “Wild allegations cannot be made. You have to give full documentary evidence,” Mr. Rijiju said.
Referring to the US-based investor firm Hindenburg Research’s report on the Adani group, the Congress leader urged the government to find out about the existence of alleged shell companies. It involved national security as the conglomerate operated in key strategic sectors, he noted.
Questioning defence deals
“Adani never made drones while Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) used to do it and other companies do it. PM goes to Israel and Adani gets the contract... They have four defence firms and had not done this work before. Small arms, sniper rifles, all are made by Adani,” he said.
The Adani group has a 30% market share in the airports business and also controls 90% of Israel-India defence cooperation, Mr. Gandhi claimed.
The Congress leader also hit out at the PM for accusing the Opposition, during an event at HAL on Monday, of making false charges against the government regarding the Rafale deal. “Yesterday, the Prime Minister said at HAL that we hurled wrong allegations. But in reality, HAL’s contract of 126 aircraft went to Anil Ambani, who then went bankrupt,” he said.
The Congress leader also questioned the Agniveer scheme for defence personnela, claiming that it had been forced on the armed forces by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Home Ministry. “Senior officers told me that it will weaken our armed forces,” he said.