Adani issue derails Indian Parliament - GulfToday

Adani issue derails Indian Parliament

BRP Bhaskar


Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.



Two months after US corporate activist Hindenburg Research accused multibillionaire Indian businessman Gautam Adani of stock exchange frauds, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is maintaining silence on the subject, ignoring pointed questions put to him by the Opposition, particularly Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The two houses of Parliament could transact little business last week as the proceedings were drowned by Opposition demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the Adani scandal and a counter- demand by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party members for an apology by Rahul Gandhi for certain remarks he made, while in England, on shrinkage of democratic space in India.  The Adani group’s immediate response to the Hindenburg report was a voluminous statement which denied the allegations and presented its version of events. It said it would sue Hindenburg  but it has not initiated legal action so far.

Gautam Adani was steadily moving up in the list of the world’s billionaires when the Hindenburg report came. It brought down his companies’ shares, knocked off $ 100 billion from his assets in 10 days and lowered his rank in the list of billionaires. The group improved its position to some extent later through quick, massive mobilisation  of funds. The group may have averted a disaster but that makes no difference so far as the Indian government is concerned. The issue it has to deal with is protection of the interests of shareholders of companies. The government had reportedly received some complaints against the Adani group even before Hindenburg came out with its report and it had referred the matter to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the market regulator.

It must release the result of the SEBI probe. Ordinarily, there is no need to bring the name of the Prime Minister into a matter of this kind. It has come up in this case because of Gautam Adani’s proximity to him. It was in Adani’s personal aircraft that Narendra Modi travelled during the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign. Also, after he became the Prime Minister the Adani group received several major infrastructure projects. In the circumstances, the Opposition cannot be faulted for seeking a response from Modi. Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabh and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge in the Rajya Sabha spoke of Modi-Adani  links. The presiding officers of the two houses expunged portions of their speeches. The rules permit the presiding officers to make expunctions in the interests of good sense or for removal of defamatory, indecent, undignified or unparliamentary words. Neither of the presiding officers has spelt out the reason for expunction.

While Parliament was in session, Gandhi went to the UK to fulfil some engagements, including a talk at a meeting of British MPs  and another at Cambridge University. Based on media reports of his talks, BJP members began a campaign against him for allegedly maligning India while abroad. They have demanded that his membership of Parliament be suspended if he does not apologise to both the houses for the remarks on shrinkage of democratic space. Rahul Gandhi has cited his own experiences in support of his observation about shrinkage of democratic space. He said the microphone often failed when he was speaking in the house. He also said on his return from abroad he had met the Speaker and sought time to speak in the house but he was noncommittal.

With its majority in the Lok Sabha, the BJP is in a position to suspend or even expel him. It must realise that, if it does so, it will be providing convincing proof for his observation about shrinking of democratic space. The Modi government’s current strategy on the Adani scandal is counter-productive. Instead of trying to silence him it should put facts in the public domain to dispel suspicions based on Adani’s closeness to the Prime Minister.   

Why is the government fighting shy of probe by a joint parliamentary committee in which the ruling party will have an assured majority? Both the government and the opposition must ensure that Parliament functions normally in the interests of the people of India.

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