Feb 8, 2023
To Fend Off Attack Over Adani Links, Modi Recounts Past Scams
(Bloomberg) -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi avoided any direct mention of the Adani Group’s tussle with a US short seller and a subsequent rout in its market value, instead lashing out at corruption within the opposition and highlighting the South Asian nation’s economic success during his tenure.
“The world sees its own prosperity in India’s prosperity,” Modi said in the lower house of parliament Wednesday. “Some negative people cannot accept this.”
The ninety-minute-long speech was the leader’s first address to the legislature since US short seller Hindenburg Research accused the Adani conglomerate of widespread fraud and stock market manipulation. The group has shed more than $100 billion in market value since allegations were made in a Jan. 24 report, which have been repeatedly denied by the conglomerate.
The opposition has been drawing attention to the ties between Modi and Adani and the tycoon’s meteoric growth that mirrors the Indian leader’s rise to the top elected office. Modi continued to avoid any direct reference to Adani’s troubles and the opposition allegations.
Modi’s opponents have also been highlighting that millions of small investors could be at risk because of the exposure of state-owned institutions in Adani’s businesses and demanding a probe by a panel of lawmakers. However, their protests have had little traction outside the legislature so far.
Addressing the opposition allegations of helping only wealthy business leaders, Modi said millions of farmers, the poor and women who have benefited from the government’s social benefit schemes will not believe such “false allegations.” He described the ten years of Congress rule, which ended with him sweeping to power in 2014, as the “most corrupt” in decades.
His speech was interrupted by repeated opposition heckling and demands for a parliamentary probe into the allegations against Adani’s businesses. Modi ignored the pandemonium.
Adani has portrayed Hindenburg’s charges as an attack on India and its economic growth to garner support from nationalists. The embattled tycoon has often aligned his businesses with Modi’s development goals, building capital-intensive infrastructure such as ports and airports.
On Wednesday, Modi touted his government’s infrastructure push without naming Adani directly.
“In 70 years, 70 airports were built, while another 70 airports have been constructed in just nine years,” he said comparing the decades of Congress rule with that of his government.
The fact that the prime minister didn’t answer simple questions from the opposition “reveals the truth,” Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress party told reporters. “It’s clear the prime minister is protecting him,” he said, alluding to Adani.
(Updates with details.)
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