It is a month now since the massive controversy over Gautam Adani’s business empire following the damning allegations by the Hindenburg Research broke out. Now, there are two major aspects to the entire development that needs to be looked into. The dimensions of the controversy are political and economic. Despite all the upheaval that was sought to be projected on the economic front in the wake of the US research firm’s report, all indicators and global opinions bear testimony to the fact that the Indian economy is robust, vibrant and on the upward trajectory like previously.
The Hindenburg-Adani row has not shaken the faith and confidence of global investors even by the slightest degree. Nothing can confirm this scenario better than the World Economic Forum which was held in Davos just days after the release of Hindenburg’s report. The forum was effusive in praise for India, describing India as a bright spot on the world stage. Infrastructure spending, foreign investment, digital transition and inflation heading lower were growing faster than all major economies, with China’s slowdown, is a fact. It is also growing faster than all major emerging economies-Russia, Brazil, Turkey, etc.
Similarly, the RBI’s assurance that “banking system of the country is strong and investors’ money is safe” alleviates the impression being created by some that the Adani controversy may mar the banking system in India. Hence, it is a private company that may have incurred the financial losses due to the entire scandal, and not the country as is being sought to be projected by some quarters. Are some elements trying to capitalize on a business house’s adversity to target the entire country with their malafide intent to halt India’s economic growth?
Another development reaffirming ‘economic significance’ of India on the global stage is Air India’s decision to purchase 470 aircraft from two world’s leading aerospace companies Airbus and Boeing. As the landmark Air India-Boeing deal was finalized, US President Joe Biden reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over phone, saying that the announcement reflects the strength of US-India economic partnership. The major world power reaffirming faith in India’s robust leadership is nothing short of what is enough to destroy the allegations that the opposition is leveling against the government.
Now, there is more to whatever political twists are being given to the Adani-Hindenburg controversy by the opposition bloc. The country witnessed how opposition leaders stalled the functioning of parliament for several days together, seeking Joint Parliamentary Probe (JPC) probe into what they called Adani scam. The opposition’s allegation is that savings of people in LIC and SBI, which extended loans to the Adani Group, are at stake. As the political drama unfolded by every passing day, the Opposition was seen dragging PM Modi into the maelstrom of the whole controversy. But the Opposition is barking up the wrong tree by accusing PM Modi of showing favour to Adani in his businesses. But the question is whether Adani suddenly came into limelight only since 2014 when Modi became PM.
What the Opposition selectively chooses to ignore is that all projects have been allocated through transparent bidding, the records of process related to the contracts are there for all to examine. That Adani got and developed projects in the non-BJP states is an argument that opposition cannot counter. It is just a preposterous allegation that the Modi government pressured other countries to approve Adani’s bidding.
The Adani group is said to have secured the contracts abroad after due diligence on the part of officials there. Several other competitors from powerful countries must have been there during the bidding. Is there any evidence being presented by the leaders to establish the allegations of ‘corruption’ that are being leveled? Significantly, the country in the pre-2014 era witnessed loads of evidence in the scores of scams. Hindenburg’s report alleges that Adani operated and sky-rocketed his group stocks through questionable means. This could be debatable, but where is the government answerable for all this. In fact, the government has no role in market determined stock prices.
The demand for JPC probe is uncalled for. The issue is related to the “manipulation of shares” by a private company. The agencies concerned such as SEBI, CBI and ED need to look into the allegations, and not the government or any parliamentary committee for that matter. At the same time, PM Modi or the government for that matter is not answerable on this issue which is specific to a private business entity. Not a single individual has been affected due to the alleged scam so far. Both the LIC and the SBI have clarified that there is very little exposure of funds extended as loan to the Adani group. The Adani-Hindenburg row seems to have snowballed more into a political issue than anything else, with the opposition apparently using it as a political weapon to target PM Modi. Simply on the basis of a US research firm’s “findings”, the parties in opposition are hitting out at PM Modi naming him directly in the controversy, surprisingly without evidence and documents, facts and figures.
Doesn’t it sound like the Opposition’s ‘hit job’ to try to somehow tarnish PM Modi’s image ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha polls? Needless to say, there is not a single allegation of corruption against the government or PM Modi. This leaves the opposition clueless, with nine states going to polls this year leading to the final Lok Sabha battle next year.
Much to the chagrin of political rivals, the PM’s image remains intact despite the Adani row, as has been disclosed by a survey agency recently. Modi’s enormous popularity remains intact despite the biggest political attack on him in years as rivals accuse his government of giving undue favours to the Adani Group, said C Voter’s approval ratings.
The Congress had resorted to “motivated campaign” like this ahead of 2019 parliamentary elections as well. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi ran the campaign against PM Modi in the light of certain accusations in the Rafale deal. A JPC probe had been demanded then as well. The Rafale campaign flopped miserably, with Congress confronting one of its bleakest political moments after drubbing in the polls.
Another campaign that came a cropper was pertaining to the Pegasus row. The probe panel found no conclusive evidence of the Pegasus spyware in the 29 phones that were investigated. The question that must be asked is whether the Opposition without any substantial ground is trying to bring up allegations of crony capitalism against the government so as to convert it into an election issue. Will it not also meet the fate of Rafale and Pegasus row? Significant is the remark made by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a recent interview. He made it clear that the BJP has nothing to hide or be afraid of in connection with the Adani Group row. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s comments need to be recalled at this point of time during the entire debate. She had said that everything was awarded through an open tender, and no favour or favoritism was shown to the Adani Group. Those making any point in this entire issue must come up with substantial data and proof supporting their arguments.
Anshuman Rao is a political analyst and former Chairman, Electronics Development Corporation, Andhra Pradesh Govt