From Kerala to Kashmir, the only name we heard was Adani: Rahul Gandhi in Lok Sabha

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi speaks in the Lok Sabha during Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Tuesday, February 7, 2023. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Leading the Opposition attack over the Adani-Hindenburg issue in Lok Sabha, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday linked Gautam Adani's meteoric rise to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's coming to power and said "magic" happened after 2014 that propelled the businessman from the 609th to the second spot on the global rich list.

The Congress leader's remarks drew a sharp response from the treasury benches, with Law Minister Kiren Rijiju asking him not to level "wild allegations" and furnish proof of his claims.

Speaker Om Birla disapproved of the Congress leader displaying two pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi - one in which he can be seen with Adani inside a plane and the other in which he is getting down from a plane which has an Adani logo on it - to highlight their alleged proximity.

"If you show posters, they (BJP) will show posters of the Rajasthan chief minister (with Adani). Parliament is not for these things," Birla said.

Participating in the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address in Lok Sabha as the first Opposition speaker, Gandhi made a barrage of allegations including that Modi helped Adani bag overseas contracts in various sectors.

Posing questions for the prime minister, Gandhi asked how many times has he travelled together on a foreign trip with Adani.

"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 has Adani ji bagged a contract in a foreign country after your visit there?" Gandhi said.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi speaks in the Lok Sabha during Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Tuesday, February 7, 2023. Photo: PTI

He asked how much money Adani has given to the BJP in the last 20 years, including through electoral bonds.

Speaker Birla asked Gandhi to focus on the President's address.

"There should be a case study on Adani by business schools such as Harvard, on how the relationship between business and politics works, India is a case study... PM Narendra Modi should get a gold medal in this" Gandhi said.

Gandhi also hit out at Modi for slamming the Opposition over its criticism of the Rafale deal by allegedly overlooking the capabilities of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

"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," Gandhi said.

Gandhi, who just completed his over 4,000 km Bharat Jodo Yatra, said people asked him how Adani got into so many businesses and succeeded, as well as what is the nature of his relationship with the prime minister.

"From Tamil Nadu, Kerala to Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, we have been listening one name everywhere 'Adani'. Across the entire country, it's just 'Adani', 'Adani', 'Adani'...," Gandhi said.

He said that during the yatra people also asked him how Adani's net worth increased from USD 8 billion to 140 billion between 2014 and 2022.

"The (Adani-Modi) relationship began many years ago when Narendra Modi was Gujarat CM. When most of India was asking questions of the prime minister, was against the PM (then CM Narendra Modi), one man stood shoulder to shoulder with PM Modi, he was loyal to the prime minister and helped Mr Modi construct the idea of a resurgent Gujarat," Gandhi said.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury at Parliament House complex during Budget Session, in New Delhi, Tuesday, February 7, 2023. Photo: PTI

Adani was the backbone in setting up a group of businessmen in Gujarat, he said, adding that the result was a tremendous expansion of Adani's businesses in Gujarat.

"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," the former Congress chief said.

Gandhi also raised the issue of the report by US-based Hindenburg Research, saying it alleged that Adani has shell companies abroad.

Pointing out that Adani works in strategic sectors, he said the government must find out about these shell companies as to who controls them as this is a national security issue.

The Opposition has been demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe or a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the allegations of fraud and manipulation made by Hindenburg Research against Adani's companies that triggered an unprecedented stock crash. The group has denied the charges.

Gandhi alleged that the government tweaked rules in favour of Adani and said that the clause that no one without any prior experience would be involved in the development of airports was done away with.

"This rule was changed by the government and Adani was given six airports. After that India's most strategic, profitable airport, Mumbai Airport, was taken away from GVK using agencies like the CBI and ED, and was given to Adani by the government of India," he alleged.

The treasury benches repeatedly asked Gandhi to authenticate his claims, saying that such allegations cannot be levelled against the prime minister without documentary evidence.

"Adani never made drones while 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.

He alleged that be it maintenance of aircraft, small arms or drones, the whole India-Israel defence ties have been handed over to Adani.

Adani group has a 30 per cent market share in the airports business and also controls 90 per cent of Israel-India defence cooperation, he claimed.

Gandhi also cited the example of Australia, saying PM Modi visited that country and with "magic" USD 1 billion was given to Adani by the State Bank of India.

Gandhi also listed the examples of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka visits of the prime minister to claim that following the trips Adani got contracts there.

In June 2022, the chairman of Sri Lanka's Ceylon electricity board informed a parliamentary hearing that President Rajapaksa told him that PM Modi "pressured" him to give the wind power contract to Adani, Gandhi alleged.

This is not India's foreign policy but a policy to enhance Adani's businesses, the Congress leader said.

"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.

"First, Modi used to go in Adani's plane now the businessman goes in the prime minister's aircraft," Gandhi said.

Participating in the debate, Gandhi also questioned the Agniveer scheme for recruiting defence personnel claiming that youths aspiring to be in the army were not on the same page as the government on the scheme.

Senior officers have said the scheme will weaken the army and it came from outside the Army, from the RSS and Home ministry, he claimed.

"They said that the Agniveer scheme came from outside and (National Security Advisor) Ajit Doval had forced it on the forces," Gandhi said, evoking objections from the treasury benches which claimed that the official's name should not be taken.

He said the main concerns of the people such as unemployment and price rise were not even mentioned in the president's address.

"Previous speaker from the BJP encapsulated it very well for me, 'Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success, Adani ji and Narendra Modi ji...thank you," Gandhi said.

Speaker Birla said that comments should not be made outside the House that mics are turned off, to which Gandhi said, "It is the reality that you do turn off the mics."

Outside Parliament, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad hit out at Rahul Gandhi, saying he has made "baseless, shameless and reckless" allegations against PM Modi.

Congress and its leaders were involved in all big scams which tarnished the image of India, he alleged.

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