(Bloomberg) – The Adani Group has branded its scuffle with a US short seller an attack on India and the issue could overshadow Parliament’s budget session, with opposition lawmakers pointing to links between the most rich man from Asia and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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“The Adani Group is no ordinary conglomerate: it has been closely identified with Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he was chief minister,” of Gujarat, Jairam Ramesh, general secretary of the opposition Congress party, said a few days ago. after Hindenburg Research alleged inventory manipulation and fraudulent accounting by the conglomerate.
Parliament will convene this week for its crucial budget session, where the government will unveil its final annual budget on Wednesday before Modi seeks a third term in elections due in less than 15 months.
“We will definitely raise this issue in parliament. In what form and when that we will decide later. This is a serious problem,” Sougata Ray, an opposition All India Trinamool Congress MP, said in a telephone interview. At least two other opposition parties will also raise the issue.
The government has so far remained silent on the issue. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi could not immediately be reached for comment.
Billionaire Gautam Adani, widely seen as close to Modi, described Hindenburg Research’s accusations as an attack on his home country, with the aim of garnering support from nationalists. The tycoon has often aligned his activities with Modi’s development goals, building capital-intensive infrastructure such as ports and airports.
“This is not just an unwarranted attack on any particular company, but a calculated attack on India, the independence, integrity and quality of Indian institutions, and the history of India’s growth and ambition,” Adani said in his 413-page response on Sunday.
It was not the first time the group had framed the dispute in nationalistic terms. Shortly after the report was released on January 24, the Adani Group’s chief financial officer, Jugeshinder Singh, released a video statement refuting the charges with a huge Indian flag waving in the background.
Hindenburg said the response left most of his questions unanswered and “predictably attempted to distract from the substantive issues and instead fueled a nationalist narrative”.
“In short, the Adani Group attempted to confuse its meteoric rise and the wealth of its chairman, Gautam Adani, with the success of India itself,” Hindenburg’s response added.
Adani’s dizzying rise closely mirrors Modi’s own journey to India’s highest political post. Shortly after Modi became chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, where the pair are from, he faced scathing corporate censorship over the religious riots that broke out in 2002. Adani championed him and created a biannual ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ investment summit that made Modi’s pro shine. – the references of the company.
The billionaire’s showdown with the short seller has dominated social media in India. The #AdaniGroup hashtag was trending on Twitter on Monday morning with people taking positions on both sides of the debate.
“These kinds of reports where you make money yourself should be ignored,” said Ashwani Mahajan, co-organizer of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch – the ideological parent of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. “Adani is not burning money, assets are being built. It will not affect the general sentiment towards India.
The back-and-forth comes during the final leg of Adani Enterprises Ltd.’s follow-on bid, which is due to close on Tuesday. It received 1% aggregate subscriptions on Friday, when bonds and shares of Adani entities plunged – some by their 20% daily limits. Adani himself lost more than $20 billion of his personal wealth last week with the stock rout.
–With help from Sudhi Ranjan Sen.
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