By: Mohnish Singh
The Congress on Monday questioned the “deafening” silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Adani issue and made a pun on his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ asking him whether it was an instance of ‘Mann ki banking’ to benefit his cronies.
“His silence is not just eloquent but also deafening. Break the silence, Mr PM,” said AICC general secretary communications Jairam Ramesh while posing him a set of three questions.
The Congress said it will pose three questions to the Prime Minister every day starting Sunday.
“Dear PM Modi, As promised yesterday, here is today’s set of three questions for you, HAHK (Hum Adani Ke Hain Kaun)-2? So to speak,” he said.
The Congress leader alleged that the government has a track record of “bailing out” failing disinvestments such as IDBI Bank, New India Assurance, and General Insurance Corporation using LIC funds.
“It’s one thing to bail out public sector companies and quite another to use the savings of 30 crore loyal policy-holders to enrich your friends. How did LIC make such a heavy allocation to the risky Adani Group that even private fund managers had steered clear of? Is it not the duty of the government to ensure that vital public sector financial institutions are more conservative in their investments than their private sector counterparts,” he asked.
“Or was this another case of your ‘Mann Ki Banking’ to benefit your cronies,” Ramesh asked.
The allegations of fraud and money-laundering against the Adani Group have been known for some time, he said, noting that there have been many questions over who are the ultimate beneficial owners of major funds investing in the Adani Group.
There have been as many as four major fraud investigations including one by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) into the true ownership of its offshore investors, Ramesh said, and asked, “Given this knowledge, did anyone in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Finance, or the LIC itself raise any concerns about these questionable investments? Were such concerns overruled and, if so, by whom?”
The Congress leader said that after the first sell-off following the Hindenburg allegations, the value of Adani Group stocks held by LIC fell by Rs 32,000 crore (£3.2 billion approx), bringing the value of those holdings to Rs 56,142 crore (£5.6 billion approx) on 27 January 2023 by LIC’s own admission.
Since then several Adani infrastructure stocks have crashed by another 50 per cent, he said. “Will you share the true extent of LIC’s losses from its Adani investments after 24 January.” Ramesh said the LIC’s own listed price has fallen by 14 per cent in the last two weeks compared with a dip of 2 per cent in the Nifty50 index. As LIC’s misguided Adani investments are eroding the confidence of its 34 lakh retail shareholders, what steps will you take to ease their concerns, he asked.
The Congress has been increasing pressure on the government to order a joint parliamentary committee probe into the matter after US hedge firm Hindenburg made a spate of allegations against the Adani group of committing financial malpractices and stock price manipulation.
The Congress has also been demanding a discussion on the issue in Parliament.
Both the houses are yet to start a discussion on the motion of thanks on the President’s address or the Union budget for 2023-24.