Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that Indians will not swallow “lies and abuse” against him, as opposition critics accuse his government of giving undue favours to a business group led by billionaire tycoon Gautam Adani.
Modi spent a nearly 90-minute speech to parliament mainly listing his government’s achievements and without naming the under-fire Adani Group.
However, opposition lawmakers who are demanding an investigation into the business group interrupted him several times shouting slogans.
US short seller Hindenburg Research last month accused the Adani ports-to-energy conglomerate of stock manipulation and improper use of tax havens, while also saying it had unsustainable debt.
The group denies the claims and has threatened action against Hindenburg.
“The blessings of 1.4 billion people in the country is my protective cover and you can’t destroy it with lies and abuses,” said Modi as opposition lawmakers chanted “Adani, Adani”.
“The trust that people have put in Modi is beyond the understanding of these people,” he added in his first public comments alluding to the accusations over Adani.
The government and the business group both deny over-close ties. During the session, lawmakers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party also chanted Modi’s name in support.
Hindenburg Research’s Jan 24 report triggered a rout in stocks of Adani Group’s seven listed companies, which collectively lost more than $110 billion in market valuation before paring losses in recent days.
On Wednesday, shares of Adani Enterprises closed up 20 per cent. Adani Transmission, Adani Power and Adani Wilmar rose 5pc each, while Adani Green and Adani Total Gas Ltd fell 5pc each.
The conglomerate has denied the accusations, saying the short-seller’s allegation of stock manipulation has “no basis” and stems from an ignorance of Indian law.
Opposition parties see the affair as an opportunity to corner Modi, who is eyeing a third term in elections next year. They have questioned investments made by state-run Life Insurance Corporation of India and the State Bank of India in Adani Group companies.
Both companies have said their exposure in Adani Group’s firms is small and manageable.
Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the main opposition Congress party, questioned in parliament on Tuesday why the government has not yet initiated an inquiry over the use of tax havens.
“He’s trying to protect him (Adani),” he told reporters following Modi’s speech. “This is a matter of national security and India’s infrastructure”.
Gandhi has also said the government handed over management of some airports in India to the Adani Group even though it did not have any experience in the sector.
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju called that a “wild allegation” and demanded proof.
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