PM’s ‘Rahul-Adani-Ambani’ Gambit A Non-Starter

PM’s ‘Rahul-Adani-Ambani’ Gambit A Non-Starter

Why is PM Modi suddenly accusing Adani-Ambani of giving Rahul a share of their ill-gotten wealth for his silence, and charging Rahul with receiving tainted funds from the duo as quid pro quo?

SNM AbdiUpdated: Monday, May 27, 2024, 11:17 PM IST
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PM Narendra Modi | X

Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly asked Rahul Gandhi in the middle of the general elections whether he had received “tempo-loads of black money” from Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani to stop attacking them. Modi’s question is full of significance and merits close scrutiny ahead of the last phase of polling and the announcement of results.

But let me first share some inside information. Around three years ago, when the Congress party was still in power in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the Rajasthan chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, sought an urgent meeting with Sonia Gandhi. Rajasthan’s total dependence on Adani-generated electricity is hardly a secret, although the coal for the power plants is mined in Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had applied the brakes on coal mining to appease tribals agitating against the “loot” of natural resources by industrialists. And as Baghel’s approach could lead to acute power shortage in Rajasthan, Gehlot immediately knocked on Sonia’s doors to find a solution.

Ultimately, it was Rahul who sat down with Gehlot and Baghel, and the latter quietly eased the curbs on coal mining much to Gehlot’s relief. Until today, the Congress party has deliberately not given any credit to Rahul for resolving the interstate issue as that would have blunted Rahul’s all out campaign against Modi for promoting the business interests of Adani and Ambani.

Sonia has always been aloof from the corporate world. But she is fully aware of the necessity of industry and importance of industrialists. That’s why she doesn’t target or demonise any business leader by name. I can vouch that she is easily accessible to top industrialists and gives them a patient hearing whenever required. But Rahul’s approach is drastically different. He is against cultivating industrialists or having personal ties with them. He is not anti-industry or anti-industrialist as such, but believes in maintaining a distance from the big boys of business. Befriending the captains of industry is out of the question for him. In short, he wants to keep them at arm’s length, much like ordinary Indians who intuitively distrust traders and shopkeepers.

Modi, in that sense, is the exact opposite. Right from his days as Gujarat chief minister, he has worn his friendship with Adani, Ambani and a few other industrialists on his sleeve. He never had reservations against hosting or being photographed with them. He openly said that industrialists are the creators of the nation’s wealth, and therefore deserve the nation’s love and respect. He was always against insulting business leaders and branding them as robbers and thieves.

That’s why Modi publicly asking Rahul whether Adani and Ambani have sent him “tempo-loads of black money” is so uncharacteristic of Modi. What is the political compulsion for Modi’s 180° at this juncture? What triggered his sudden somersault?

Without a doubt, it’s a major U-turn in five years. In 2019, no sooner was he sworn in as PM for a second term, he declared from the ramparts of the Red Fort that capitalists are engaged in the service of the nation by creating wealth. He asked rhetorically whether development is possible without wealth. He advised all of us not to look at businessmen with suspicion or distrust and desist from doubting their motives. His unequivocal message to Indians was to honour capitalists instead of hounding them.

Today the key question naturally is: why is Modi suddenly accusing Adani-Ambani of giving Rahul a share of their ill-gotten wealth for his silence, and charging Rahul with receiving tainted funds from the duo as quid pro quo?

Interestingly, Modi and Rahul articulate their stand on capitalists at regular intervals. So ordinary Indians know the positions of the two leaders. For instance, in February 2022, while speaking in Parliament on the unstoppable rise of monopolies in the formal sector, Rahul said: “There are various variants of coronavirus. Like Delta and Omicron. But it is the AA variant that has spread in the entire Indian economy”, referring to the presence of Adani and Ambani across Indian businesses. Modi immediately rose to Adani-Ambani’s defence and accused Rahul of “scaring and misleading” the youth of the country by portraying entrepreneurs as demons. He also remarked that Rahul was using the language of Congress party’s critics who had termed the Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi governments as “Tata-Birla ki sarkar”.

So what is now driving the very same Modi to ask Rahul publicly whether Adani and Ambani have bought his silence with bagfuls of black money? For the record, practically each and every speech that Rahul has delivered in the last few years; and particularly while campaigning for the 2024 general elections; is peppered with attacks on Modi for patronising Adani-Ambani and awarding them contracts after contracts to the detriment of public sector companies and the public at large. There is no let-up in Rahul’s criticism of crony capitalists. So Modi’s accusation is not factual at all; it is completely bereft of truth!

The aspersions Modi cast on Rahul, Adani and Ambani are tell-tale signs of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s desperation. The PM is clutching at straws. He is trying to villainise everyone in sight in order to shield the BJP from the fallout of the corruption electoral bonds entailed, and the outrage over attempts to somehow get over 400 lawmakers elected to overhaul the Constitution. There also seems to be considerable disapproval of “nafrat ka bazaar” spotlighted by Rahul. Unemployment is another blot on Modi’s copybook. Modi’s “Rahul-Adani-Ambani” jibe reveals that the chips are down, forcing Modi to resort to even the most bizarre means of salvation.

The author is an independent, Pegasused reporter and commentator on foreign policy and domestic politics

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