By Sushil Kutty
Nationalist Congress Party Chief Sharad Pawar has come to the aid and rescue of Adani Group. He asked the Opposition to stop targeting the Adani Group. This is not what the Congress and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wanted. For Gandhi, Gautam Adani is in the eye of the fish and direct beneficiary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s largesse, and proximity. The Gandhi scion, with his eyes set on depriving Modi a third term, has questioned the Modi government’s hand in raising Adani Group from scratch, to the sky.
A Soviet secret police chief had once said “bring me the man, I’ll find you the crime.” In Gautam Adani’s case, both the man and the crime are there. All that was required was a saviour! NCP supremo Sharad Pawar fit the bill. And Gautam Adani’s ‘TV channel purchase’, before his world came crashing down on him, paid off. The channel reached out and Sharad Pawar pointed out the futility of running a campaign against Gautam Adani. Hounding industrialists is not Pawar’s idea of politics.
So Pawar gave to the cornered business magnate a clean chit. Doesn’t matter the abrupt, sharp and steep fall in Adani Group’s dollar billions that placed Adani in the stockade to begin with. Pawar says American short-seller Hindenburg Research cannot be trusted. Sharad Pawar does not like foreign interventionists. Unlike Congress leader and disqualified MP Rahul Gandhi, for whom Hindenburg is proof Gautam Adani is one half of the ‘Modani’ hanky-panky.
That being said, Sharad Pawar is to Gautam Adani and the Modi government the last straw on the camel’s back, the gas-mask falling when the plane hits a dangerous patch of shaky turbulence. What made Sharad Pawar extend his hand to the Modi government’s favourite industrialist is indecipherable; just like whether Pawar’s unsolicited intervention will make the Congress, and Rahul Gandhi, drop their ‘Modani’ campaign?
Suffice to say that the veteran politician could have done without this disservice to the Opposition, especially to Rahul Gandhi, for whom the ‘Modi-Adani’ alleged corruption scandal is crucial to reinstating the Congress in the popular mind. Sharad Pawar butted in at the wrong time. He shouldn’t have taken exception to the Congress targeting a common adversary, perhaps the most ruthless Prime Minister in contemporary Indian history.
The Maharashtra strongman must be partial to industrialists, but should that mean he can come in the way of a concerted opposition operation to bring down a dictatorial authoritarian symbol? Sharad Pawar questioning the “logic” behind the demand for a JPC on Modi-Adani is all fine. It makes good copy for a compromised media, but does this bode well for India and its billion-plus people? If nowhere else, at least in Maharashtra, seeds of confusion have been sown.
Basically, the NCP heavyweight and MVA ‘suthradar’ told Rahul Gandhi and the Congress to back-off, leave Adani alone! At least, Uddhav Thackeray will fall in line. Instead, Pawar found fault with the accuser. In his own grammar, reminiscent of the Pawar of yore, the former Maharashtra Chief Minister cast doubts on Hindenburg Research’s credentials and, more importantly, “its motives”.
It was Hindenburg’s claim that Adani Group’s stocks were manipulated and overvalued that started the stampede. Pawar asked who brought forward “these issues”, and the “why” of it. What were the “motives”; what was Hindenburg’s “background”? For Pawar, Hindenburg’s a foreign entity; therefore, untrustworthy, and somebody who would not have the interests of India in mind.
Pawar was speaking the language of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Language that the Modi government used to object to Rahul Gandhi questioning India’s democracy “from foreign soil”, allegedly asking foreign powers to intervene. For Sharad Pawar Hindenburg Research is a “foreign hand”, best told to mind its own business.
What could have made the NCP Chief to make this startling claim which leaves the Opposition rudderless and even issueless? Pawar told the interviewer from the Gautam Adani stable of journalism that he was all for Opposition unity but that there were certain issues which were beyond the pale of taking up.
Sharad Pawar’s comforting words to Gautam Adani were that external forces such as Hindenburg Research should not be allowed to push India into a corner, otherwise a “price will (have) to be paid for this by the country’s economy. This cannot be ignored. It seems they (Adani Group) were being targeted.” Somehow, this did not gel with the Pawar everybody knew. This man speaking appeared to have lost his zest for a political fight!
Actually, Sharad Pawar’s party’s take on the Modi-Adani issue was already known from the NCP’s stance on the issue in the Budget Session of Parliament. Sharad Pawar says a JPC on the issue is not needed as the Supreme Court had already set up a committee to investigate and report. The NCP veteran refused to play down Rahul Gandhi’s stand but was firm that targeting Adani was unacceptable to him.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi will not suffer because of this split view. The stature of Sharad Pawar will ensure the coalition does not break the three-party block. It will be voters of the MVA who will have to take a decision on Pawar’s divergence on the Adani-Modi issue. Sharad Pawar was in no mood to split hair. He had made up his mind to prove Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrong about Pawar. (IPA Service)