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Adani Row: Hindenburg Report, Oppn Demand For A JPC Probe And Ruckus In Parliament; All We Know

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the opposition demand remains unchanged, adding "Only an independent investigation will save LIC, SBI, and other institutions forced by the prime minister to invest in the Adani Group."

Ongoing protests against Adanis Vizhinjam international seaport project
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In the background of the Hindenburg Report released on January 24 titled ‘Adani Group: How The World’s 3rd Richest Man Is Pulling The Largest Con In Corporate History’, raising concerns about the Adani group’s substantial debts and alleged corruption, several opposition leaders submitted adjournment notices in both the Parliament houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, seeking an immediate discussion on the Adani Group.

On January 29 #Adaniscam trended on Twitter, knocking Adani from third to seventh and then eighth in the richest billionaire’s list and as of 3rd Feb, Adani's ranking in the Forbes billionaires' list has plunged to the 18th position. He is also featured in Forbes 'Today's losers list' wth a loss of about 13.3 billion dollars. On Monday, the short seller firm, Hindenburg Research had refuted the Adani Group's 413-page-long response to the report. The firm’s response to the report said, "fraud cannot be obfuscated by nationalism". It also added that the Adani group has ‘predictably’ denied the claims by Hindenburg adding, “We also believe India’s future is being held back by the Adani Group, which has draped itself in the Indian flag while systematically looting the nation.”

Rule 267; An Adjournment Notice

Congress Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha Naseer Hussain, Pramod Tiwari, Kumar Ketkar, Neeraj Dangi, and the party's Whip in Lok Sabha Manickam Tagore were among the prominent MPs to have given the notice. Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Keshava Rao and Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi have also given notices under Rule 267 which allows for the suspension of a day's session to debate an issue suggested by a member.

"The report exposes the dangers to which the Indian people and economy are subjected to and merit immediate discussion, adjourning today's list of business in the House," Rao said in his notice. "...This House do suspend the Zero Hour and relevant rules related to Question Hour and other businesses of the day to discuss the issue of fraud in investment by LIC, SBI, public sector banks and other financial institutions losing market value,  endangering the hard-earned savings of crores of Indians," said Hussain in his notice.

The adjournment notices came a day after a united opposition stalled both houses of Parliament over the issue while demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe or a Supreme Court-monitored committee investigation into what they described a "scam". The opposition has been alleging that the drastic fall in Adani group shares on Indian exchanges has put public money in danger as public sector LIC and SBI have invested in the Adani Group.

The opposition leaders said they want a discussion on the Adani issue and if not allowed, they will protest inside the House, sources said. Both Houses of Parliament had been adjourned till after lunch amid high-voltage drama over the Adani row. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla denied their requests, asking members "not to make unsubstantiated claims" while Rajya Sabha chairperson, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, rejected all motions by the opposition, saying they were "not in order". Infuriated, opposition members shouted slogans and protested the moves.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the opposition demand remains the same. "Only an independent investigation will save LIC, SBI, and other institutions forced by the prime minister to invest in the Adani Group," he said.

Opposition Unites Against Purported Financial Threats

Opposition parties met Friday morning to coordinate their strategy in Parliament, a day after they unitedly led the charge against the government over the issue of the Adani Group stock rout.

The meeting took place amid demand for a probe into the Adani Group rout, a day after both houses of parliament were adjourned early, without getting any work done. Among the 16 parties who met in the chamber of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge to step up their attack on the government, including the Congress, DMK, SP, AAP, BRS, Shiv Sena, RJD, JDU, CPIM, CPI, NCP, NC, IUML, Kerala Congress (Jose Mani), KC (Thomas), and the RSP.

The Congress has been alleging that the investments made by public sector LIC and SBI into the Adani group have been "forced" by the prime minister. The government has not responded to the issue so far. Adani group stocks, where LIC is heavily invested, have lost over USD 100 billion in value since a tiny New York short seller came out with a damning report alleging financial and accounting fraud by the ports-to-energy conglomerate.

The Adani group has denied all charges and called the report malicious and full of lies. As the slide in Adani group stocks continued in the markets on Friday, the opposition said the rout has threatened the value of investments made by the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and public sector banks.

A Follow Up Of The 'Adani Group: How The World’s 3rd Richest Man Is Pulling The Largest Con In Corporate History' Report

Congress President, Mallikarjuna Kharge while speaking with reporters said, "Keeping public interest in mind, we want a thorough probe into the Adani issue, either by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) or a Supreme Court-monitored panel. There should also be day-to-day reporting of the investigation on the issue."

Further, AAP MP Sanjay Singh was quoted saying to ANI, "I have written a letter to PM (Prime Minister Narendra Modi), Enforcement Directorate, and the CBI demanding the confiscation of [Gautam] Adani's passport, or else If he also flees from the country like other industrialists and capitalists, then crores of people of this country will be left with nothing."

Just a few hours after the much exalted Adani Enterprises FPO worth Rs 20,000 crore called-off announcement was made, billionaire Gautam Adani shared a video message. Picking on the 'Adani FPO called off' news, Gautam Adani has explained his reasons for calling off the FPO and deciding to give back investors their money.

"For me, the interest of my investors is paramount and everything is secondary. Hence, to insulate the investors from potential losses, we have withdrawn the FPO," Gautam Adani said in a video message insisting that the fundamentals of his group are "strong" and that the group's debt payback records are "impeccable". "This decision will not have any impact on our existing operations and future plans. We will continue to focus on the timely execution and delivery of projects. The fundamentals of our company are very strong and balance sheets healthy," he added.

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The Adani group's flagship firm, Adani Enterprises' shares fell over 30 per cent as the stock market opened on Friday, prompting repeated suspensions of trading. Adani Power, Adani Green Energy, Adani Total Gas, and Adani Transmission also hit trading stops. The Adani group in the round of ripostes with the Hindenburg firm had called the report “A malicious combination of selective misinformation and stale baseless and discredited allegations”.

The National Stock Exchange (NSE) on Thursday, February 2 placed Adani Enterprises, Adani Ports, and Ambuja Cements under the additional surveillance mechanism (ASM), as per a Reuters report.

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