India’s richest industrialist Gautam Adani has, for the first time, replied extensively to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s allegations that the Modi government has been favouring the Adani group in matters relating to bank loans and infrastructure projects.
In a no-holds-barred interview in Rajat Sharma’s iconic show, Aap Ki Adalat on India TV, Adani said: “Rahul Ji is a respected leader. He also wants progress. He may be making remarks out of political emotion, but I do not take these more than ‘political bayaan-baazi’ (political remarks).”
In a light, bantering mood, Adani told Rajat Sharma: “By asking about Rahul Ji again and again, you will start a fight between me and him, and he may come out with a fresh statement tomorrow. I consider Rahul Ji as a ‘sanmanniya neta’. He has to run his political party. They have their ideological battle, where charges and counter-charges are made. I am an ordinary industrialist (saamanya udyogpati). I am doing my work. He does his politics in his own manner.”
Adani said: “Prior to 2014, people particularly in North India had hardly heard the name of Adani. We hail from Gujarat, where people knew us. During the 2014 elections and after that, Rahul Ji continuously attacked us. As a result, people here came to know who was Adani, and that is why I am sitting here (in the dock of Aap Ki Adalat).”
Asked about the help he got from Narendra Modi when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, Gautam Adani replied: “I got three big breaks in my life. First, in 1985 during Rajiv Gandhi’s rule, when the Exim policy allowed our company to become a global trading house, second, in 1991, when PV Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh opened up the economy, and we entered into public-private partnership mode, and third, during Narendra Modi’s 12-year-long rule in Gujarat….I can say with pride that it was a very good experience. But I want to tell you that you can never get any personal help from Modi Ji. You can speak to him about policies in the national interest, but when a policy is framed, it is for all, not only for the Adani group.”
Coming to specifics, Adani replied to allegations about bank loans, projects, seizure of drugs at Mundra airport and farm laws in detail.
On Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that the Adani group has got most of the ports, airports and other infra projects, Gautam Adani replied: “We did not get a single project without bidding. Our Adani group has this philosophy of not touching any project without bidding, whether it is a port, an airport, roads or a powerhouse. There is not a single allegation that we ‘managed’ bidding. Even Rahul Ji has not levelled any allegation about tampering with the bidding process.
On Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that Adani group has got Rs 2 lakh crore bank loans from money deposited by people in banks, Adani replied: “Any infra project requires equity and bank loan which is normally 40:60 in nature. The borrowers are profiled by ratings. Adani group is the only business group in India whose companies have ratings that are equivalent to India’s sovereign rating. Independent rating agencies do complete financial analysis before giving the rating, and on this basis, banks give loans. Our group is so disciplined that in our 25-year-old history, we have not made even a day’s delay in payment. After 2013, we used to take 80 pc loans from Indian banks, and the interest rate then went up to 35 pc. We went to the international market with a global rating. As you know, global markets do not give loans at the behest of anybody from India. Such allegations (about the Modi government asking banks to give loans) are baseless. Such allegations are levelled because of political compulsions, but it is a matter between the borrower and lenders. There has been no difficulty with this score…. In the last 7-8 years, our loans rose by 11 pc, while our income rose by 24 per cent. It is because of our profitability that our ratings improved. Today our profitability is more than our borrowings.”
Asked by Rajat Sharma, “if the Adani balloon bursts, many banks may sink”, Gautam Adani replied: “This may be the wish of some critics, but I can tell you that Adani group’s assets are three to four times our borrowings. Nobody’s money is not unsecured.” Rajat Sharma asked: “What if the balloon bursts?”, Adani replied: “So long as India progresses, this balloon will move forward”.
On Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that the Centre is not taking action despite the seizure of Rs 20,000 crore of drugs at Mundra port in 2021, Rs 5,000 cr worth of drugs in May 2022, and Rs 375 crore worth of drugs in July 2022, Adani replied: “The work of port operator is limited to cargo operations. We do not have policing, inspection or arrest powers. This is done by different agencies of government. They are only trying to mislead people. It is not that drug smuggling took place from our port only. They come in even through airports. All investigations by government agencies after drug seizures at our port are done 360-degree. People are interrogated. Seizure papers are completed only after interrogations. I don’t think the Adani group was given any special treatment.”
On the Congress party’s slogan, ‘Aam Aadmi behaal, Adani maalamaal’, Gautam Adani replied: “Whatever political narrative one may try to draw, ultimately, tell us, where is the allegation? One is a political statement, and the other is a really genuine allegation. Let the people decide what is the truth.”
On Adani group investing Rs 68,000 crore in Congress-ruled Rajasthan, Gautam Adani replied: “ Investment is our normal programme. I had gone to the Rajasthan investors’ summit at the invitation of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Later, even Rahul Ji praised our investment in Rajasthan. I know Rahul’s policies are not anti-development. We want to make maximum investments in every state….Adani group is really happy that today it is working in 22 states, and all these states are not BJP-ruled….I can say with clarity that we do not have any problem with any state government. We are working even in Left-ruled Kerala, in Mamata Didi’s West Bengal, in Naveen Patnaik JI’s Odisha, in Jaganmohan Reddy’s state, even KCR’s state.”
When asked by Rajat Sharma why opposition parties are alleging that Modi is Adani’s ‘chowkidar’, Gautam Adani replied: “ Very few people who have difficulty with Modi JI, or because of ideological jostling, say such things. From my experience, I can only say that most of the people like Modi Ji and Adani’s development model. They do not find any problem.”
Gautam Adani described the repeal of farm laws as “unfortunate”. He said, “In agriculture, our group has very limited exposure. We had built some warehouses for the Food Corporation of India for storing wheat. We did not buy wheat from those warehouses. We only provided infrastructure. …Genuinely as a citizen, I think the farm laws were good, and they had to be repealed when a political tone was given to them. 40-50 per cent of people in India directly or indirectly, depend on agriculture. Today India has the capability to supply food to the entire world. But the major problem is infrastructure, which includes transport by rail, cold storage, lack of warehousing…It is not a question of the Adani group’s benefit."
The world’s third richest person was very much optimistic about India’s future. Adani said: “India is progressing fast. It took 58 years since independence for India to achieve $1 trillion economy, it took another 12 years to achieve $2 trillion economy, it took five years to achieve $3 trillion economy today, and India is now in a position where its economy can touch $30 trillion by 2050. Naturally, per capita income will grow and job opportunities will increase. Nobody can stop India in the coming years.”