March 26, 2023

The One Who Cannot Be Named

AFTER seven days of disruption of parliamentary proceedings, the government is now planning to cut short the second half of the budget session by guillotining the demands for grants and passing the finance bill without any discussion.

The peculiarity of this decision stems from the fact that it is the ruling party which has been holding up the proceedings in both houses since March 13 with the demand that Rahul Gandhi apologise for certain remarks he made about the state of democracy in India while he was abroad. 

That this is just a pretext for disrupting the house and preventing any discussion about the Adani-Hindenburg issue is obvious.  Since the first week of February, during the first hour of budget session, the opposition had persistently demanded a discussion on the Hindenburg exposure of the Adani group and the formation of a joint parliamentary committee.  Since then, more revelations have appeared about the role of Vinod Adani, the brother of Gautam Adani, in the various shell companies and as a promoter-investor in the Ambuja Cement-ACC companies.  There was also the explosive revelation that a foreign entity called, Elara, who is a key investor of the Adani group is also a co-owner with Adani in a defence related company.  All these matters required explanation and discussion in parliament. 

Instead of doing so, we saw on the opening day of parliament, the minister of defence, Rajnath Singh, leading the attack on Rahul Gandhi and demanding his apology.  Was this a tactic to avoid answering the vital question of how a company like Elara had become the joint owner with Adani of a defence firm in India?  As for Rahul Gandhi, the criticism that he made about democracy being under threat and being suppressed by the Modi government is something which would be voiced by all opposition leaders. The charge that he was being unpatriotic for making it on foreign soil is a bogus one because attacking the role of a government is not the same as attacking one’s country. One does not have to subscribe to all the opinions voiced by Rahul Gandhi in the United Kingdom, including his naïve appreciation of American democracy in his Cambridge speech, but the right to criticise the government’s authoritarianism is a right which is inalienable whether it is made within the country or abroad.

The BJP’s behavior on the Adani issue has been simply astounding. The tone was set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself who, in the face of a barrage of questions during the debate on the president’s address in parliament in February, replied to the debate in both houses of parliament for hours together without uttering the name of Adani even once. This reminds one of a character in the Harry Potter novels, the evil Lord Voldemort, who is too dangerous and powerful to be called by his name.  So many people refer to him as “He who must not be named”. For Narendra Modi and the BJP, it seems Gautam Adani is the one who must not be named, lest the nexus between Modi and Adani be exposed.

The present tactics employed in parliament shows the length to which the Modi government and the BJP will go to prevent any parliamentary scrutiny of the Adani group. Having muffled the regulatory authorities all these years, now parliament is also being muzzled from raising questions about the Adani empire and how it was built. It seems the Modi government is buying time for Adani and company to paper over some of the glaring violations of law and procedures, shed some of the loans used for dubious purposes and salvage some of the losses suffered since the Hindenburg expose. Making parliament dysfunctional is a small price to pay for protecting Adani.

The steady denigration of parliament and reducing it to irrelevance has got further accentuated by the way the ruling party has dealt with the Adani affair. 

(March 22, 2023)