Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday launched a strong attack on the government in the wake of the Hiendenberg-Adani row linking the rise of Adani group to that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and alleged that "rules were changed" in some sectors to favour the businessman.
Rahul Gandhi, who was the first opposition leader to speak during the debate on motion of thanks to the President's address in the Lok Sabha , said the relationship with Gautam Adani began many years ago when Narendra Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister and added that "real magic" started after 2014 and the businessman rose from 609th to second spot globally in the rich list.
The BJP rejected Rahul Gandhi's allegations both inside and outside the House. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said the allegations against the government were baseless and the whole ecosystem of Congress was based on twin pillars "of deal and commission".
Union minister Smriti Irani also attacked Gandhi, saying that for 30 years the people of Amethi were repeatedly told that a medical college will be opened but nothing happened. Gandhi was earlier an MP from Amethi.
Gandhi, who began his speech with his experiences of Bharat Jodo Yatra which culminated last month, said the youth wanted to know how Adani had grown very rich in a few years.
"Only Adani is being talked about from apples of Kashmir, Himachal to ports, airports and even the roads we are walking on. Youth asked us that Adani is now in 8-10 sectors and that how his net worth reached $140 billion from $8 billion from 2014 to 2022," Rahul Gandhi said.
"From Tamil Nadu, Kerala to Himachal Pradesh we have been listening one name everywhere 'Adani'. Across the entire country, it's just 'Adani', 'Adani', 'Adani'...people used to ask me that Adani enters any business and never fails," he added.
Gandhi said the relationship began many years ago when Narendra Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister.
"One man stood shoulder to shoulder with PM Modi, he was loyal to PM and helped Mr Modi to construct idea of a Resurgent Gujarat. Real magic began when PM Modi reached Delhi in 2014," Gandhi said.
"Earlier PM Modi used to travel in Adani's aircraft now Adani travels in Modiji's aircraft. This matter was earlier of Gujarat, then became of India and now has become international. How much money did Adani give to BJP in the last 20 years and through electoral bonds? Gandhi asked.
He accused the government of helping Adani get international contracts.
"In 2022, Chairman of Sri Lanka electricity board informed parliamentary committee in Sri Lanka that he was told by (then) President Rajpaksa that he was pressured by PM Modi to give wind power project to Mr Adani. This isn't India's foreign policy, it's policy for Adani's business," Gandhi said.
"PM Modi goes to Australia and by magic, SBI gives $1 billion loan to Adani. Then he goes to Bangladesh and then the Bangladesh Power development board signs a 25-years contract with Adani. Adani never made drones but HAL, other companies in India do that. Despite that PM Modi goes to Israel and Adani gets the contract.
"Now, Adani has zero experience in the defence sector. Yesterday PM said at HAL that we hurled the wrong allegations. But in reality, HAL's contract of 126 aircraft went to Anil Ambani," he added.
The Congress leader said there's a rule that a bidder who does not have prior experience in airports can't be involved in the development of airports.
"This rule was changed by the Government of India. This rule was changed and Adani was given six airports. After that India's most profitable airport 'Mumbai Airpot' was hijacked from GVK using agencies like CBI, ED and was given to Adani by Government of India," Gandhi said.
Gandhi also posed questions to the Prime Minister.
Referring to the President's address, Gandhi said words like unemployment, and inflation weren not there in President's address.
He said people also asked about Agniveer scheme during the yatra and alleged that it was coerced on Army.
"Youth of India told us about them being asked to leave after four years.
Retired Senior officers said that Agniveer Yojana came from RSS, Home ministry and not from Army. They said Agniveer scheme being coerced on Army. Retired officers said that people are being given arms training and then asked to go back to society, this will lead to violence," Gandhi said.
Later talking to the media, Ravi Shankar Prasad slammed Rahul Gandhi over his allegations against the government.
"We condemn the baseless allegations levelled by Rahul Gandhi against our government while speaking in Parliament today," he said.
Prasad said that the Congress had been involved in "big scams" that tarnished the country's image.
He said National Herald case, the AgustaWestland scam were among cases that , surfaced during Congress rule.
"I need to remind him, that he, his mother and his brother-in-law are on bail. I want to ask him what are National Herald and AgustaWestland scandals," Prasad said.
"In February 2109, the Enforcement Directorate attached assets worth Rs 4.62 crore of Robert Vadra's company Sky Light Hospitality (P) Ltd (Now LLP) and others in the Kolayat (Bikaner) land scam case. A money laundering case was registered by the ED in September 2015, claiming that Skylight Hospitality had acquired land in Kolayat village of Bikaner, which was meant for the rehabilitation of poor villagers.
"Rahul Gandhi should raise questions at his brother-in-law Robert Vadra for the scam and ask from where he received the amount," Prasad said.
Prasad also said that Rahul Gandhi in Parliament did not authenticate his allegations nor submit any proof.
Smriti Irani, who also participated in the debate on the motion of thanks on the President's Address, attacked the Gandhi family for "unfulfilled" promises to the people of Amethi.
"For 30 years, the people of Amethi were repeatedly told that a medical college will be opened. But if you visit Amethi you will see that this one family built a guest house for themselves on the land allocated for medical college," Irani said.
She accused Congress of opening hostels in name of family members on government land.
Smriti Irani, who is MP from Amethi, said Modi government has named infrastructure projects after Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
"There is an airport called Fursatganj. The land is of government but the family has opened hostels in name of son and daughter. PM makes infrastructure in name of Subhas Chandra Bose, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel but hostels have been built there in the name of Rahul and Priyanka," she said.
"They (Congress) say they are sympathizers of minorities. Earlier during their government, money was taken for every 'Haj' application, but for the first time Modi government brought a policy so that poor Muslims don't have to pay the amount for an application formi. It will cut down the cost of 'Haj Yatra' by Rs 50,000. We provided more than Rs 280 crore to 21,000 minority students."
The US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research came out with report making allegations about stock manipulation and accounting fraud against Adani group firms. The Adani group has refuted the charges.
The opposition parties had forced adjournments in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha over their demand for JPC probe into the Hindenburg-Adani row.
The Opposition parties had demanded discussion over investment by LIC, public sector banks, and financial institutions "in companies losing market value, endangering the savings of crores of Indians" following Hindenburg Research report.
(With Inputs from ANI)