Adani @ 60: Is Modi behind him?

Gautam Adani

Rama Krishna Sangem

Asia’s richest businessman Gautam Adani turned 60 years on June 24, Friday. A day before, on Thursday, he announced a donation of Rs 60,000 crore (around 767 crore US dollars), to mark his Shastipurti. This money will be spent on education, healthcare and skill development of youth in the country. This donation is roughly 8 per cent of his total net  worth – of Rs 7.6 lakh cr, or around 103 billion US dollars.

With this philanthropy, Adani has become the largest donor among Indian businessman. As per Bloomberg and other estimates, Adani has toppled his long time rival, Mukhesh Ambai to be the richest man in India. In the world rankings, Adani is the 5th richest man. As both Ambani and Adani are in the race to become the world’s richest person, we have to wait and see who will win.

But, Adani is a BCom 2nd year dropout with no formal business education degree. His father Shantilal was a small textile retailer, and migrated from his native village in north Gujarat to Ahmadabad for livelihood. Gutam Adani started working from the age of 16 and joined his elder brother’s pipes business at 19. There was no looking back since then and he started his own export-import business in his early 20s. 

Starting from grain trading, Adani tried his hand in many ventures and grew fast, thanks to his street smartness and quick learning skills. Adani is a Baniya and is associated with Jain associations right from the beginning. He knew the art of networking and mingled with one and all, particularly with politicians to grow in business. That helped him bag the contract of managerial outsourcing of Mundra Port in 1994.

Beneficiary of Liberalization

Adani has a knack of understanding which way  winds are blowing in business. Though  not greatly educated, Adani learned the rules of liberalization of economy in 1991. Adani started an SEZ in 1995, and formed APSEZ (Adani Ports&SEZ). That was the starting point of his big business journey and he entered into many major projects, in Gujarat and outside.

Is Modi behind Adani rise?

There is a reason for this question. The net worth of Adani in 2013 was just 7 billion US dollars. Now it is 103 billion US dollars. Can anyone gain by 96 billion US dollars in eight years,  unless supported by a powerful hand at the Centre? We all will say, No. But, Adani showed it before us. Neither Adani nor Modi will give us clarification on this, but we can understand how it happened.

Adani floated a forum of businessmen who came to the rescue of Modi when he as CM of Gujarat was in deep trouble after the post-Godhra riots in 2003. Then, PM Vajpayee was not on Modi’s side, and many secular CMs in the country had distanced themselves from him. Some powerful businessmen in Gujarat too disowned Modi. Then, Adani supported Modi and held an investors’ summit in Gujarat. That gave Modi a pro-business image.

Analysts close to Adani say that he solidly stood behind Modi till he became the PM in 2014. After that, Adani’s every business flourished like anything. We must not forget how then SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya was in the news for not okaying a loan request from Adani for 1 billion US dollars for a coal mines project in Australia in 2015. But, the proposal got cleared subsequently. Then Adani was in PM’s delegation to Australia. 

The analysts say, secret of Adani business expansion is his understanding of the mind of the government of the day. He quickly follows the priorities of the governments where he wants to invest. PM Modi or CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, every head of government wants to promote their pet projects – mostly infrastructure. They love such businessmen.

BJP’ s economic philosophy

Not just that. Ruling BJP’s economic philosophy too favours Adani. Long ago we used to hear the names of Tatas and Birlas as the capitalists of India. Later, Ambanis joined them. The Left parties used to attack Tatas, Birlas and then Ambani’s as looters of the country. The Left accused every government in power of looting the wealth of the country to benefit these few rich families.

Of course, the Left lost their voice after liberalization. BJP which was formed in 1980 believed in the welfare ideology of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s Antyodaya, and vouched for Gandhian Socialism. After sometime, the party  believed in promoting national bourgeoisie. To be precise, Indian MNCs (multi-national companies). BJP under the leadership of PM Modi openly supports big Indian business houses.

A senior BJP leader who spoke to Excel India on this topic remarked: “We may have helped Adani group get some big projects, in India and outside too. But, why not? Why only there should be American MNCs like Microsoft and Amazon? Why not TCSs, Ambanis and Adanis?. This leader requested not to be quoted. He at the same time, said that it is wrong to say, PM Modi helped only Adani. Hasn’t he helped Tata’s bag Air India?

The same is the case with many other regional parties in India now. NCP strongman Sharad Pawar always is sided with rich sugarcane industry lobby in Maharashtra and Mulayam and Akhilesh too have some favoured business houses in UP and so is the case with JD(U) top brass in Karnataka and DMK’s first family in Tamil Nadu. In Bengal, CM Mamata is known to be close to some business and infrastructure companies.

After all, this is India. Here major political parties take help from some business houses, not only to win the polls,but also to showcase their infrastructure projects as achievements. Some disciplined infra majors like L&T are the blue eyed boys of every government, as the company finishes projects on time with quality. Now, people close to Adani say, he is not dependent on just PM Modi. Adani has grown enough to befriend with any PM in India.



Rama Krishna Sangem

Ramakrishna chief editor of excel India online magazine and website

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