India’s parliamentary proceedings were adjourned on Thursday after opposition members demanded a debate on the raging financial scandal involving multibillionaire Gautam Adani.
Both houses were adjourned minutes after proceedings began on the first day of parliamentary business, with opposition politicians chanting slogans and some storming the area where the speaker sits.
Mr Adani's eponymous group, a port-to-energy business, is embroiled in an alleged financial fraud and has suffered massive losses after last week’s report by US short-seller Hindenburg Research.
Hindenburg, which specialises in activist short-selling, made wide-ranging allegations of purported corporate malpractice and “brazen” market manipulation accounting fraud after a two-year investigation into Mr Adani's business empire.
The report has triggered an $100 billion erosion in the market capitalisation of seven listed Adani Group companies, which have received massive investments from public sector companies.
The Adani Group has received billions of dollars in investment from public-sector banks such as the State bank of India and the country’s largest insurance company, Life Insurance Corporation of India, triggering fears that the massive downfall in its stocks over the past week will affect millions of small Indian investors.
Nine political parties led by the main opposition party Indian National Congress gave a notice to the heads of the upper and lower houses as they demanded the immediate discussion of the alleged fraud.
They also asked for an investigation into the matter by a joint parliamentary panel or a committee led by India’s sitting Chief Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud.
“There should also be day-to-day reporting of the investigation on the issue,” Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters after the proceedings were adjourned.
Opposition leaders accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of turning a blind eye to the alleged fraud.
Modi accused of aiding conglomerate's rise
Mr Modi has, for long, been accused of being close to Mr Adani and critics have accused him of supporting the business group’s mercurial rise over the past few years.
Mr Adani, 60, was the second-richest person in the world, according to Forbes, before the Hindenburg report shaved off a chunk of his personal wealth.
The conglomerate rejected the report, saying it was a “malicious combination of selective misinformation and stale, baseless and discredited allegations”, and an “attack on India”.
His flagship business Adani Enterprises called off its $2.5 billion follow-on public offer and pledged to return investors’ money after shares fell by about 30 per cent on the stock exchange.
Mr Adani addressed the shareholders on Thursday and said the decision was taken in their interest.
“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,” he said in a video statement.