Billionaire Gautam Adani stock-rout saga draws thousands out to protest

Demonstrators rally outside state bank, Indian parliament and conglomerate HQs

Members of the Congress party demand a probe into allegations of fraud by India's Adani Group, in New Delhi on Monday. AP
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Tens of thousands of members of India’s main opposition party were taking part in nationwide protests against the scandal-hit billionaire Gautam Adani on Monday.

Senior leaders and party workers from the Indian National Congress staged demonstrations outside the offices of the State Bank of India and the Life Insurance Corporation over concerns the two organisations had invested billions of rupees in Adani conglomerates.

The Adani Group was last month accused by US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research of stock manipulation, unsustainable debt and use of tax havens. Since then, Adani shares have been in free fall, with the conglomerate's cumulative market value loss topping $110 billion.

Protesters in southern Hyderabad city gathered outside the State Bank of India headquarters chanting “Adani Go Away”, against the conglomerate and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

In western Rajasthan's Jaipur, several party workers carried banners and demanded an investigation into the controversy.

Rallies were also held in capital Delhi, financial capital Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, among other cities.

Some MPs also protested outside parliament.

“The house should come forward to discuss the matter keeping aside other routine business, and should constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate further in this matter,” Congress member Manickam Tagore said.

Mr Tagore also demanded that parliament direct Mr Modi to “disclose the actual loss of public money” to the nation through this house.

Parliamentary proceedings were again adjourned on Monday after opposition parties stepped up pressure on Mr Modi's government for a joint parliamentary investigation into allegations of purported corporate malpractice, “brazen” market manipulation and accounting fraud in Mr Adani's port-to-energy business empire.

Last week, protests and sloganeering over the alleged fraud had led to repeated adjournments of parliament.

The Adani Group has received billions of dollars in investment from public-sector entities such as the State Bank of India and the country’s largest insurance company, Life Insurance Corporation of India, triggering fears that the slump in its shares over the past week will affect millions of small Indian investors.

Earlier in the day, 16 opposition parties had met to discuss their strategy before parliamentary proceedings resumed.

The protests come days after India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week said regulators would do their job on the fraud allegations against the Adani Group without interference from the government.

She also insisted public sector institutions were sitting on profits and that the country had a robust financial regulatory system.

Shares of Adani Group firms fell further on Monday — those of Adani Enterprises slumped by 9.50 per cent.

Mr Adani has repeatedly denied the allegations against him.

Updated: February 06, 2023, 11:59 AM