Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s decision to expunge several remarks made by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi linking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to industrialist Gautam Adani during his speech in the House on Tuesday drew sharp criticism from the Opposition party on Wednesday.
In all, 18 remarks Gandhi made during his 53-minute speech were removed from the records. The Congress leader responded by tweeting a video clip of his speech that contained some of the questions he had asked the PM. He wrote in Hindi, “Prime Minister, you cannot eliminate the voice of democracy. The people of India are asking you questions, give us answers.”
“With the expunging of Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on PM linked Adani MahaMegaScam, deMOcracy was cremated in the Lok Sabha. OM Shanti,” tweeted Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh.
In a tweet later at night, Ramesh said, “18 remarks by @RahulGandhi in LS expunged: 1. Every question asked of PM- deleted! 2. All references to relationship between Adani & Modi before 2014- deleted! 3. Misuse of agencies & foreign trips- deleted! You can expunge, but you can’t exterminate! Jagadguru of Jhoot stands exposed.”
In a statement earlier, Ramesh had elaborated on what Gandhi told the House, saying, “The Adani Group’s takeover of Mumbai airport should be a case study in crony capitalism.”
“The GVK Group had vigorously contested the Adani Group’s attempts to buy a stake in Mumbai airport in 2019, going to the courts and raising funds to buy out its joint venture partners Bidvest and ACSA. Yet in August 2020, only one month following raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED), GVK felt compelled to sell its most valuable asset to the Adani Group. What happened to the CBI and ED investigations against GVK? How did they miraculously disappear after the sale of Mumbai airport to the Adani Group? Are those cases being used to apply pressure on GVK to defend the very group that forced it to divest India’s second busiest airport?” he asked.
Ramesh said the Adani Group had, in a short period, “become the largest airport operator in India (as) it won six out of six airport concessions that the government awarded in 2019, and took over Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, India’s second busiest airport, under questionable circumstances in 2021”.
He went on to say, “In 2006, the United Progressive Alliance government awarded concessions to the GMR and GVK groups to operate Delhi and Mumbai airports respectively for a period of 30 years. On November 7, 2006, the Supreme Court upheld these privatisations along with the condition that each bidder needed to partner with an experienced airport operator. Even though GMR had emerged as the top bidder in both cases, it was decided not to award both to the firm in the interests of competition,” he said.
“In 2019, rights to operate Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Mangalore, Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram airports were awarded to the Adani Group, with zero prior experience operating airports, for a period of 50 years,” Ramesh said, quoting a NITI Aayog memo that said “a bidder lacking sufficient technical capacity” could “jeopardise the project and compromise the quality of services the government is committed to provide”.
“Why did the PMO and the NITI Aayog chairman who headed the Empowered Group of Secretaries ignore this recommendation and facilitate a clean sweep of six airports by the inexperienced Adani Group?” he asked.
Ramesh argued that the Department of Economic Affairs too had strongly recommended that “no more than two airports be awarded to a single bidder to reduce risk and to facilitate competition, as was the case with the Delhi and Mumbai airport privatisations”.
“Yet, this too was ignored by the ruling dispensation in its rush to help its cronies. Who instructed the Empowered Group of Secretaries to set aside this prior condition, thus clearing the way for the Adani Group to build a virtual monopoly in the sector?” asked the Congress leader.