INDUSTRIALIST Gautam Adani showered praise on Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, from his leadership to his schemes and “vision”, at the inaugural session of the two-day investors’ summit in the state on Friday, where he occupied pride of place, right next to the CM.
Gehlot, who has been showcasing the summit that coincides with uncertainty over his continuity as CM, was seen talking to Adani on the stage. As photos emerged of the two, the BJP was quick to latch on, contrasting this to Rahul Gandhi’s constant attacks on the industrialist.
Hours later, addressing a public meeting in Mandya, Karnataka, as part of his Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul made a reference to Adani, saying: “The second richest man in the world is close to the Prime Minister of India. He never used to be the second richest man in the world. In fact, he was not even on the list.”
At the Rajasthan summit, Adani promised investments of more than Rs 65,000 crore over the next five-seven years in the state, making the Adani Group among the biggest investors for Rajasthan.
Recalling the first time he met Gehlot, during his previous tenure as CM, for a power project, Adani said: “I clearly recall how you immediately supported us and directed your administration to identify and allocate land, water as well as other clearances in the shortest time possible. That was the fastest decision making process I have ever witnessed… allowed us to set up 1320 MW Kawai super thermal power project in just 36 months, a record for India and a record for any power plant the Adani Group has built.”
Speaking to journalists at his residence a few days ago, Gehlot had said that his government would welcome “whichever investor comes and follows the law and rules, and agrees to our conditions”. “You have mentioned Mr Adani… our priority is that there are job opportunities,” he had said.
Adani also praised Gehlot’s social welfare schemes in his address, saying: “The social welfare schemes you have implemented… are trendsetters and driving employment, enabling greater and inexpensive access to education and healthcare, thereby making social security very stronger. These schemes have been a benchmark for India in their scale, their intent and the impact that they have had. In the economic domain, your vision has laid the foundation to turn Rajasthan into our nation’s solar energy leader.”
In his address, Gehlot praised Gujarat and repeatedly referred to Adani as “Gautam bhai”. “Gujaratis have been saksham (capable) even before Independence. You had textiles, industries and whatnot… The mind of Gujaratis has been business-oriented… Many big industrialists have lived there… and now there is Gautam bhai. So Gujarat has its own aura,” he said.
With Gehlot’s loyalists defying the central leadership only recently, over the possibility of his removal as CM, the BJP said the bonhomie between him and Adani was another message to the high command by the veteran.
Sharing a photograph of Adani with Gehlot from the summit, Amit Malviya, in charge of BJP’s I-T cell, tweeted, “In another sign of revolt and brewing discontent against the Gandhis, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot invites Gautam Adani for the investor summit. He is given a seat right next to the CM. This is an open message to Rahul Gandhi, who doesn’t tire (of) berating Adani-Ambani, to back off…”
In his Mandya speech, Rahul said even as “the second richest man in the world” has seen his shoot up, “the money has come out of your pocket like a rocket”. “Businesses that give jobs to people are small and medium businesses. All these businesses have been destroyed by the policies of the BJP. Demonetisation, GST, farm laws, all these are weapons… aimed at India’s poor, farmers, labourers, small and medium businesses.”
Repeating his attack on the “two Indias” being created, the Congress leader said: “One India for a chosen few. And another India of millions and millions of poor people. We are not going to accept these two Indias.”
Rahul had also coined the phrase ‘hum do, hamare do’, in a reference to Adani and Ambani, to accuse the government of promoting crony capitalism.
After photos emerged from the Rajasthan summit, the Congress said there was no contradiction between Adani sharing the stage with Gehlot, and Rahul’s stand.
“We are certainly not against businesses. We don’t think profit is a bad word… But the attempt to create monopolies – every port, every airport for one person, bank loans for one person… Rs 5.5 lakh crore loan write-off for one person… that cannot be tolerated,” Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said.
Shrinate added the Congress has no problems with Adani and Ambani either. “The objection is to the government’s one-sided policies. If somebody moves from 643rd rank to the second rank (in the world’s richest list)… there is cooperation from the government…The same cooperation should be extended to the six crore poor of this country… Let Ambaniji and Adaniji grow, make money, create jobs… let their photographs appear with not one but all chief ministers, there is no problem. But the monopoly is wrong.”
BJP state president Satish Poonia attacked the Congress, saying: “Kal tak jo tha virodhi, aaj bana manmeet, dhan ki jagi ummid toh badly apni reet (The one who was an opponent till yesterday, he is a friend today; with hopes of money, they have changed their way).”
Apart from Adani, Anil Agarwal (Chairman, Vedanta Group), Praveer Sinha (CEO and MD, Tata Power Company Limited) and Anish Shah (CEO and MD, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd) were among the big names present at the inaugural session of the summit.