Everywhere that Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes, it seems, Gautam Adani is sure to go.
The Gujarati businessman and head of the Rs 56,000-crore group is one common thread that runs through the many trips that India’s peripatetic leader has made since assuming office nearly a year ago.
Last week in France, Adani was prominent in the audience at UNESCO where the PM delivered a 20 minute speech; sources say he even met former president Nicolas Sarkozy over dinner. The list of attendees at the Indo-French CEOs meeting given to the media by the French side mentioned his name after Anil Ambani; the Indian side’s list was curiously silent about his participation.
Now Adani, whose interests span infrastructure and power, is in Canada, where Modi is busy discussing energy cooperation, nuclear energy and investments in urbanisation.
Government officials maintained, off the record, that Adani was never a part of any official delegation and as a private individual, he was free to go wherever he wanted. HT’s attempts to reach Adani for this article proved to be in vain.
Adani was a fixture when Modi went to the United States, Australia, Brazil and Japan. In New York, he was frequently spotted going up from the foyer of the New York Palace Hotel to the floor where Modi was staying; he also attended the PM’s address to the United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA).
In November, the otherwise low-key enterpreneur — worth $6.9 billion and ranked 12th on the recent HT Global India Rich List — was seen walking with the PM at various events around the G-20 summit in Australia.
Adani and State Bank of India chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya inked an agreement for a Rs 6,200-crore loan for Adani’s coal project Down Under, which is embroiled in several controversies and now has been challenged in court by some rights groups. Over a dozen top international banks have refused to fund the ambitious project involving coal mining, railway line and a port.
“Gautambhai is known for his proximity with the PM so now he is flaunting it,” said a top bureaucrat who has known Adani for 20 years.
This relationship may be more in the public eye now, but goes back to the days when Modi was chief minister of Gujarat. Adani journeyed to China, Japan, Singapore and Russia with his leader.
In fact, his proximity to Modi was targeted by Rahul Gandhi in some of the Congress leader’s campaign speeches, but the comments were drowned in a saffron wave that swept away everything before it.
Adani’s companies are labouring under a debt of Rs 72,000 crore but this hasn’t stopped him buying two power plants, plus a port in Odisha, after the change in regime in Delhi.
And the day Modi’s landslide in the general elections win was announced — May 16 last year —Adani celebrated the acquisition of Dhamra Port from Larsen and Toubro and Tata Steel for Rs 5,500 crore after nearly a year of negotiations.
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