Who is George Soros and why Smriti Irani slammed this billionaire?

ByAniruddha Dhar, New Delhi
Feb 17, 2023 01:20 PM IST

While delivering a speech ahead of the 2023 Munich Security Conference, George Soros, a vocal critic of Modi, said he expects a “democratic revival” in India.

Billionaire George Soros has sparked a controversy by saying that the Gautam Adani crisis will significantly weaken Prime Minister Narendra Modi's stranglehold on the government and open the door to push for institutional reforms.

Billionaire George Soros and Union minister Smriti Irani.
Billionaire George Soros and Union minister Smriti Irani.

While delivering a speech ahead of the 2023 Munich Security Conference, Soros, a vocal critic of Modi, said he expects a “democratic revival” in India.

“Modi is silent on the subject, but he will have to answer questions from foreign investors and in parliament,” Soros said. “This will significantly weaken Modi’s stranglehold on India’s federal government and open the door to push for much-needed institutional reforms. I may be naive, but I expect a democratic revival in India.”

Reacting to Soro's statement, Union minister Smriti Irani launched a scathing attack on him and called upon Indians to unitedly respond to “foreign powers who try to intervene in India's democratic processes”.

She called Soros's statement a “declaration to destroy India's democratic processes”. "I urge every Indian to give a fitting reply to George Soros," she said.

Adani Group has been accused by US short seller Hindenburg Group of engaging in “brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud” over decades, a claim that Adani Group has stoutly denied.

Who is George Soros?

> George Soros, who has a net worth of about $8.5 billion, is the founder of the Open Society Foundations, which gives grants to groups and individuals that promote democracy, transparency and freedom of speech.

> According to Open Society Foundations, Soros was born in Hungary in 1930 and lived through the Nazi occupation of 1944–1945.

> His own Jewish family survived by securing false identity papers, concealing their backgrounds, and helping others do the same. Soros later recalled that “not only did we survive, but we managed to help others".

> Soros left Budapest in 1947 for London, working part-time as a railway porter and as a night-club waiter to support his studies at the London School of Economics.

> In 1956, he emigrated to the United States, entering the world of finance and investments, where he made his fortune. In 1973, he launched his own hedge fund and went on to become one of the most successful investors in the history of the United States.

> In the 1980s, he helped promote the open exchange of ideas in Communist Hungary by funding academic visits to the West and supporting fledgling independent cultural groups, as well as other initiatives. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he created Central European University as a space to foster critical thinking—which at that time was an alien concept for most universities in the former Communist bloc.

> Soros became a household name after famously betting against the British pound in 1992, helping to force the currency out of the exchange-rate system that preceded the euro.

> He earned $1 billion from his huge short positions as the currency crashed in what became known as Black Wednesday, a disaster from which the government at the time couldn’t recover.

> With a net worth of $8.5 billion, the 92-year-old Soros is the world’s 253rd wealthiest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

> In the early 2000s, he became a vocal backer of same-sex marriage efforts.

> Soros continues to take an active personal interest in the Open Society Foundations. In 2017, the Open Society Foundations announced that Soros had transferred $18 billion of his fortune towards funding the future work of the Foundations, bringing his total giving to the Foundations since 1984 to over $32 billion.

(With inputs from agencies)

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