Is the UPA government targeting the Adani Group?

CBI has started collating information from state-owned firms regarding their transactions with the Adani Group

A file photo of Gautam Adani. Adani said in a 3 May email interview to the Business Standard newspaper that he had received no favours from the Gujarat government. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
A file photo of Gautam Adani. Adani said in a 3 May email interview to the Business Standard newspaper that he had received no favours from the Gujarat government. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

New Delhi: In what seems to be a definite case of rattling the cages, although it comes too late, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has started collating information from state-controlled firms, including NTPC Ltd and Coal India Ltd (CIL), regarding their business transactions with the Gautam Adani owned Adani Group.

“CBI is scrutinizing the Adani Group businesses,” said a person with direct knowledge of the development, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

The development is significant because of the widely held perception that the government controls CBI, and of Adani’s proximity to Gujarat chief minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

The Congress party has alleged that Adani was given land at hugely discounted prices by the Gujarat administration, although it has since been revealed that a succession of Gujarat’s governments gave land to the group, and that even Maharashtra, under a Congress government did so.

Gautam Adani said in a 3 May email interview to Business Standard that he had received no favours from the Gujarat government.

CBI’s efforts to look into the operations and dealings of the Adani group come in the context of these developments.

CBI is structured as an independent investigative agency but administratively, it comes under the department of personnel and training, which, in turn, is under the overall remit of the Prime Minister.

The federal investigating agency has written to the central vigilance officer (CVO) of NTPC asking for information pertaining to imported coal supplied by Adani Enterprises. Similarly, it has asked CIL about its retired employees who currently work for the Adani Group.

A CBI spokesperson declined to comment.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson, reached late on Wednesday evening, said he would be able to comment on the issue only on Thursday.

An Adani Group spokesperson said the group had no information on an enquiry by CBI.

Adani Group’s businesses include Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd, Adani Power Ltd and Adani Enterprises Ltd. Adani Enterprises Ltd supplies coal to NTPC and state-owned trading firms such as MMTC Ltd and State Trading Corp. of India Ltd.

According to a communication dated 30 April that was hand-delivered to the central vigilance officer of NTPC, and reviewed by Mint, CBI wrote, “In connection with the verification of information pertaining to supply of imported coal to NTPC by M/s Adani Enterprises, this office immediately requires copies of latest agreement with M/s Adani Enterprises along with relevant documents such as delivery schedule, availability of imported coal, etc.”

NTPC requires 166.7 million tonnes (mt) of coal in the current fiscal year to operate its power projects. Of this, 150 mt is to be supplied by CIL and Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd; the balance 16.7mt is to be sourced from overseas. Of this, contracts for around 7mt have been signed.

“The matter may kindly be accorded top priority,” CBI said in its communication.

“All Adani files have gone to CBI,” said a senior NTPC executive, requesting anonymity.

“A general reference was raised by CBI to our CVO about who are the retired employees who have gone to work for Adani Group,” said a senior CIL executive who also didn’t wished to be identified.

In recent weeks, shares of most Adani Group firms have run up in hopes that the business-friendly Narendra Modi-led BJP would form the next government.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal has also targeted the Gujarat government for allegedly rigging a bid in favour of the Adani Group for the supply of expensive electricity, even as a cheaper power tariff was offered by state-owned Gujarat Mineral Development Corp. Ltd, which was then forced to supply coal to the conglomerate.

Kejriwal has also claimed that Adani Group was given land at cheap prices. Adani Group has denied Kejriwal’s charges.

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