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Modi's popularity intact despite Adani controversy: Poll

February 11, 2023 00:00:00

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's enormous popularity remains intact despite the biggest political attack on him in years as rivals accuse his government of giving undue favours to the Adani Group, approval ratings showed on Friday, reports Reuters.

Opposition parties stalled parliament for three days since last week and staged street protests demanding an investigation into the business conglomerate founded by Gautam Adani, which has lost more than $110 billion in market value after a scathing report by a US short seller on Jan 24.

Ahead of a string of state elections this year and general elections in early 2024, Congress and other opposition parties have said Modi's government was trying to shield Adani by refusing to grant the demand for a bipartisan investigation.

Without referring to Adani, Modi told parliament this week that the "blessings of 1.4 billion people in the country are my protective cover and you can't destroy it with lies and abuses", as opposition lawmakers chanted "Adani, Adani".

Data from polling agency C-Voter, shared with Reuters, seems to suggest support for the prime minister has not waned, although the survey did not refer to the Adani issue.

Almost half of those surveyed until Feb. 5 were "very much satisfied" with Modi's work as prime minister and a further 30% said they were "satisfied to some extent". Both ratings have hovered around the same levels since Nov. 2022, the data showed.

In January, the Mood of the Nation opinion poll conducted by C-Voter for India Today magazine twice a year, showed 72% of respondents rated Modi's performance as "good", up from 66% in August last year.

But Modi has been facing sustained opposition fire since US-based Hindenburg Research accused the Adani Group of stock manipulation and improper use of tax havens, while also saying it had unsustainable debt.

The group denies the claims and has threatened legal action against Hindenburg.

Senior ministers and top government officials have sought to counter the opposition accusations by saying the crisis in the Adani Group posed no risk to state-run companies and regulators would look into any wrongdoing by it.

The issues raised by Hindenburg were corporate and not political and should be treated as such, said Gopal Krishna Agarwal, a spokesperson for Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"Those who want to pursue the agenda of a short-seller are free to do so," Agarwal told Reuters, referring to the opposition.

"They only have one narrative and that is to bash wealth-creators. There will be problems in the corporate sector. Which economy doesn't have problems and challenges?"

Rivals accuse Modi and the BJP of longstanding ties with the apples-to-airports Adani Group, going back nearly two decades when Modi was chief minister of the western state of Gujarat.

Both Gautam Adani - who was the world's third richest person until the stock rout and is now ranked 21, according to Forbes - and Modi come from the coastal state.

Congress has questioned investments made by state-run firms in Adani companies and the handover of the management of six airports to the group in recent years, even though it had no experience in the sector.

Adani denies the charges while Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Wednesday called them "wild allegations".

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