The Congress on Friday alleged that the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) had been importing LPG via the government-run Visakhapatnam Port but was now being made to use the Adani-owned Gangavaram Port through an "unfavourable" contract.
The allegation came a day after IOC took to Twitter to clarify its initial pact for hiring the Adani Group port for LPG imports in addition to existing pacts with nearby ports, saying there is no take-or-pay agreement.
IOC's statement, which came in response to TMC leader Mahua Moitra raising a stink of a scam in hiring of the port facility without a tender, contradicted Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited's earning call presentation that said "MoU signed with IOCL for a take-or-pay contract at Gangavaram Port for building LPG handling facilities".
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, as part of the party's 'Hum Adani ke Hain Kaun' (How are we related to Adani) series, under which it poses three questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter every day, said he had questioned the PM's role in facilitating an Adani Group "monopoly" in the ports sector earlier and Friday's questions were a follow up and related to the IOC agreement to use the LPG facilities in the Gangavaram Port.
"It is now widely known that you (PM) have used all the means at your disposal to help Adani (Group) expand its ports business, whether by giving port concessions in the absence of bidding or by inflicting income tax raids on business groups to encourage them to sell their valuable assets to Adani," Ramesh alleged in his statement.
He asked the prime minister why he was "intentionally undermining" the public sector that his government was meant to be stewarding on behalf of the citizens of India.
"Your government had previously blocked a 2021 bid by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust for the Dighi Port in Maharashtra, which ended up in Adani's hands. Now we learn that IOC, which was earlier importing LPG via the government-run Visakhapatnam Port, is instead being made to use the neighbouring Gangavaram Port, and that too via an unfavourable 'take-or-pay' contract," the Congress leader charged.
"Do you view India's public sector simply as a tool to enrich your cronies," Ramesh asked Modi.
He pointed out that IOC has clarified that it has only signed a non-binding MoU with Adani Ports and that there is no binding take-or-pay agreement "as of now".
"Did Adani Ports inadvertently reveal the game before it was finalised? Does the signing of an MoU not clearly indicate the direction in which IOC is being pushed? Does the fact that a take-or-pay contract was at all on the table not betray the fact that Adani was going to be made the primary port for the import of LPG rather than one of many, as IOC has stated," he asked.
Ramesh said the state-run Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) is a major shareholder in IOC with an 8.3 per cent stake worth Rs 9,400 crore, and also a major shareholder in Adani Ports and SEZ with a stake of 9.1 per cent worth Rs 1,130 crore.
"Where is the due diligence by government shareholders? Who is looking out for the interests of the shareholders of IOC? Or is this loot being carried out under your benevolent gaze and restraining hand," he asked.
The Congress has been demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the allegations against the Adani Group by US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research.
A Hindenburg report has levelled allegations of financial irregularities and stock manipulation against Adani Group companies. The Adani Group has dismissed the allegations as baseless.
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