This week, the headlines were all about the feud between billionaire investor George Soros and the BJP government over the former’s comments on the recent report by short seller Hindenburg Research on the Adani Group, and Gautam Adani’s connections with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Modi is silent on the subject, but he will have to answer questions from foreign investors and in parliament,” said Soros, according to a report by Bloomberg. “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,” the billionaire investor had said ahead of the Munich Security Conference.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was quick to fire back at Soros. Union Minister Smriti Irani labelled Soros an “economic war criminal” and called his remarks a “declaration to destroy India’s democratic processes’, adding, “War is being mounted against India, PM Modi standing between it and the country’s interest.”
India’s Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar, on the sidelines of his session with Australian Minister Chris Brown at the Raisina@Sydney Dialogue, also hit out at the 92-year-old, calling him "old, rich, opinionated, and dangerous", and someone who "still thinks that his views should determine how the entire world works."
“Soros is an old, rich opinionated person sitting in New York who still thinks that his views should determine how the entire world works...such people actually invest resources in shaping narratives,"Jaishankar said, adding, “‘People like him think an election is good if the person they want to see, wins, and if the election throws up a different outcome, then they will say it is a flawed democracy. And the beauty is that all this is done under the pretence of advocacy of open society."
George Soros is a billionaire Hungarian-American investor, hedge-fund manager, short-seller and philanthropist.
Born in 1930 to a prosperous Jewish family in Hungary, his family changed their name from “Schwartz” to “Soros” to camouflage their Jewish identity amidst the rise of anti-semitism in Hungary which culminated with Nazi occupation. His family reportedly survived the Holocaust by purchasing forged identity papers.
After the War, as the Communists consolidated their position in Hungary, Soros left for London where he got a degree from the London School of Economics, before becoming an investment banker. He opened his first hedge fund, Double Eagle, in 1969. In 1973, he opened Soros Fund Management, and went on to become one of the most successful investors in the history of the United States.
Soros, while delivering a speech at the 2023 Munich Security Conference, predicted that PM Modi will be weakened by the business troubles of Gautam Adani, whose companies faced a massive stock market rout after the US-based Hindenburg Group released a report accusing the Adani group companies of stock manipulation, "opening the door" to a democratic revival in the country.
PM Modi would "have to answer questions" from foreign investors and parliament on allegations of fraud and stock manipulation at Mr Adani's industrial empire, Soros said, noting that PM Modi had been "silent" on the topic.
This is not the first time that Soros has been at loggerheads with a nation’s government. He is known as ‘The Man Who Broke the Bank of England’ because of his short sale of USD 10 billion worth of pounds sterling, which made him a profit of USD 1 billion during the 1992 Black Wednesday UK currency crisis.
Hindenburg had accused the Adani group of engaging in "brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud" over decades. The Adani Group has dismissed the allegations as baseless.
The Adani group has lost USD 125 billion in market capitalisation since the release of the Hindenburg report on January 24.
While the BJP government has been quick to counterattack Soros, the trend among Opposition members has been to take a more circumspect approach, with many leaders distancing themselves from Soros and a few referencing his speech in their questions for the government.
Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, referring to Soros' remarks, said it had “nothing to do with George Soros”, and whether the Adani controversy would 'spark a democratic revival' depended on Congress, Opposition parties, and India's electoral process.
"Whether the PM-linked Adani scam sparks a democratic revival in India depends entirely on the Congress, Opposition parties and our electoral process. It has NOTHING to do with George Soros. Our Nehruvian legacy ensures people like Soros cannot determine our electoral outcomes," he tweeted.
Former Union Finance Minister and Congress leader P chidambaram said that the people of India will determine who will be in and who will be out of the government of India, and added, "I did not know that the Modi government was so feeble that it can be toppled by the stray statement of a 92-year-old rich foreign national."
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi questioned why the BJP was doing an entire press conference on Soros, and took a dig at Irani asking if she had any comment on Israel agency's interference in India's electoral process.
"Who is George Soros and why is BJP's Troll Mantralaya doing an entire press conference dedicated to him? BTW, Mantriji any comment on an Israel agency's interference in India's electoral process? That is a bigger threat to India's democracy," Chaturvedi tweeted.