A day after Hungarian-American businessman and philanthropist George Soros criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not speaking about the allegations against Adani Group, Union minister Smriti Irani on Friday described his comments as “designs to weaken Indian democracy”, reported ANI.

On Thursday, Soros said in a speech at the Munich Press Conference that Modi and Adani Group chairperson Gautam Adani are “close allies” whose “fate is intertwined”, reported The Financial Times.

“Adani Enterprises tried to raise funds in the stock market, but he failed,” the 92-year-old billionaire said. “Adani is accused of stock manipulation and his stock collapsed like a house of cards. Modi is silent on the subject, but he will have to answer questions from foreign investors and in Parliament.”

The Adani Group was accused of manipulating stocks and improperly using tax havens by United-States based firm Hindenburg Research in a report released on January 24. The Hindenburg report has plunged the group into crisis, wiping about $120 billion in market value.

At the conference, Soros, who made his fortune as a hedge fund manager, stated that the turmoil engulfing Adani’s business empire would “significantly weaken Modi’s stranglehold on India’s federal government” and lead to “much needed institutional reforms”, according to The Financial Times.

Soros added that though he may be naive, he expects a democratic revival in India.

Soros wants to break Indian democracy: Smriti Irani

On Friday, Irani said at a press conference that “the man who broke the Bank of England” and has been designated an economic war criminal has shown his desire to break the Indian democracy.

Soros is known as “the man who broke the Bank of England” for his short-selling of pounds that made him a profit of 1 billion pounds during a currency crisis in 1992. Due to his actions, the British government had to pull out the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

“George Soros, an international entrepreneur, has declared his ill-intention to intervene in democratic processes of India,” the Union minister alleged at the press conference.

Irani accused Soros of having an imperialistic agenda at a time when India has become the world’s fifth-largest economy.

“Today, as a citizen I call upon every Indian and organisation, societal or political, to denounce the intention of this individual who seeks to demonise our democracy and who brings an onslaught to the economy of India so that he can personally gains,” Irani said.

She also asserted that India has defeated “imperialistic design” before and will do it again.

“Democracy has prevailed in India and will continue to do so,” she said. “Designs to weaken Indian democracy will be met with might of India under leadership of PM Modi.”

Meanwhile, the Congress said that whether the Adani crisis sparks a democratic revival in the country does not have anything to do with Soros.

“[It] depends entirely on the Congress, Opposition parties and our electoral process,” Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh tweeted. “Our Nehruvian legacy ensures people like Soros cannot determine our electoral outcomes.”

Adani Group crisis

The Adani Group has been under the scanner since Hindenburg Research accused it of pulling off the “largest con in corporate history”.

The report claimed that the conglomerate has over the decades been involved in stock manipulation, accounting fraud, used offshore shells for money laundering and siphoned money from listed companies.

The Opposition has been protesting in Parliament, demanding a joint parliamentary committee investigation into the allegations. Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge have targeted the Centre, alleging that Modi helped the Adani Group by tweaking rules and regulations in its favour.

In the past few years, the Adani group has diversified its interests from coal and ports and expanded into defence, urban water management, small and medium sector lending, power transmission, airports, data centers and cement and green energy sectors.

An investigation by Scroll in May 2019 showed that from 2014 to 2019, the Adani Group expanded its operations substantially despite relatively small profits and also at a time when other infrastructure companies were shedding assets.