Stock market scam: Rahul’s JPC demand sets cat among pigeons

Mainstream media seeking to dilute the issue by accusing Rahul Gandhi of mocking a reporter at the press meet

Rahul Gandhi at the press meet (photo: Vipin/NH)
Rahul Gandhi at the press meet (photo: Vipin/NH)

AJ Prabal

As many as nine questions were put to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi at his press meet on Thursday. He had demanded, on behalf of the party, an inquiry by a joint Parliamentary committee into what is being described as India’s biggest stock market scam.

The Congress leader pointed out that there was a pattern in the trading of stocks on 31 May, which was abnormally high, followed by a record high index on 3 June, a day after the exit polls forecast that the BJP would win as many as 325-350 Lok Sabha seats, and the eventual crash on 4 June. Five crore retail investors are estimated to have lost roughly Rs 31 lakh crore in a single day’s trading, even as several thousand people made a killing.

The Congress leader made it a point to ask the following questions:

1. Between 13 and 28 May, home minister Amit Shah, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and prime minister Narendra Modi himself said on multiple occasions that the stock exchange would shoot up on 4 June. Two of these statements were made in interviews to a TV channel owned by the Adani Group. The PM and the HM, Gandhi hinted, would have been privy to Intelligence Bureau reports and would have known the BJP was in trouble. Yet, they kept exhorting people to buy shares before 4 June.

2. Why were the statements made to the same TV channel by the PM and HM? Was there a connection?

3. How were the exit polls prepared and aired on 1 June, giving a completely erroneous impression that the BJP was on the verge of a historic election victory? In the event, the ruling party fell far short of the halfway mark.

4. Who bought and sold the shares on 31 May and 3 June? Who made the gains and by how much? Were the TV channels and pollsters partners in the conspiracy? Did the channel owners also benefit from the volatility?

Gandhi had raised serious issues and several questions were asked by the reporters present. Possibly not conversant with stock exchange operations, several reporters asked whether the Congress would lodge a complaint with the police or in a court. Some wanted to know how the Congress leader had arrived at the figure of Rs 31 lakh crore lost on 4 June.

Praveen Chakravarty of the party’s data analytics department explained how the figure was arrived at. A reporter asked if police in Congress-ruled states would inquire into the role of investors and brokers in the states concerned. Others asked whether the Congress leader was hopeful that a JPC would be constituted, given the fact that the government had turned down similar demands in the last few years.

Gandhi replied that the Opposition in the next Lok Sabha will be stronger and the political situation in the country has changed after the election. He was, therefore, hopeful that a JPC would be constituted to inquire into the alleged scam.

In between, a lady representing a TV channel (one which had aired the controversial Axis My India exit poll figures) asked whether raising the demand for a JPC would not be waste of Parliament’s time and taxpayers’ money. Gandhi replied that she was toeing the BJP’s line, that it was the BJP which always opposed demands for a JPC and ensured that the sessions were washed out. The reporter said she could see that he had not liked the question, to which Gandhi replied that he liked the question very much and proceeded to reply.

Editor and TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai then jumped in to say that it was deeply upsetting to find Gandhi accusing the reporter of “wearing a ‘BJP badge/T shirt’ only because she asked a perfectly legitimate question. I have known Mausami Singh for a long while and she is a fearless journalist who reports with integrity.

"Netas must stop targeting journalists who are simply doing their job. Mr Gandhi is free not to answer a question but this attitude of lashing out at journalists by branding them ‘party agents’ in press conferences must stop. Yes, there are many who have surrendered their basic integrity, yes the Opposition has often been treated unfairly but stop bashing every journalist in a fit of pique.”

The Sardesai post received an avalanche of comments both in support and criticism. “In a situation where no one can raise questions in Parliament, where Opposition leaders' mics are muted, where Opposition leaders are expelled, how can she say that Opposition are disrupting and wasting tax payers’ money when they are legitimately raising people's issues,” read one of several comments.

Another acerbic comment read, “Asking for a JPC in Parliament is what opposition parties are meant to do… can hardly be called a waste of public money. Your reporter is saying MPs should hit the streets instead. She may not be toeing the BJP line but she is clearly stupid."

Not surprisingly, none of the mainstream TV channels thought it fit to discuss the ‘stock exchange scam’ in the last 24 hours, even as Gandhi was attacked for allegedly losing his cool and targeting reporters.

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