A disclaimer is in order before I venture into the rest of this piece. These days, any hack of standing has to begin with a disclaimer to show that he is someone to be reckoned with, that his background is of interest to his readers, that he is pure as the driven snow, and that therefore whatever bilge he dishes out is of some import. I reckon that, as someone who has been pulling the flush every week for the last eight years, I qualify for a disclaimer.
It is a simple one: neither I, nor anyone of my family members (including my short-seller pooch, Brutus) own a single share in any Adani company (at least the known ones, for God only knows how many more he has tucked away among the mangroves in Tonga, the Pantanal and Pitcairn’s Island). Actually, it’s a bit of an unnecessary disclosure because nobody except Adani owns any Adani shares, and though SBI and LIC may hold some shares as pledges, they will eventually have to render unto Adani what is Adani’s (and also what is Tom, Dick and Harry’s, for doesn’t the hand of God rest lightly on the gentleman from Gujarat?)
One of the upsides of growing old is that you continue to learn something new every day. I turned 72 last December, and in just 45 days thereafter I have assimilated more knowledge about the stock market than in the preceding seven decades, thanks to the anti-Hindu-n-berg report, the 408 page smokescreen of Adani Enterprises, and Mahua Moitra, who is pretty good with a taser herself.
I have now learnt, for example, that “round tripping” is not what Mr. Modi does- a trip to Gandhinagar to remind the people who built Gujarat, and back in time to launch another Vande Bharat. It means sending moneys from place A to Place B, washing it in a local laundromat, and then sending it back to A in some other form. With this knowledge, however, came the realisation that the wife has been doing this for the last forty years, without my suspecting it ! She takes my monthly pay check in Shimla, deducts a small amount for keeping a few loaves of bread on the table, and sends the rest to her sister in Delhi. From there the shekels are routed to Varanasi to purchase Banarsi silk sarees, which then find their way back to Shimla through trusted emissaries. Voila! The round tripping is now complete, with Shukla being short- sold, not a short-seller. Which corresponds to the motto of SEBI- “Ignorance is bliss”. Or, as the Finance Minister hinted the other day: What you don’t know won’t hurt you, or me. It is also govt. policy, what with RTI being asphyxiated and Parliament doing more expunging than debating.
Take that other thing, called an IPO (Initial Public Offering) or, as in Mr. Adani’s case, an FPO (F—-d Up Public Offering). This is essentially a method of crowd funding where the family is the said crowd. I myself have not floated an IPO, primarily because I consider myself a gentleman and gentlemen, as we all know, prefer bonds. Furthermore, I don’t have a large family, or any shell companies in Mauritius, or any contacts in the RBI or SEBI. I also don’t know any FII’s (Foreign Institutional Investors). Actually, I do: two- ex-colleagues parked in the USA and Switzerland, respectively, but they won’t lend me a penny since I still owe them a drink from their last visit to India. According to them, therefore, there are problems with my liquidity as my credit rating is down by quite a few pegs.
Mr. Adani, however, did float his FPO and came a cropper. My limited knowledge of the Indian stock market tells me that he forgot two things: one, thanks to the impending Cow Hug Day, the proverbial bull on the bourse had been replaced by the cow, which had already bitten off more of his shady shares than it could chew. And secondly, as the Hindenberg report has shown, a stock market can put up with upticks and downticks but not with antics. Perhaps the investors felt that the conglomerate had more ticks than your average mongrel on Dalal street, or tricks than P.C. Sorcar Junior, and decided to watch Pathan instead on the telly. Mark it up as another victory of the bikini over the Houdini.
Another dreadful realisation dawned on me the other day as I was fondly leafing through my bank passbook- I practically belong to Mr. Adani, or at least all my assets do, which is the same thing. Just consider the facts, all ye bhaktiveers: my bank deposits have been given to Mr. Adani’s many companies, and with a debt to equity ratio of 2021% (Adani Green) there is a good chance I may not get them back. The moneys I have invested in mutual funds have also been given to- you got it right first time!- Mr. Adani. The premium I have been paying faithfully every year to LIC is invested in Mr. Adani’s shares, which are estimated to be over valued by at least five times. Hell, I belong to the Company Store, just like those wildcatters in the Max Brand and Zane Grey novels I grew up on. In fact, I might as well delete the name of Neerja (the long suffering but round tripping wife, folks) as my nominee in all my accounts and substitute it with Mr. Adani’s name- he’s going to get it all some day in any case!
Moving swiftly from the economics to the politics, one has begun wondering why we need 543 MPs and a Parliament at all ? Most MPs are nowadays zip-locked into silence, Ministers have become nodding mannequins in front of the Adani Mall, and Parliament itself has become a necropolis where democracy is buried a little deeper with each session. Why spend tens of thousands of crores and millions of manhours in electing MPs and Prime Ministers when the shots are being called by someone else? If Mr. A is to make industrial and environmental policies, if Mr. A is to make all our airports, ports, power plants, roads, coal mines, if Mr. A has the first right over all financial resources of the public and the state- then why have a government at all? Why install puppets to give the pretense of a government when the puppeteer himself holds all the strings? Why settle for a surrogate when you have the real McCoy, as it were ? Why not just do an Ayatollah Khomeini and appoint him the Supreme Leader ?
And now you must excuse me; I have to rush to Dal me Kala street because my broker informs me the shares of toilet paper have touched, quite appropriately, a new bottom- it’s an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and rise again from the ashes, or whatever has hit the fan.
Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains.
He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls.
He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/