After his Adani remarks created a flutter in the opposition ranks amid unity talks, Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar on Saturday said he is not completely opposed to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into allegations against the Adani group, but a Supreme Court panel will be 'more useful and effective'.
Taking a position at variance from senior ally Congress, Pawar said he favoured a Supreme Court committee to probe allegations against the Adani group since the ruling party (Bharatiya Janata Party) would have a majority in the JPC based on numerical strength in Parliament and this would lead to doubts on such a probe.
He was talking to reporters in Mumbai.
Pawar, the president of the NCP, in an interview to NDTV on Friday had also come out in support of the Adani Group and criticised the narrative around Hindenburg Research's report on the conglomerate, distancing himself from the opposition offensive against the Adani group with his comments also seen as a setback to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress on its part said the Supreme Court committee to look into the Hindenburg research report on Adani group has limited terms of reference and 'cannot bring out the deep nexus between' the prime minister and the billionaire businessman.
The NCP chief also said he was not aware of the antecedents of the United States-based Hindenburg Research, which has alleged stock manipulation and accounting fraud in firms belonging to billionaire Gautam Adani.
The Hindenburg report has resulted in strident protests by the opposition Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, and others against the union government to demand a JPC probe. The Adani group has refuted the allegations.
"One foreign company takes a position about the situation in the country. We should decide how much focus should be on this. Instead of this (JPC), a Supreme Court panel is more effective," Pawar told reporters.
"I am not completely opposed to the JPC there have been JPCs and I have been a chairman of some of the JPCs. The JPC will be constituted on the basis of majority (in Parliament). Instead of a JPC, I am of the opinion the Supreme Court committee is more useful and effective," Pawar said.
All India Congress Committee general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the Supreme Court committee has very limited terms of reference.
"It cannot bring out the deep nexus between PM and Adani."
"Only a JPC can find answers to the HAHK (Hum Adanike Hain Kaun) series of 100 questions and more that are emerging," he said, adding that the 'JPCs in 1992 and 2001 were both worthwhile exercises'.
Rahul Gandhi also tweeted in Hindi to target the government, 'They hide the truth, that's why they mislead everyday! The question remains the same - whose Rs 20,000 crore benami money is in Adani's companies?'
The differences between the Congress and the NCP have cropped up at a time when Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has in the recent days intensified efforts for opposition unity ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena, meanwhile, said Pawar's stand on the JPC will not lead to cracks in opposition unity.
Talking to reporters in Mumbai, Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said Pawar has not given a clean chit but expressed his views on options on how to carry out the Adani probe.
"Be it (West Bengal chief minister) Mamata Banerjee or NCP, there could be different opinions about Adani, but that will not lead to cracks in (opposition) unity in Maharashtra or in the country," asserted Raut, a key aide of former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde also waded into the NCP-Congress row over the JPC issue and took a swipe at the Congress and Uddhav Thackeray by asking them to heed the words of Pawar on the Adani issue.
Speaking to the media after a property exhibition in Kalyan on Friday night, Shinde said, "The Congress started an agitation seeking explanation of Rs 20,000 crore in the Adani group. Even Uddhav Thackeray continuously spoke on this issue. Now Pawar has commented and those who are protesting should heed these comments."
Pawar is a very senior politician and must have spoken on the Adani issue after much study, and, therefore, those protesting should clarify their stand, the chief minister said in a swipe at the Congress and Shiv Sena-UBT, who are partners of the NCP in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance in Maharashtra.
Senior NCP leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar told reporters in Pune that the party supports its chief.
"Yesterday I watched the interview where Sharad Pawar saheb commented on Adani. Pawar saheb is our supreme leader. He expressed his stand on the topic and we support our leader's views," he said.