Two Indian Billionaires Endorse the Same Politician, Not From Modi’s Party

(Bloomberg) --

Two of India’s most prominent billionaires are endorsing the same politician in the country’s general election. And it’s not a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party.

Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, and Uday Kotak, Asia’s richest banker, have both released rare video statements in support of Milind Deora who happens to be from India’s main opposition Congress party. The announcement was particularly eyebrow-raising because Congress leader Rahul Gandhi frequently accuses Modi of siding with the country’s rich.

Two Indian Billionaires Endorse the Same Politician, Not From Modi’s Party

Nevertheless, both billionaires have chosen to publicly support Deora, a former federal minister running in the South Mumbai constituency that hosts the country’s financial services industry -- and some of the most expensive real estate in the country. A representative for Kotak didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment, while a Reliance Industries spokesperson declined to comment.

The two wealthy men -- Ambani has a fortune of $53.4 billion, while Kotak is worth about $12.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index -- are both Mumbai residents. The city is where Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd., chose to build his massive, 27-story apartment Antilia. The city also hosts the headquarters of Kotak Mahindra Bank, which gave Kotak his fortune.

Deora won the district in the 2004 and 2009 federal elections, but lost the seat in 2014 to the Shiv Sena party, an ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The politician tweeted out a video compilation of endorsements late on April 17. "From small shopkeepers to large industrialists - for everyone, South Mumbai means business," he wrote.

"Milind is the man for South Mumbai," Ambani said on the video. "Having represented south Bombay for ten years, I believe that Milind has in-depth knowledge of the social, economic and cultural ecosystem of the south Bombay constituency."

"His family has been associated with Mumbai for a long time," Kotak added.

Two Indian Billionaires Endorse the Same Politician, Not From Modi’s Party

Deora’s father Murli Deora was a former federal oil minister under the Congress government and knew the Ambani family well. At the same time, Ambani is a key supporter of the policies of Modi, whom he’s called a "visionary leader" and "our beloved prime minister." He’s an avid attendee of the Vibrant Gujarat investment summit championed by Modi, who was the western state’s long-time chief minister.

Last year, Kotak was appointed by Modi’s government to be chairman of indebted shadow lender Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd.

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