From the pier at Mundra, the biggest private port in India, it is possible, on a clear day, to spot the world’s largest oil refinery, 50km south across the Gulf of Kutch. In the early 1990s both sites in the state of Gujarat were malarial swamps and farmland. Today they are monuments to India’s economic promise—and to the tycoons who built them. Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani, both billionaires, have in recent years become the best-known faces of Indian business. To supporters, they are patriotic nation-builders, using their sway and resources to further India’s economic progress. To critics they are only in it for themselves. Their motivation seems to lie somewhere in between.
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The duo’s rising influence over Indian business is undisputed. Many observers now talk of the “aa economy”. That is an…