Finally there has been someone to call a spade a spade – the veteran industrialist Rahul Bajaj. The industrial sector has been lying idle unable to muster the courage to speak up. And that too when the economy has suffered a slowdown despite the slew of sops and measures like stimulus pakages, magnanimous liberalisation, merger of banks and disinvestment of public sector undertakings. None of these has been able to stir up the stagnant economic sectors, as data from Central Statistics Office officially disclosed.
Quite recently, after the government declared reliefs in corporate taxes, those who called 'hurrah' with alacrity went into a hiding when figures came out that the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) slipped to 4.5 %, the lowest in the last six years. When many were sharing the lamentation over the media that no one from industry or trading sector was there to tell the truth about lopsided reforms and hollowness of rulers with no sense of the soil or governance. It was amidst this disquieting silence that at a function with central home minister and BJP president Amit Shah, finance Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Railway minister Piyush Goyal on the dais, Rahul Bajaj spoke the truth loud enough that the king was naked. Social media is sharing the joy and relief that this grand old doyen was being a virtual safety valve for a country brimming to let the truth come out.
Bajaj, one of the seniormost figures of India Inc, was sharing his thoughts at the interactive segment of the award-giving function of Economic Times held in Mumbai on Saturday. The Bajaj Group chairman said candidly " Nobody from our industrialist friends will speak, I will say openly… An environment will have to be created… When UPA II was in power, we could criticise anyone… You (the government) are doing good work, but despite that we don’t have the confidence that you will appreciate if we criticise you openly ". He commented that there was no point in denying it and what was needed was a good reply and atmosphere in which people could speak openly and ask for action. Even as Mohan Bhagwat says that lynching is of foreign origin, the atmosphere of intolerance and hatred created by it should not be lost sight of. Nobody was being convicted for mob lynching, theft or rape. When a man had spent over a hundred days in jail without being charged with any crime - obliquely referring to the detention of former minister P Chidambaram - he said , white collar criminals accused in cases involving thousands of crores of rupees were walking free.
Rahul Bajaj also pointed his finger of blame at [BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur's] calling Gandhi's assassin Godse a patriot, voting the unknown candidate with ticket to the Lok Sabha and nominating her to the defence advisory council, and when hard pressed for it, giving her very light punishment, and still holding her close. On the whole, in the presence of Modi's sycophantic industrial tycoons and top level political and bureaucratic leadership, Bajaj minced no words to highlight the failings of the current regime.
A day before the Economic Times event, former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh too had highlighted the same aspects. At an event organized in Delhi by the National Economy Conclave, he disclosed that many industrialists had shared with him the concerns about the harassment feared from the government. He also mentioned that new entrepreneurs and investors were hesitating to come out with new projects and that they were afraid of the possible prejudice of the ruling establishment if they spoke about the financial distress of the country - exactly the same thoughts expressed by Bajaj to Modi government point blank. Amit Shah, who responded to Bajaj's comments, did not have much to say in defence. Even as he pointed out Pragya Singh's apology and that she was denounced, Shah still expressed doubt whether it was Godse whom she had called a patriot. On lynching, he evaded the crux of the matter by saying that lynching has always been there which had actually come down during BJP rule and that the issue is exaggeration by the media. While citing Rahul Bajaj's being able to raise such questions as evidence of the transparency of BJP rule, he also made the usual - and fictitious - refrain that situation was normal in Kashmir. In short, Amit Shah's replies were a ratification of every item Bajaj had listed.
In fact the entire approach of Modi government consists in a fascist method of closing eyes and ears against criticism. It was only two days ago that none other than Modi's fellow-traveller Subramanian Swamy remarked that when the economy nosedives, and if ministers counter him inside the cabinet meetings, Modi does not relish even such ministers. Rahul Bajaj's words serve as a finger raised against a hollow regime and rulers held hostage by its sycophants. Perhaps it speaks for the value of this accusative finger that a thousand patriotic fingers are also being raised in support.