Not Suit-Boot, But Gandhi Topi Has Done Damage To India; Time To Stop Demonising Business

Not Suit-Boot, But  Gandhi Topi Has Done Damage To India;  Time To Stop Demonising BusinessRahul Gandhi. (Qamar Sibtain/India Today Group/Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • The burden of proof to show that dishonest businesses are behind this government is on the opposition.

    It is time they stopped weakening Indian business confidence just when it is about to come good after being tested in the Covid agnipariksha.

The discovery of an explosives-laden vehicle near the home of Mukesh Ambani in Mumbai should bring some sanity to the mindless demonisation of big business in India. If freelance or small-time terror outfits — a Jaish-ul-Hind has claimed responsibility for the bomb threat — can now act with impunity, it shows how far the demonisation has gone.

Anti-business attitudes are being mainstreamed and wealth creation stigmatised once again, and nothing good can come of this. We demonised the Tatas, Birlas, Singhanias and Mafatlals soon after independence and created a licence-permit raj to keep them in check — and we know the growth and poverty outcomes.

Bollywood and Left-wing theatre groups made sure that businessmen were always shown as exploiters of the poor, and the wicked “munshi” was not only a usurer, but rapist as well. Bollywood heroes until recently have always been anti-business, even though the real oligarchs are those who make millions from selling socialist dreams to the masses through films.

During the six-and-odd years of the Narendra Modi government, we have seen this vilification grow in leaps and bounds, starting with Rahul Gandhi’s “suit-boot-ki-sarkar” jibe in 2015, and more recently followed by “Hum do, hamare do” and “cronyjeevi”. The “hum do hamare do” remark is apparently a reference to Modi and Amit Shah, and their alleged cronies, Gautam Adani and Ambani.

While these phrases may bring forth a few chuckles, the problem is that this is not just political cut-and-thrust and repartee. It has the potential to damage the legitimacy of Indian businesses to the point where they will start leaving the country in droves — assuming they are not already doing so.

The bigger question to ask is whether the country has been held back by suited-and-booted businessmen or the Gandhi-topi-khaddar-kurta-neta-babu nexus, who have created a political system where we are busy redistributing poverty rather than wealth. It was only when we abandoned the licence-permit raj in 1991, reluctantly one must add, that we saw India beginning to shine, and poverty dramatically reducing.

The trend towards conferring villainhood on big business resumed around the time of the Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement, where politicians like Arvind Kejriwal and Left-wing lawyers like Prashant Bhushan openly started naming businessmen as corrupt. It became a badge of honour and public bravado to name names without proof that would stand in court.

Around the same time, in 2012, Bollywood chimed in with a film called Chakravyuh, which had a song whose lyrics ran thus:

Birla ho ya Tata, Ambani ho ya Bata
Sabne apne chakkar mein, desh ko hai kata
Are hamre hi khoon se inka
Engine chale dhakadhak

So, to the pre-1991 rants against Tatas and Birlas, the Ambanis were added after 1991. And ever since Modi became Prime Minister, Adani has been pencilled in as another villain to target.

If the opposition parties do not stop this vilification of business, it is difficult to see how India will ever grow faster, create jobs and lift millions out of poverty. No one needs to hold a brief for Mukesh Ambani or Gautam Adani; if they have done anything wrong, all you need to do is provide the proof and get them prosecuted. But vilification without an iota of proof is not acceptable.

It is interesting that in West Bengal, towards the fag end of its 34-year tenure, the Left Front under Buddhadev Bhattacharya got the Tatas to set up a car project in Singur. But Mamata Banerjee made sure that even the Tatas, generally known to be among the cleanest of businessmen, were forced to flee from West Bengal to Gujarat.

It is equally telling that after the consistent vilification of business wealth, Rahul Gandhi and his mother did exactly that: helped themselves to a wealth generating property on the sly. They shifted a multi-thousand-crore property business (Herald House, etc), associated with the Congress party’s defunct mouthpiece National Herald (now revived), to their own private trust. Transfer and control of rental wealth from one company to your own trust is apparently kosher for the Gandhi family. Priyanka Vadra’s husband also appears to have gained from property speculation with the help of DLF.

The charge that Modi Sarkar is beholden to big business does not hold water for it is under this government that cronies were sent packing, and those who owed hundreds of crores to banks have either fled the country (and are being pursued for extradition) or have been divested of their assets through the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. When did you last hear of an Ambani (Anil), Mallya, Tata, Ruia, GVK, Goyal, GMR and Jaiprakash group being divested of their best companies because they owed money to banks?

The burden of proof to show that dishonest businesses are behind this government is on the opposition. It is time they stopped weakening Indian business confidence just when it is about to come good after being tested in the Covid agnipariksha.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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