Free Press Journal

Narendra Modi does some plainspeaking


It is one of the long-standing ironies of Indian politics. Abusing the moneybags from the public pulpit and supping with them in private comes naturally to our politicians. Since the electoral wheel is oiled by humongous sums of money, a vast proportion of it illicit, all parties, including the Communists and the newbie, Aam Aadmi Party, cannot do without dollops of cash from the rich industrialists and traders. Any politician who claims to the contrary is a liar. To give you an example, the AAP, having been born out of an anti-corruption platform of Anna Hazare, claimed that it would not accept a paise in cash. But in its very first election for the Delhi Assembly it accepted, among other sums, Rs 2 crore from an industrialist – all in cash.

In order to claim that it had got the money through legitimate means from bona fide donors, it resorted to a subterfuge, converting cash into four separate demand drafts of Rs 50 lakh each through Kolkata-based shell companies. Later, the fraud was exposed by the income tax authorities which retraced the entire process and show-caused the pretender AAP. The point is that without black money running through the bloodstream of Indian politics it would become lifeless. You think Mayawati’s BSP, self-avowedly a party of Dalits, survives on small donations from her core constituency of Jatavs? Politics and money, rather illicit money, are inseparable twins, two sides of the same coin. It may not sound good but the truth is that all through the freedom struggle big industrialists liberally funded the Congress Party but largely in cash for fear of the British taking a dim view should the donations be made through the regular banking channels. Also, remember that no less a person than Mahatma Gandhi was not afraid of keeping company with the likes of G D Birla, Jamanlal Bajaj and other industrialists of the pre-independence era.

Most tellingly, Gandhi was assassinated in the Birla House in Lutyens’ Delhi, which, after his death, was turned into his memorial without the express consent of its owners. There is another way of illustrating the politician-big- money nexus. Scan the entire political spectrum and see for yourself how politicians of various stripes have become enormously wealthy within a few years of becoming MLAs or MPs or ministers, etc. Their riches are explained easily by their patronage of moneybags for handsome payoffs in return.  Dhirubhai Ambani who left behind the entire lot of established Sethiyas in double-quick-time by doing all the things the old money had done but only far more aggressively and far more brazenly was often quoted that he was not a `prostitute that politicians should visit only in the dark… if they accepted his hordes of cash for election funding they should also be honest enough to meet him openly and not be afraid to be seen with him. He had a point.

Therefore, Prime Minister Modi spoke some home truths when in Lucknow on Sunday he declared that he was not afraid to be seen with ‘udyogpatis’ as they were vital to India’s industrialization drive and contributed immensely to the task of nation-building. Addressing a mega event for new industrial projects in UP, Modi tore into the oft-made criticism that the NDA Government was a `suit-boot ki sarkar’. He insisted that farmers, labourers, artisans, bankers, et al have a role to play in nation-building but so have industrialists. He castigated critics who suggested that the BJP was a party of capitalists, maintaining that the Opposition parties have close links with big moneybags whom they favoured with licenses and lands for hefty bribes while they were in power. The target was clearly the Samajwadi Party and the BSP governments in UP which had doled out favours to industrialists for handsome payoffs. Modi said that what really mattered was the use of funds received from industrialists, if these went into private coffers as was often the case with the SP and the BSP and the Congress, there were legitimate questions about the abuse of power. However, if the money was used to fund legitimate political work and even elections, there could be no problem of propriety so long as the donations were kosher and aboveboard.  Also, it mattered how someone had made money, patronizing mafia dons being wholly unacceptable. In other words, a clear put-down for the criminal-neta nexus, common in UP and Bihar. Modi’s aggressive stance should help restore a sense of sanity in the polity which relies on the very moneybags whom politicians do not tire of castigating publicly. Such truth-telling by the PM was much-needed.